This Ghost Stories review was made after playing the game over 20 times
What is Ghost Stories?
Ghost Stories is a cooperative horror game that has you work together with your teammates to defeat one or more incarnations of Wu-Feng and a lot of ghosts that come before him. Each player takes on the role of a Taoist priest who must turn back the evil wave of ghosts and save the village.
Ghost Stories Gameplay
Ghost Stories is all about the battles. You want to clear out as many ghosts as you can each turn so you don’t get overwhelmed. Each time a player’s turn comes up, he or she can move one space around the village to perform an action. There are two actions that you can take:
- Ask a villager for help. All of the village tiles give you benefits, such as removing ghosts and moving ghosts around to better positions.
- Attempt to exorcise ghosts by rolling the dice. You are trying to match the colors/icons on the ghosts’ card. You can also use Tao tokens to help you if you don’t roll well or if you need more successes.
You can also use your priest’s special ability each each turn, which could let you move in a special way or maybe even give you an extra die to use when fighting ghosts. You also get a Yin-Yang token that allows you to use a village tile without being on it or bring back a village tile that was haunted earlier in the game.
At the start of your turn, every ghost on your board will activate and then a new ghost will appear. This is why it is very important to get ghosts off of the board as quickly as possible each turn. Ghosts can have abilities that activate right when they show up, abilities that activate when your turn starts, and some even have abilities that activate when you exorcise them.
You’ll win if you’re able to handle defeat Wu-Feng, who is near the bottom of the ghost deck. You’ll lose if all of the priests die, if three village tiles become haunted, or if the last ghost card in the deck is put in play.
That is an extremely brief overview of the game. To see a more detailed explanation of the rules, take a look at the official Ghost Stories rulebook (PDF).
- Ghost Stories has beautiful components, especially those ghost cards. Each card is richly-detailed and they blend very well with the player boards and the village tiles. Those monk figures look fantastic, too! Just about everyone in my group thinks that Ghost Stories has some of the best board game art.
- There have been multiple board games made that have attempted to capture this theme, but I don’t think any have done it as well as Ghost Stories. Designer Antoine Bauza deserves a lot of credit for making the horror theme pop in this game. Everything – from the villagers to the ghosts themselves – gives this game a genuine Chinese ghost story feel.
- Ghost Stories has an insane amount of replay value. The village grid is randomized at the beginning of the game and you never now which ghosts are going to show up throughout each game.
- The relatively short game length makes Ghost Stories a great fit for any type of board game night. It’s also excellent for anyone who loves a highly energetic game that seems to just fly by, rather than creep along.
- Ghost Stories plays surprisingly well as as two-player game. It’s great at all player counts, but it’s one of those rare co-op games that seems to be just as good with two as it is with a full compliment of players. You can use just two characters and get some help from the other two or you can take two apiece.
- One thing that could turn people away from Ghost Stories initially is how difficult it is. Even on the “easiest” level, it is very possible to lose five out of six games. With new ghosts appearing each turn, it can be overwhelming to beat them and can get a bit frustrating. That being said, when you do get those rare wins, it just….feels…GREAT!
- You definitely can get unlucky with the dice and with the ghosts that come out each turn. Some ghosts are much tougher to deal with than others, so if you get a couple of those early on or at the wrong time, your chances of winning go way down.
Ghost Stories truly stands out thanks to its strong theme, its amazing card art, and its challenging cooperative gameplay. If you enjoy the horror genre – or even if you don’t, really – this is a must-buy co-op game for every board game fan out there. Even if you keep losing, you will keep coming back to try to save that village! This is still one of my group’s favorite co-op board games even after playing it many, many times.
If you end up enjoying the base game, I highly recommend checking out the Ghost Stories: White Moon expansion. It gives Ghost Stories even more replay value because you now have to save villagers while still dealing with all of those ghosts.
Update: A new tower defense version of Ghost Stories called Last Bastion was released in late 2019.