Product Review: Trauma Games Presents: Murderous Ghosts

Trauma Games Presents: Murderous Ghosts
Author: D. Vincent Baker
Art: Andrew Kiselev, Benjamin Haas & Eric Basir
Publisher: Night Sky Games
Page Count: 58
Available Formats: PDF and Clamshell Case
Cost: PDF – $5 (currently only available format)

PREMISE
The premise of Murderous Ghosts is something akin to an old-fashioned choose your own adventure story. The game pits the player, an urban explorer, against the Master of Ceremonies, who plays the ghosts. Will you as the urban explorer be able to survive and escape with your life?

PRODUCT QUALITY
The game comes in two distinct formats. The physical form of the game comes housed in a clamshell DVD case and includes everything needed to play save for the deck of cards. The currently available version is PDF and it comes with three PDF booklets which include all the necessary rules. One booklet is for the Master of Ceremonies (MC), one for the player and the third is a version that includes both books in one in PDF.

The art is minimal as this is game premised on player/GM interaction and less on art. The art that is included is appropriate, if not slightly over dramatic and in my least favorite art style–photorealistic. The art pieces are used solely for the covers. The layout of the booklets is simple and straight forward. There is no fluff here!

MECHANICS
The game revolves around a deck of poker cards, less the Jokers. At its heart, there are two distinct mechanics at work here. First, the MC is slowly drawing cards as a measure of how close the player has come to being able to escape their living nightmare. The player on the other, hand is constantly drawing cards as part of the resolution mechanic for any given situation. This is where the Powered by the Apocalypse mechanic influence enters.

When the player needs to resolve a situation, they will draw a card and then determine the total  value in their hand. Much like other games that are Powered by the Apocalypse, once a value has been determined there are three possible outcomes. The difference here, like in blackjack poker, you want a high value as this result favors the player, but if your total is twenty-one or greater you bust and the result is equivalent to a failed result (1-5).

In addition to the card mechanic for scene resolution, there is a heavy dose of the choose your own adventure stylized mechanic here. The playbooks have numbered entries and once you (player or MC) completely read and resolve an entry you will be prompted to continue on to another identified entry or inform the other player to continue where they left off or even turn to a certain entry in their booklet.

This back and forth continues until such a time as the player is in a position to make good their escape from the situation or the player is killed by the ghost(s).

PROS
The game is an interesting adaptation of the choose your adventure model and works very well with a horror theme. The straightforward scene progression and resolution mechanics are easy to learn and even easier to implement.

CONS
There are two things that I didn’t care for. The first is the art style and this is just my personal preference and does not detract from the game itself. The second, is the card mechanics for the MC are slightly vague. The rules call for the MC to draw a card as the player moves closer to the point of escape, but there is little in the rules to define how this should be implemented. There are a few entries in the booklet that tell the MC to draw a card, but for me it was unclear if there should be other times the MC should draw a card.

PARTING SHOTS
The read through was very easy and for the most part, intuitive. We played the game once and I met a horrible fate at the hands of the ghost. I thoroughly enjoyed the choose your own adventure type system and the card mechanics for scene resolution were easy and straight forward. It just so happens that I like to push my luck more than I should. Despite my unclear interpretation of the MC’s card mechanic, I really liked the game and I can see lots of replayability here. This would be a great filler game at conventions or any type of game gathering.

~ Modoc

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