50 Games in 50 Weeks: Horrific, Terror in the Cards

Feb 06 2012

Horrific: Terror in the CardsWhile browsing a local game store’s dusty bargain bin, my hands pulled out a couple decks of cards. Each was adorned with a tiny yellow price tag proclaiming, “$1.” The decks were part of a card game, Horrific: Terror in the Cards. According to the back of each deck, each player in the game plays a villain in a small town, trying to corrupt townspeople into minions, while turning the rest of the town’s inhabitants against the other players. It’s a terrific concept for a card game, so I bought the decks immediately.

Each player gets a deck of cards specific to the character being played: The Doktor, the Lord of Bones, etc. Each deck also comes with tokens for townspeople, who each have three stats.

The players begin by spreading out all their townspeople into one big sea of corruptible humans.

Play proceeds as follows: On your turn, draw 5 cards from your deck, place one card in your reserve (face-up, near you), and either play one card or place that card into your reserve as well. You can also play as many cards from your reserve as you want. When done, draw enough cards to have 5 in your hand, and adjust your trust.

Trust is the most important resource to manage, and is represented by a pile of coins, beads, or anything else that comes to hand (for my game of Horrific, we used paper clips). You need trust to perform certain actions (and, in some cases, to win the game), but when you corrupt townspeople or otherwise deal in nefarious dealings, you lose trust.

Each card lets you do something when played: turn a townsperson into a minion, turn a minion into undead, do good works in the town to gain trust, spread lies about another player to lower their trust, etc. Each player has a unique goal, which is visible to all other players.

And that’s about the entire game. Your goal may be to create a certain number of undead minions; another may just need to corrupt a certain number of townspeople.

Interestingly, you can accomplish your goal without screwing the other players. You don’t have to constantly plot against the other players. My game included stretches of straight playing towards our goals, and occasional “fights” where we were trying to bring each other down.

As a result, you can play the game as an intense competition full of backstabbing, or you can push hard towards your goal.

The mechanics are simple enough to grasp within half a game, but the different decks introduce variation; the Lord of Bones may be played by a devious genius in one game, and not appear at all in the next.

The artwork is creepy but not gory, appropriate for tweens and up. Indeed, this strikes me as an excellent game for teenagers, especially boys.

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