The haunting of Tiny Wooden Towers

The haunting of Tiny Wooden Towers

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Writer_smallerGhost Stories

The first two nights we played Ghost Stories, the combined length of both games probably didn’t add up to an half an hour. It beat us mercilessly, and I loved it for it.

The third time we played it, Aileen found a great rules reference online, and, more to the point, found some mistakes we were making. That time we won. It’s a tricky game, just not that tricky. I am now looking forward to trying it on the harder difficulty settings, and finding a level where it’s seriously challenging again. Winning is fun, but only if you have to work for it. The comic is exactly how the first game played out, by the way. Except for the ghost. He’s actually been in the house a lot longer.

The other delight I found in Ghost Stories was a co-op game that rewards players working together. In fact, I’m pretty sure the harder difficulty settings render any other style of play unworkable. By which I mean unwinnable.

If you don’t want to hear any more about Ghost Stories, here’s where I lose you. Because here’s the final trick the game has up its spooky sleeve; here’s what’s really clever about it: Theme.

Mechanically, it’s a game about hordes of undead attacking a board, and the players need to fight the enemy off using a mix of pick-ups and help from the area they are in. Areas can be overrun and be rendered useless. You might see what I’m getting at: the obvious theme here is zombies. It’s a hugely popular theme and fits the mechanics like a rotting glove. I actually have no problem with zombie games: I think they’re great fun, and don’t feel it’s been overdone (yet). But what Ghost Stories offers is so much more interesting; so much more exciting.

You play Taoist monks defending a small village from Wu Feng: Lord of the Nine Hells. You are exorcising a gruesome variety of ghosts, from skinners to soul eaters, from dark wraiths to black widows. Wu Feng himself manifests in ten different forms, each a unique challenge to defeat. The players use coins, incense, bells, gain help from tea rooms, altars and sorcerers. For all my talk of the difficulty and fun co-op, it might honestly be the theme, and the brilliant accompanying artwork that has me most excited about Ghost Stories. And I’m certain that if it had been just another zombie game, it would have never caught Aileen’s eye in the first place.

More interesting themes, please, designers of the world!

9 Comments on The haunting of Tiny Wooden Towers
  • David

    I did a spit-take when you said Ghost Stories was “tricky but not that tricky”. I must just be bad at it then, I have only ever won on the lowest level with a single monk, any time I tried with multiple monks I was destroyed. I have had some of those 2 games in 30 minutes days as well.

    • Just finished playing a game with three monks, and it made me feel like maybe we got lucky when we beat it last time. The board was completely over-run just past the halfway point. We were totally swamped. I wonder is it more difficult with more players?

  • Drew

    Ghost Stories is the only game which i couldn’t play as i couldn’t understand the rule book. My local gaming shop had a copy, we tried to figure it out, and after 15 minutes of rules reading, i put it back!

    • Yeah, the rulebook really is a let down. Feels like it suffers in translation. There’s a great rules reference online that we use now that solves the problem:

      • Drew

        At the moment I’ve got a ton of brand new board games i’m yet to play, and with Thunderbirds being released this week I’ve got too many new games to play before i try ghost stories again. So excited for Thunderbirds… Played it at UKGames expo and loved it.

        • Our copy of Thunderbirds arrived a few days ago! It looks gorgeous, haven’t had a chance to play it yet, but I am also very, very excited about it.

      • Drew

        But yes, the rulebook for Ghost Stories suffers… I’ve heard a lot of people really enjoy that and i do want to play it at some point… maybe I need to get someone to teach me it…

      • Aaron Gannaway

        I am a big fan of the Headless Hollow rules references. In my opinion, he creates the best rules references that I have seen. Whenever I get a new game that I feel needs a rules reference, I look to see if he has created one for the game.

  • Aaron Gannaway

    I love this game and am excited you did a comic about it! I got it as a gift a few years back and played it 8 times in short succession with the following results (all of the games were played solo using all 4 monks):

    lost (Difficulty: Initiation), lost (Difficulty: Initiation), lost (Difficulty: Initiation), won (Difficulty: Initiation), won (Difficulty: Initiation), won (Difficulty: Normal)…at this point I got a bit over-confident and thought I figured out the game…lost badly (Difficulty: Normal), worst loss since my first game (Difficulty: Normal). 🙂

    I have not played the game in way too long, so earlier this week I pulled it out. I am re-reading the rules so that I can play it a few times this weekend. I can’t wait because I love the theme and the difficulty of the game. I do recall my first game having rules questions as well. I think it took about half-way through before it all clicked.