Wednesday, August 29, 2012

City of Horror vs Mall of Horror

Six or seven years ago, Asmodee released a game called Mall of Horror.  It was a game where your party of three (or four) characters ran around a mall trying desperately to stay ahead of the Zombie Horde which was trying to break in and eat your brains.  Eventually, the zombies would break into each location, and the players present in that location needed to vote for who they were going to toss to the zombies.

It was a cutthroat game with a good premise that played well to its theme.

But the end of the game could really drag. It was sometimes longer than the rest of the game combined.  And there was a potentially broken strategy - hang out in the Parking Lot and collect cards.

And the rule book ... *sigh*

It went out of print a few years ago, and hasn't been reprinted.  The secondary market for it has blown up. If you can find it, expect to pay a good-sized pile of cash - because it's an excellent game, despite its flaws.

Earlier this year, I saw rules for a new game: City of Horror. It fixed the problems that had plagued Mall of Horror. And it looked to be a lot of fun.

At GenCon this year, I managed to play a few games and it fulfilled its promise.

The first significant change to the game is the characters.  In Mall of Horror, everyone had the same three (or four) characters - the Blonde, the Brute, and the Gunman (in a 3-player game, you also had a Little Girl).  And I know that he wasn't called the Gunman, but I don't have my rulebook handy, so I can't check his actual name.

In City of Horror, there are twenty four different characters, and each player will control a random batch of them (the number of characters you get depends on the number of players there are).

In Mall of Horror, each location was basically the same. In City of Horror, there is a reason to choose one location over another (and it's not just counting zombies). And there's no "hang out in the Parking Lot to gather cards" issue, either - you can hang out in the Crossroads and gather food if you want to, but it won't do you any good if none of your characters survive.

In Mall of Horror, every survivor was worth points.  In City of Horror, only the vaccinated survivors are allowed on the helicopter. And you need to gather vaccine during play.

Remember that late-game slog I mentioned?  It's not there, anymore.  City of Horror ends after four turns. Period.

In short, City of Horror has a very similar feel to Mall of Horror, but with none of the drawbacks.

And so I was heartbroken when we couldn't sell the copies we had at GenCon. Because the cardstock was wrong, and it was already warping. I was caught (pleasantly) by surprise when I was told to take a copy home. "Just write about it," I was told.

When this appears in game stores in a few months, check it out.  Seriously.

If you want an early preview and you're in the Seattle Area, come to Phoenix Games on a Wednesday evening.  We'll be playing it.  And other games.

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