Top 10 Creepy/Spooky Cooperative Games

Happy Halloween Everybody! In honor of this creepy and spooky holiday, we thought we’d emphasize the Top 10 cooperative games that are creepy and/or spooky. Now, some cooperative games are very thematic and spooky, but but necessarily creepy! And being a creepy game doesn’t necessarily mean a game is thematic! So, our metric for rating the games is an amalgam of “thematic”, “creepy”, “spooky” scores, as well as how much I like it. For instance, the game I like to play the most is not the number 1 game on the list because it’s not quite as creepy as other games on here! The number 1 games was the one I enjoyed the most and probably the creepiest!

Honorable Mention

Escape The Room: The Cursed Dollhouse

Escape the Room: The Cursed Dollhouse, ThinkFun, 2020 — front cover (image provided by the publisher)

We haven’t gotten through this yet, but it looks so cool!  The game transforms into a 3D dollhouse and looks really cool!  Early reviews are that it’s hard and doesn’t accommodate more than 2 players very well, but it just looks so cool.  We’ll probably be reviewing this on the site soon!

10. Horrified

The front cover of Horrified: Universal Monsters.

A lot of people really like this cooperative, mass-market game (I got my copy at Target). The players work together to defeat the Universal movies “old-style” monsters (The Mummy, Dracula, see the cover above!) as you go on in game quests (with a little pick-up-and-deliver). It’s not particularly creepy or spooky but it is very thematic, and works well with families and younger players.

Game Setup

9. Ghost Stories

Cover Front (Publisher's Press Image)

This is a very hard cooperative “puzzle” game for 1-4 players.   Players cooperatively are defending a small village from being decimated by ghosts (with a big bad that comes out at the end).  The art of the ghosts is quite creepy and really evokes a scary ethic.


This is a really hard cooperative game, and maybe very hard to find (I think it’s out of print). It has been been replaced by The Last Bastion (a retheming of the game to fantasy setting). If you can find the original, pick that up instead.

Game components (Publisher's Press Image)

8. Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters

Ghost Fightin' Treasure Hunters, Mattel, 2016 — front cover (image provided by the publisher)

This is a light cooperative game set in a haunted house: it’s mostly aimed at a younger audience, so it’s not too scary.   It’s like a lighter “pandemic” style cooperative game as players race around the board defeating ghosts and picking up loot.  The components are pretty fantastic (the plastic ghosts are fun to play with by themselves) and the game is very thematic and fun ! It has just a hint of creepiness/spookiness…

Playing Geister with my iOS/Android app to draw cards, roll die and set time limit.

7. Mysterium

Mysterium, Libellud, 2015 (image provided by the publisher)

Mysterium is a an odd fully cooperative game where one player plays a ghost, trying to get all the other players to discover how he was killed!  The ghost can only communicate in dreams (little scenes that he give to each player). 

The mediums have identified the proper suspect @ Spiel in Essen 2015

The backdrop for the game is a creepy haunted mansion, and the dream cards (see above) are always creepy and weird.   The game can be a tad frustrating if the players don’t “get” the ghost is trying to say, but the game is definitely evocative, thematic and very creepy!

2 player game in progress

6. Scooby Doo: Escape From The Haunted Mansion

Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion – A Coded Chronicles Game, The OP, 2020 — front cover (image provided by the publisher)

This is a one-shot escape room game, where the players cooperatively control the Scooby Gang, trying to solve a mystery!  This one makes it very high on the list because it was so much fun to play!   It’s definitely an escape room game that families can play (unlike others we might see later), as it’s fairly light, but it still has an interesting mystery to solve.  If you loved the Scooby Doo cartoon show, and the “creepy” vibe of that, you’ll love Scooby Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion.  (Again, this one makes it so high because the gameplay was so fun, even if isn’t as creepy as other games on the list).


5. Mythos Tales

Second Printing Box Cover

This game creates a incredibly rich, creepy story in an Cthulu-esque universe.   There are 8 episodes in the box, and once you’ve played through an episode, you are done (in more ways than one as the horrors and madness overtakes you!)  This game is all text-based, and you explore the city of Salem trying to discover the dark mysteries underneath.  If you have played Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, this is the same kind of game, set in a horror universe.  Very creepy and very evocative.

Stepping into Arkham for the first time...

4. Arkham Horror (Second Edition)

Arkham Horror, Fantasy Flight edition, revised printing (high quality box cover scan)

This is my favorite game to play, but it’s not the creepiest or most thematic of games.  The game is a deep, heavy, cooperative romp around the city of Arkham, as players work together to fight monsters and shut gates to stop the impending arrival of a Cthulu-esque old one.   I think my gaming group liked this so much because it was very akin to a role-playing game (with attributes, spells, items) without all the messy overhead of an RPG.  So, it’s a bit heavy for most people, but the thematic art and text permeates the game and creates a nice, creepy experience.

Arkham Horror with all its expansions

3. Mansion of Madness (Second Edition)

Mansions of Madness: Second Edition, Fantasy Flight Games, 2016 — front cover (image provided by the publisher)

To be clear, I hate the First Edition of the game (where one player plays against all the other players): you want the Second Edition which is fully cooperative.  The Second Edition uses an app to “run” the game and it turns the Mansions of Madness against you!  This is a big sprawling game set in a Cthulu-esque universe.  It’s interesting because you don’t actually know what your objective is at the start of the game, you sort of have to discover what you and your teammates have to do as you.  It’s incredibly thematic, very creepy, and very long…. it may take you a half hour to set-up, 2 hours to play, and another half hour to tear-down, but it creates a very satisfying creepy experience.

General look


2. Exit: The Haunted Rollercoaster

Exit: The Game – The Haunted Roller Coaster, KOSMOS, 2019 — front cover (image provided by the publisher)

This one surprised me a little: it was one of the funnest escape rooms I’ve ever played! It was creepy, and it had (without any spoilers) one of the scariest moments I’ve ever seen in a game. It’s a lighter cooperative escape room (rated Novice), but all of my group liked it! It is an EXIT game, so it can only be played once (as you tear up cards, and rip things), but it really is worthwhile as a creepy, cooperative game. (I don’t want to show too much more of the game! I don’t want to reveal any surprises!

1. Exit: The Catacombs of Horror

Exit: The Game – The Catacombs of Horror, KOSMOS, 2019 — front cover (image provided by the publisher)

This one surprised me. I really thought Exit: The Haunted Rollercoaster would make the number 1 position! Even though me and my group enjoyed playing the Haunted Rollercoaster more than The Catacombs of Horror, the overall experience of The Catacombs of Horror was just more creepy and thematic and cool! The Catacombs of Horror (expert level) was a lot harder than the Haunted Rollercoaster, and we got frustrated a number of times. Luckily, the hint system of the Exit games is quite good and we were able to continue in this creepy world.

Box front & back - German Edition

If you look closely at the warnings on the back of the box, it talks being careful with a candle. That’s right, there’s a candle in the box and you can have some downright creepy and thematic playing! Again, this one takes the number 1 spot because it was the creepiest game we’ve played!

A Review of The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game: Part I: Unboxing, Solo Rules, and First Impressions

One of my favorite movie moments of all time is watching The Princess Bride at a midnight showing of the movie. The movie had been out for some time and had achieved “cult” status, so The Princess Bride made the midnight showings at many alternative theaters. My favorite moment? The entire audience (who has been quoting the movie all night) screaming at the top of their lungs, screaming The Cliffs Of Insanity!!!

Cooperative Board Game


There have been a number of Princess Bride board games over the years, but I haven’t picked any of them up: partly because none of the have been cooperative, but also because none of them have been particularly good.  This newest one just came out fairly recently: today’s date is Oct 26th, 2020! The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game, to the best of my knowledge is only available at Target (I had to order it online after visiting 2 Targets looking for it).  It’ll probably be available at other outlets soon enough.

The game is for 1-4 adventurers, for ages 10+.  Keep an eye on that age, because that will influence how complex this game is (foreshadowing: it’s not particularly complex).



The cover is gorgeous, with the game gilded with golden highlights.  I love the art: it isn’t cheesy, yet still captures the imagery from the movie without using stills!


Opening up the box, you are presented with the rulebook and the Adventure Game book.

The Adventure book is a THICK cardboard book, but it’s hard to see from the picture above. See below for a picture from the side!


Opening it up, you see scenes from The Princess Bride movie.


The rulebook is fairly small, only 8 pages!


We’ll take a further look inside the rulebook in a section below. In the meantime, we’ll look at the cards:

The cards are easy to read, and the art is nice, using the same stylized art from the box cover. The only problem is that the cards aren’t linen-finished. I guess that’s pretty standard for a mass-market game that you get at Target.


The tokens that come are easy to read, and they come prepunched!! (I.e., no sheet to punch out). I wonder if this is a new direction in gaming?

The reference cards are nice (and I am very happy they have these):

But the best component we’ll save for last: The miniatures!


I’m usually not a miniatures guy, but I liked these! (You know, if I say that many more times, I think maybe I am a miniatures guy. In the meantime, I will live in denial). The miniatures look like the characters, but the different colors really distinguish the characters.



The rulebook is short and to the point. It’s only 8 pages!! The first page does it right and shows all the components.

The second page shows the (general) set-up: It turns out every scenario will have a slightly different set-up, but they all have the same general. It’s easy to read and easy to get going. I was up and going very quickly.


The rules are explained pretty well. There is a fine point that the rules don’t explain well, but we’ll discuss that in the playthru.

In general, the rulebook was great. Concise (perhaps too concise) and nice graphic design.

Solo Play


The game is fully cooperative. Interestingly, there are no exceptions for solo play. You might think that each player plays a character from the game, but you would be wrong! The players collectively play/move all the characters on the board. On a player’s turn, a player simply moves around one (or more) of the Princess Bride characters on the board—they go around the board using their cards to solve challenges.


The challenges require characters to be on specific spaces and specific cards needed to be discarded. Note the colored symbols on the right of the challenges: they correspond to the cards the players obtain during the game.


For example, the courage card (orange card at the top, and orange symbol) is one of the three cards needed for “Seek Fortune” challenge.


The solo play doesn’t need any special rules because the players turns are fairly indistinct as there are no special player powers. We’ll talk more about this below. But, it works well. I had fun playing through the first scene of the movie. And it was about 15-20 minutes.



Each Chapter in the game corresponds to a major scene from the movie. This is a campaign game (it’s not legacy: no stickers or torn-up cards). The set-up changes depending on which chapter you are on.  I have played a lot of campaign games (especially over the last few months), and this is one of the simpler ones: it was easy to set-up, even though each chapter is different.IMG_6885

Like most cooperative games, there is a “Bad News” deck (called the Plot deck) and the results of the plot deck are interpreted via the text on the left side of the board.  In the first Chapter, 1-15 puts chores on the board, and 16-20 moves Buttercup around.  Each Chapter will have a different effect from the Plot deck.



So, one of the issues I had is something you will confront right away. The rules are “unclear” that you can solve multiple challenges per turn. After getting a few turns into the first Chapter, I realized it was absolutely necessary! The game is unsolvable unless you can solve multiple challenges on a turn!!! I wish that was clearer from the rules. A smart gaming group will figure that out quickly, but I am worried that a family group will simply think the game is unwinnable and poorly designed. So, as a public service, I offer this clarification: Players may solve multiple challenges per turn.



So, remember the recommended ages we discussed earlier? 10+? This is a simpler co-op game. This is partly demonstrated because there are no special player powers: each player’s turn feels similar to the previous player’s turn: this makes it easy for kids and parents to just jump in. The game’s smaller rulebook (only 8 pages), the simpler set-up, the simple rules, all outline that this game is intended to be a simpler co-op. I think the intended audiences are families.

Having said that, I think older folks who enjoyed The Princess Bride will also enjoy the game: the components and art really evoke the ethos of the game. They just need to realize that this is a simpler co-op.



I had fun playing this game, but I am one of the people who used to quote dialog of the movie at the midnight movie showing!! I think families are the intended audience: they will really enjoy the game. Each Chapter is only 15-20 minutes long, and the game is easy to set-up, teach, and play! Families could keep playing as long as the kids were interested (1 play at 15 minutes, 2 plays at 30 minutes, “time-for-bed, we’ll play tomorrow night?”).

I think that if you don’t know the movie, and if you aren’t really playing with a family or younger kids, this might be a pass for you. The turns of the players are very simple and very similar, but that means there’s not a lot to distinguish turns. This makes it easy for kids and easy to add a solo mode, but it also means it’s not a hard co-op.

In the end: I liked The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game, but I don’t love it. It’s a nice, simple co-op. I love the art and the ethos it evoked. The Adventure Book was gorgeous and maybe part of the reason I like this so much.

One last note: this is a campaign. Once you’ve played all 7 Chapters, you’ve seen everything. I can see playing all the way through a few times, but then getting sick of it. I would almost consider this to be like an Unlock or Exit Escape Room or any “play-once game”. Buy it (it’s only $30), play it all-the-way-through, then pass it on to your friends.

How to play a Cooperative Game Solo?

I’ve frequently written in this blog about Saunders’ Law: All cooperative board and card games should have a solo mode. It’s really more of a request to the designers and manufacturers! As someone who loves his cooperative games (and tends to present them to his friends), I need solo modes to learn the game. I enumerate a list of reasons why cooperative game need a solo mode in my blog post here, but essentially a solo mode in a cooperative game (at least for me) makes that game more likely to be purchased/played/enjoyed.


Nominally, we can break down cooperative games with solo rules into 3 separate buckets:

  1. Perfect Information vs. Hidden Information: Is the entire state of the games available to all players, or do some players hide information from each other?
  2. Solo Rules Included vs. None Included: Does the game have any solo rules?
  3. Multiple Positions vs. Single Position: If the game HAS solo rules, do they make you play multiple positions or have special rules for a single position?

Realistically, this breaks down into 5 categories for solo play:

  1. Cooperative games with perfect global information shared among all players. Solo rules NOT included  Examples: Unicornus Knights, Sentinels of the Multiverse.
  2. Cooperative games with perfect global information shared among all players. Solo rules INCLUDED, but require playing solo as if you were multiple positions. Examples: The Captain is Dead, Marvel United, Solar Storm.
  3. Cooperative games with perfect global information shared among all players.  Solo rules INCLUDED, but can play a single player in a single position.  Examples: Aeon’s End (any of them, original or War Eternal, Outcasts, etc.),
  4. Cooperative games with limited communication (thus, not all information is available to all players). Solo rules NOT included.  Examples: Far Away, Shipwreck Arcana, Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons.
  5. Cooperative games with limited communication.  Solo rules INCLUDED.  None? 

There may be some games from category 5 that I don’t know of, but there is a way to approach games of both category 4 and 5 using a method we have discussed earlier called Changing Perspectives. That blog post explores the details about the Changing Perspectives idea in great depth, so we won’t dwell on that here. Today, we are going to talk about different ways to play cooperative games that tend to have perfect, global, shared information.

2P or Not 2P?

To paraphrase Shakespeare:

2P, or not 2P, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous solo rules,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.

In other words, how do I play solo? As a solo player playing two positions or something else? (2P or not 2P?) Do I play 1 position, 2 positions, 3 positions, or even more? Do I even like the solo rules that come with the game (outrageous solo rules)? Or do I come up with my own solo rules (and by opposing, end them)?

Two Positions better than Three?

I have found recently that I don’t like the solo rules that come included in many of the cooperative games I have picked up. I am exaggerating by calling them outrageous solo rules, but it’s for effect. In Solar Storm, the solo rules has you playing 3 positions, with some special rules for sharing all the cards. I have played several times this way, but I vastly prefer just playing two positions instead. Similarly, for Marvel United, the solo rules have you playing 3 positions (see below), with some special rules again. And again, I found that I preferred to just play 2 positions instead. Why?

Eschew Exceptions

The problem: I don’t want to deal with “exceptional cases”! I am usually playing a game solo to learn the rules, so I am reading and learning lots of rules! The last thing I want is to have to apply “different” or “exceptional” rules to my play! Take a look at the “exceptional” rules for Marvel United!

And that’s not even all of the exceptions because they wouldn’t all fit on my screen! I would rather just play as 2 characters, so that I don’t even have to apply the exceptional rules. I was reminded of this playing the solo rules for Forgotten Waters! Happily, the game comes with solo rules (even though the box says 3-7 Players on the outside), but there are a lot of exceptions that made it more difficult to play because the exceptions were ONLY documented in the app and NOT the rulebook!

Three Positions Better Than Two?

At the risk of being a hypocrite, there are some games where I enjoy 3 positions.

Unicornus Knights (reviewed here and here) works fantastic with the player playing 3 positions instead of just 2. In this case, it’s because if you played as Two Players, then you’d be playing 4 characters. The minimum number of characters (for balance) is 3, so playing a 3-Player game is the best way to play solo. You don’t have an exceptional rules for solo play: you can just play the 3 positions normally.

Sentinels of the Multiverse is a controversial pick because it doesn’t even have solo rules. I did develop some solo rules to play as if you were playing 2 Characters, but they were a little clunky. See here. When I play on the app or in person, I usually play 3 positions (3 Characters). There’s a lot to keep track of, but I have played it enough to be comfortable with it.

One Position Better Than Two or Three?

Arguably, the best way to play solo is to play one position or one characters: usually there’s much less to keep track of (only 1 position/1 character) and you don’t have to context switch back and forth between different characters. Sometimes, it makes perfect sense.

The Captain Is Dead has solo rules, but it has you playing multiple characters. I developed a set of solo rules for running one character and it simplifies the game tremendously! For a while, The Captain Is Dead was my favorite solo game BECAUSE of these solo rules.

Aeon’s End has a nice system for playing solo with just one character: I was quite pleased with it in my review here. The list of exceptional rules is very small, and it was easy to jump in as a single character and get going.

Intellectual Overhead

Where am I going with all this? I seem to be all over the place, sometimes preferring playing 1 position, 2 positions, or even 3 positions. What’s the common theme? Intellectual Overhead. What’s the cost in terms of complexity, rules lookups, rules exceptions? What can I keep in my head? In other words, what’s the simplest way to pay solo that’s still fun?

If there are too many exceptional rules for solo play (like Marvel United), it drains the game of fun as you lookup rules, override base rules, and just have to remember those exceptions.

If there are too many positions to play, the cost of running multiple characters can be draining as you have to switch and back and forth (like the original solo rules for The Captain Is Dead).

Is the game still representative of the game or do to solo rules feel tacked on? Tacked on rules drain the game of fun (like Solar Storm).


There is no “best way” to play a cooperative game solo. Some games come with solo rules, but even those can be tacked on and not representative of play. Don’t just take solo rules at face value, especially for cooperative games! Some of my favorite solo games have been cooperative games that didn’t even come with solo rules (Sentinels of the Multiverse, The Captain Is Dead, Unicornus Knights). I encourage you to “experiment” with your cooperative games to find the solo rules that work best for you. I have found that the solo rules that require the least Intellectual Overhead (fewest rule exceptions, fewest positions, least work) tend to be the best solo rules for me. Play. Experiment. They are your games: find the solo rules that work best for you!

A Review of 5-Minute Mystery

The game 5-Minute Mystery is a real-time cooperative game from the makers of 5-Minute Dungeon and 5-Minute Marvel. Recall that 5-Minute Marvel made both my Top 10 Cooperative Superhero Games and my Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2018, so I was very excited for this one! I am a huge fan of mysteries (Detective: City of Angels and Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective both made my Top 10 Cooperative Storytelling/Storybook Games) so this was an insta-back on Kickstarter! It arrived sometime last week (October 1st or so, 2020).

Unboxing and Components


So, 5-Minute Mystery is a games for 1-6 players (see above on very right) for ages 8+. The art is very cute!



The Rulebook is pretty (see below for more discussion).


These are the “clues” you get in the game (with a few Red Herrings, ie., NULL clues). Notice the little colored bar on the bottom of each: these will match or not match the Culprits and describe some aspect of the Culprit.


The Culprits are in two decks. The deck above is the cards the players keep in their hands: as they eliminate suspects, these hands (above) dwindle until down to the last Culprit … and the solution to the Mystery!

The Other Culprit cards are the ones that actually identify the Culprit in the mystery! At the start of the game, you choose (usually) one of the Culprits and put it in the middle of the board, with the colored edges side (right) showing!


There are many mysteries in the game, but usually you have to catch one or more culprits. The Mystery card (above) is the intro Mystery!!


The find the clues, you have to “search” the rooms above. Each room is a little different, but the art is gorgeous!


The cornerstone “gimmick” in the game is the Codex. Each room has 5 of the those symbols “hidden” in the rooms: you use the Codex to remember what symbols were in the room. It would have been just as easy to use a pencil and paper or any other mechanism, but the Codex is chunky and feels nice to turn. It’s a gimmick, but it works.

The Player Reference Cards (above) show all the symbols that can appear in the rooms, as well as what the “clues” notate. Each Clue is a different color type, and represents a different set of aspects. For example, Red Clues are “Skin-type”: scales, feathers, skin, or fur.

In general, the components are first class and look really nice. If I were to do one thing: I’d make the player Culprit cards Linen-finished. We’ve played a number of times now, and those cards really get “handled” a lot. I might recommend sleeving the player Culprit cards.



The Rulebook is well done and easy to read.

The Rulebook is more of a pamphlet than a rulebook, but it shows pictures of set-up and all the components like normal game. I was up and going pretty quickly.



Gameplay is very simple. There are two phases to repeat!


  1. Look for Symbols: Cooperatively look for Symbols on the Room Cards (use the Codex to note symbols as you find them). After you think you have found all the symbols, turn the room card over!!! If you found all the symbols, it’ll match the back of the room and you get a clue (goto step 2)!!! If not, find a new room and repeat step 1 again!
  1. Get A Clue: Cooperatively decide which of the 4 Clue piles to pick a clue from (recall different Clue Piles are different colors, representing different aspects). Turn a clue over! If that clue’s colors match the Culprit card, you know the Culprit has the aspect! For example, you might find out that the culprit has gloves! If it doesn’t match, that also gives you information. Either way, you thin your suspect deck, getting rid of suspects who match/don’t match the clue you just found!


Continue until you run out of time (each Mystery has time-limit: we just set a timer on a phone, but you can download an app) or you think you know! At that point, turn the Culprit card over!! Did you get it?? You Win!


Above is a winning game where I thinned the possibilites down to Tim the mouse!!!  The last card matched the Culprit! A Win!!

Solo Play


So, there are solo rules for the game. Hurray! They followed Saunders’ Law! These rules appear near the end of the pamplet:


So, basically the only real change is you have to do everything yourself and you only have find 4 out of 5 symbols on the room cards. Here’s the thing: I did not enjoy this game solo. It wasn’t fun. My least favorite thing about the Unlock games is “looking for hidden symbols”, and that’s what half this game is. I played a few rounds with the Codex looking for symbols and had NO FUN. I ended up just getting clues and matching them. Even then, I didn’t have a lot of choices: I could only choose a clue from a pile?

I was happy that there were solo rules to teach me the game, but I did not enjoy this solo. It reminds me of my solo plays of Robit Riddle, Crusoe Crew, and Sherlock Holmes: Baker Street Irregulars: the game just feels “lonely” playing solo. BUT … would it work cooperatively????

Cooperative Play


Luckily, the game works well cooperatively. I had a good time in a 4-Player game! The part I feared the worst was the “Looking for Hidden Pictures”, but when 3 other people are all looking, the mechanism seems to work a lot better. And then the “choice” of what type of Clues to get seemed like a fun choice to make as a group.

We played 3 games total over the night. Each game went quickly! We had fun! Ironically, the first game is a 9-Minute game… and then they become 5-Minute games.

Some Minor Issues


Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the Culprit has Skin, Scales, Fur, or Feathers. That may sound like a dumb thing to say (and it is), but in a timed game, you sometimes can’t tell! “Wait, is the Rhino skin or scales?” “The Penguin has feathers, right? The picture kinda looks like fur …” So, to combat this, they made the backgrounds reflect the skin.


The thing is: I can’t really tell what the backgrounds are! They are SO DARK, it’s hard to tell which is which! So, they did try to address the problem, but it didn’t work. In the end, if you aren’t sure, you just have to keep the potential culprit !!! Arguably, this made the game more interesting, as you had “not sure” pile of Culprits which is arguably more realistic? Anyway, it was a bigger annoyance than I expected.

Another minor issue: this is not a deep deduction game. You only get a choice of “which clue type” when you get a clue, so there’s a little bit too much randomness for a real deduction game … for a “real” deduction game, I’d want a lot more choice on how to eliminate suspects!! BUT, this is a realtime game which an 8+ age rating, so the “choose a Clue Type” mechanism works well enough. Just be aware: it’s not a deep game.


This is a good cooperative filler/party game for multiple people, but it’s not a deep deduction game. My group enjoyed it, but I also think it would really work well with families. Be Aware: I don’t think it works solo, but I am glad it has solo rules as a way to learn the game. The art and components are first rate: the only minor art problem was the attempt to note the skin type (as the backgrounds are too dark to read).

We had fun. 5-Minute Mystery will stay in my game collection on the main rotation! When we want an end of the night game, or a “waiting for Andrew” game, this will fit the bill.

A Review of The Stygian Society: Part II. Conclusion

In Part I of my review, I took a look at The Stygian Society, a cooperative board and cube game for 1-4 players as they dungeon delve (but in a tower, so it’s a tower delve). Players play unique characters with unique powers, which are typical fantasy tropes (Doctor aka Cleric, Knight aka Fighter). To win, characters must make it to level 6 of the tower and take out the Big Bad Wizard at the top. If they die along the way, they lose.

Don’t Bury The Lede!

So, I won’t bury the lede: we liked the game … it was a good cooperative game! I liked the game … it was a good solo game. It was fun playing! The Stygian Society has a good chance of making my Top 10 cooperative games of 2020! But, there were some issues. I wanted to make it clear right up front that this is a good co-op! I will, however, be discussing some of the issues me and my group had, but I didn’t want you to think I didn’t like the game.

Game Length


Probably the biggest problem we had with the game was the game length. My solo game took about 5 hours (I’ll call it 4 because of first time set-up/play). The cooperative 4-Player game took 2.5 hours, but we lost halfway through. If we had played all the way through, it would have taken probably 4-5 hours. It takes about 45-60 minutes PER FLOOR and there are 6 floors in the game! A bunch of my friends said “If I am going to play a 6-hour game, I’d rather play Arkham Horror (2nd Edition)“. This is kind of ironic since Kevin Wilson, the designer of this game, was a designer listed on Arkham Horror!


Luckily, there’s a very simple fix to shorten the game! At the “midpoint” of the game, you are fighting the Mid-Level Boss. You could very easily call the game at the mid-level, playing about a 2 hour game. In other words:

  • Short Game: 2-3 hours, go from level 1, to level 2, to level 3. If you beat the mid-level boss on level 3, you win!
  • Long Game: 5-6 hours, normal game.  You have to through all 6 levels and beat the Wizard at the end to win!

When I played my solo game, I played all the way to level 3 and stopped.  I left the game set-up over night and played levels 4-6 the next day.  I had fun doing it this way.

It seems like this is the best way to play: play about 2.5 hours to level 3 (and then come back to finish it if you want, and can leave it set-up).  Although there are a lot of decisions in the game that keep it fun, it does get a bit samey, so a 2.5 hour game is probably ideal.


House Rules

One issue we had was that one of the characters seemed “less useful” in the game. Andrew had gotten the Burglar (see above), and both his initial power and next power were ONLY useful for treasure chests. Andrew was frustrated through most of the game because all he could do was a “Help” action (we’ll talk about that more below); he couldn’t take advantage of his special powers very much.

So, at the start of the game, the core rules direct each player to get a random 1st level power. When the player goes up a level, the core rules direct that a player can choose either (a) a random new power at the next level or (b) choose any new power from the current level. Arguably, Andrew was just the victim of bad luck as he got a less-useful 1st level power and 2nd level power. He wanted choice. So, here’s our House Rules to make the game more fun!

  • Whenever you would choose a “random” power, you take 2 powers, and you get to choose one of them instead (and put the other back)
  • At the start of the game, you can choose any power you want to start the game (optional?)

The first House Rule just gives some choice in the game, and engages you more, as you get invested in your character more. Similarly, the second House Rule invests your group, as you and your group can decide what powers you want as a group AND MAKES THE GAME MORE COOPERATIVE as you decide your strategy.

These House Rules are easy to implement and make the game more engaging.

Player Aid Cards


So, the game could use a character aid. After playing through a few times (and I felt like I was an experienced player), I found there was a rule about peril “buried” in the rules. By “buried”, I mean it’s only referenced in one place in the rules, in the text-heavy description of the game flow. I read over the rules multiple times, played for hours, and it just got lost in the shuffle. Basically, the peril is supposed to go up whenever any enemy activates. Since most of the descriptions of effects are ON THE CARDS, I expected that to be on the cards too? I know, it’s my own fault. But I would claim it was harder to find.

I think there’s a bunch of stuff I missed that could have easily been on a character aid card. Side 1 of the player aid would describe what happens at the start and end of a level:


  • What happens at the START of a floor?  (Clear the crypt, field, and reset peril)
  • What happens at the END of combat (A “getting treasure” section)
  • What happens at the END of a floor?

Side 2 would describe what would happen in combat:

  • Choose Support action (if not tapped)
  •  Choose Action (which usually needs a target).  Actions can also come from status board: Help, Regroup, Attack!!! Describe these actions on each card too!  (The ONLY place these are described is on the status board)
  • Add cubes (Good and Bad)
  • Check Red enemies: if activate, activate  AND ADD PERIL
  • Check Red room triggers
  • Repeat for yellow, repeat for black

Something like that would have gone a long way towards making the game more accessible.

Set-Up and Shared Actions


The status board needs to go in the center of all players. Why? Because when you choose your actions, you can also choose of the three on the status board!!! The ONLY PLACE these are documented is on the board itself!!! We thought it would have been nice if those actions where at least summarized on a player aid card (see above), in another 3 cards for each player (probably too expensive), or summarized on each of our player board.

Artifacts Wanted


The game flowed very well, the cube tower was fun to throw cubes into, and it was easy to play a turn. However, after playing our game, we wanted something more: we think we wanted some “shared action” we could work towards during the game. What if we added Artifacts? For example, what if we were collecting cubes to power the Artifact sword Excalibur? If, as a group, we put enough cubes on it, we could do 10 damage when we activate it? Or clear the field? On turns where we couldn’t do much, it may have been nice to feel like we were contributing to some global thing? Obviously, this is just us brainstorming, but I think we wanted “something” like the Vanir section of Yggdrasil:

I think something like this (Artifacts) would very easy to add as an expansion.



So, I asked for ratings (out of 10) for the game after we played. Here’s the results:

  • 5-6, too samey but I had fun.
  • 6-7, I had fun
  • 7-8 I had a real good time
  • 7.5 I liked it, but solo was a little better (8)

What were our thoughts overall?

  • Every one had fun playing!
  • We think the House Rules really fix some of the issues, and they are easy fixes (more choices on powers)
  • A player aid would have gone a long way towards making the game more playable
  • Some repetition of rules (shared actions, some peril rules, luck rules) would have been helpful
  • Make sure the status board is set-up in the middle so players can see the shared actions

I think this game seems to get a 7 overall from my group.  Our House Rules probably boost it up to a 7.5.  An expansion with character playing aids and some Artifacts to activate, and rules mods (i.e., our House Rules and short game/long game rules)  might even put it at an 8.