A Review of The Shivers

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The Shivers is a cooperative, storytelling/adventure game that was on Kickstarter back in August 2020: it just delivered about a week ago (Dec. 13, 2022). Honestly, it should have made our Top 10 Anticipated Cooperative Games of 2022, because we have been really craving for this to get here! Now, it promised delivery in July 2021, so it’s about a year and a half late … this one you might forgive for being so late because of the unique components: pop-up rooms! Yes, that’s what I said … pop-up rooms!

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This is a unique game! Let’s take a look inside!

Unboxing

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The Shivers box that we bought was the 1st Edition Deluxe Game: see above. It’s about the size of a standard Ticket To Ride sized box. See the Coke can and pencil for scale.

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The little advert at the top of the box comes with a quick description of the game: A Pop-Up Mystery Adventure! (With more expansions available).

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The game comes with a Quick-Start Tutorial Guide! See above!

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Next comes a bunch of punch-outs. The little black pieces are for holding open the pop-ups: most everything else is a standee for a character or monster that will come up in the game.

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Under all that are some more standees! You can make your own characters (that’s cool) or you can use the Kickstarter exclusive cat and dogs! See above and below.

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There are three books that come with the game: the History of Fogmoor book (left) will come into play as you get more into the game (there are at least 2 campaigns in the box). The Storyteller’s Companion (middle) offers advice on how to spice up the story in the game. The Full Instructions (right) are for after you have read the Tutorial.

There’s a lot more stuff in the box: mostly new adventures! But there’s also some great magnifying glasses and dry-erase character boards!

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The components looks pretty cool … but we still haven’t seen the pop-ups yet …

Tutorial Set-Up

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The Tutorial for this game is really good. It sets up a vey simple scenario to start the game: it’s only 3 cards (in the tutorial bag) and uses 3 standard rooms in the game (the game comes with a number of pop-up rooms).

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The three cards that come with the Tutorial fit into the rooms:

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What’s going on: the backdrop of each room changes per mystery!

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The empty spaces of the room (see above) are filled in by the card!

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The Peculiar Parlor is typically the starting room of the game: see above. The Spooky Study is another room from the supply (see above and below).

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The final room is the Laboratory: see below for set-up! You basically set-up by “opening the pack”:

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In order to hold the pop-ups open, you need the little black wedges from the punchouts: see below.

When the Tutorial is all set-up, it looks like the following:

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A Coke can is included above for perspective.

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You might notice the flashlight … what’s that for?

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The flashlight does NOT come with the game, but the game recommends having one!

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If you really want to play ambiently, you can turn off the lights and use the flashlight to go through the house. We used it more to help illuminate some of the pop-up rooms. Some of the room have some smaller items that re easier to see with the flashlight.

Tutorial Reading

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Once the pop-ups are set-up, the Tutorial sheet unfolds into a large sheet! See above and below.

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The sheet describes the game, what players are doing, the goals, and the basic structure! There’s a lot there!

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Once you’ve read the top,  you turn the sheet over for a more directed “guide” on how to step players through.IMG_4635

There’s even a little marker to note where you are!

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You are almost ready to play!

What Is This Game?

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What is this game? It’s basically a cross between a Role Playing Game (RPG) and a Storybook Game! It’s an RPG because there is a Storyteller: the Storyteller is very much like a Dungeon Master from Dungeons and Dragons (or Gamemaster from other RPGS)! The Storyteller has to read through the entire adventure to get ready to run it for the other players! Once the Storyteller is ready, he starts shepherding a group of players through the Adventure as defined by the pop-up rooms! That’s where the Storybook comes in! There is definitely a defined start, middle, and end to the story, and the game defines the ways to advance the story.

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Those of you who read Co-op Gestalt frequently know that we love the Monkey Island games! See here and here. The Monkey Island games are the point-and-click adventure video games where players explore the world, interact with objects, and solve some puzzles! And that’s kind of what The Shivers is! Instead of interacting with the video game though, players interact with the pop-up rooms! They explore the rooms, looking for items, and solving the puzzles!

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The main difference between this and other games like our Top 10 Cooperative Storytelling/Story Games is that The Shivers has a Storyteller! Most of the games on the Top 10 list can be played completely cooperatively … in The Shivers, one player has to sit-out and run the game!

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If I were to describe The Shivers to someone, I might describe it as a point-and-click adventure game meets an RPG in board game form! With cool pop-ups!

Solo Play

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This game does not follow Saunders’ Law: there is no solo mode! The Shivers is a game for 2-5 players, where one person has to run the game! And everyone else plays a character in the game! See some characters below.

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Having said that, one person has to be the Storyteller to run the game, so they kind of have to “mock play” through the adventure by themself so they know the story. In other words, solo play is basically preparation for running the game! To be clear: the Storyteller has to prepare to run the game, or the cooperative play will go very poorly. This is all about prep.

Solo play is prep.

Cooperative Play

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When I ran my game of The Shivers, I felt like I was running an RPG with a very directed script .. like a point-and-click adventure game. For example, before the characters can look in cabinets (in the room), they say “I am going to look in the cabinet” and I tell them “the cabinet is locked, it doesn’t open” or “it opens”. I almost feel like I am quoting standard lines from video games! Many times in video games, players will try something crazy and the game will respond “You can’t do that”. I responded that way a number of times.

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To be clear, the adventures in The Shivers do have a “back story” about what’s happening: in fact, the first adventure in the Tutorial is sorta the first part of a campaign!  So, as the Storyteller, I know the overall direction as well as the specifics to my current adventure. So, if the characters try to do something “weird”, I can redirect that sometimes to reflect the campaign.

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One of the things that helps “remind the Storyteller” is that the back of room shows all the things they can do: all the white text (above) is what the players can see, and the yellow text is hidden until the players “do something right”. So, preparation of the Storyteller can be minimized a little because each room has reminders on the back of the rooms.

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And of course, the adventure has tools (like the current step: see above) to keep the adventure on task.

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Players play through the adventure, alternating turns, as they try to “solve” the mystery/puzzle!

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I’d say the cooperation is good in this game: players talk about what to do, where to explore, what to combine, and the Storyteller is just a shepherd trying to help the players through the story.

Tone

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The tone of The Shivers is fairly light. You are exploring a haunted house and going to haunted rooms, exploring crazy labs, being haunted by ghosts, but it’s all pretty light hearted.

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The standees (above) give the biggest clue about the tone of the game: players are role-playing kids exploring some haunted mansions! It’s light and fun, but still has a serious story … if you consider stories about swapping brains with a chicken serious…

RPG Lite?

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If you generally like RPGS, I think there is a good chance you will like the Shivers. The stories seem interesting, the puzzles have a very definite solution, and there’s still just a little bit of room for improvization. And the exploration is fun!

It really depends on what you want in an RPG: if you like to make up stuff as you go, have the world spin around in unexpected ways, and have crazy narrative … The Shivers is probably not for you. The puzzles in The Shivers are very definite and have a specific solution: the game is a little on rails, as you have a definite script to keep to … not unlike a point-and-click adventure game.

The nice thing about The Shivers is that it’s an RPG-Lite: the story is all set for you. With minimal prep (you still have to prep), you can get an RPG going quickly. Let’s be clear: The Shivers still has a lot of storytelling for the Storyteller! Even though the way through the adventure is prescribed, there’s still a lot of room to be creative in how the players and Storyteller interact … there’s still imagination and story!

Do you want an RPG adventure that’s all prepared for you? Then The Shivers is perfect for you! Do you want an open-ended adventure that’s definitely not on rails? Then The Shivers may not be for you. Honestly, even if you are a hardcore RPGer, you can have The Shivers as a backup for when you want a light adventure … or some cool pop-up rooms ..

Pop-Up Rooms

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In case we haven’t said it: these pop-up rooms are awesome! Amazing! See above! And the fact that they can be reused in many different adventures in the game (by putting in a different card in the back) is so very clever!

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One musing I had: I can see using these rooms for set pieces for an RPG! Even if you don’t like the The Shivers as an RPG-Lite, you can still use the pop-up rooms for an adventure of your own making even if it’s not in The Shivers system! I mean, these pop-up rooms are pretty amazing.

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One of the cooler late discoveries: after we’d been playing a while … we discovered the pop-rooms are magnetic! See above as they click together from some magnets in the bases! Whaaaaaaaaa??

Conclusion

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I think The Shivers is great! The Tutorial is fantastic and brings you into the game quickly! I wish more games had a tutorial like this: you get a sense of the game very quickly and jump right in.

The Shivers includes some amazing components: pop-up rooms, magnifying class, dry-erase character boards, great punchouts! All in all, the game looks amazing on the table. If you want an RPG-Lite game, where the game is a little on rails but still interesting, you will probably love The Shivers! If you are looking for a more open-world, deep-end RPG, The Shivers is probably not for you.

Regardless of whether you might like the game system, the pop-up rooms of The Shivers are phenomenal! You might find the pop-up rooms useful for deeper RPGs as extra components…

Appendix: Make Your Own

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The Shivers does actually come with create your own characters (in the box)! See above

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You can also create your own card back (if you get the Kickstarter) using the StoryCrafter’s Pack.

One thought on “A Review of The Shivers

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