From Railroads to Vampires, from Unicorns to Kings in Dilemma. Horrible Guild cover it all!
Striving for originality and entertainment, Horrible Guild publish games they think are “cool!” Based out of Milan, Italy, Horrible Guild have a proud history of making games that bring “simple, pure, unbridled fun for everyone.”
In this top three we take a look at three of our favourites from their magnificent portfolio of games.
3-6 players. Officially 14 plus. Can be understood from 8. Card art may not be suitable until older.
Vampire the Masquerade was a huge tabletop RPG in the 90’sm winning awards, fans and plaudits all round. There were numerous spin off video games, dice games, novels and even a short-lived TV show in 1996.
Then in 2020, a successful Kickstarter ran with 4,731 backers for a new game, Vampire: The Masquerade – Vendetta. A card-based area-majority game, with asymmetric player powers, take-that and sumptuous art.
Vampires have always intrigued. From the early films coming from the states, Russia and Europe, to the 50s Hammer films, Vampires have always been a part of modern popular culture. In the 90’s, many of us grew up watching Buffy, Angel and Blade. And more recently The Vampire Diaries, What we do in the Shadows and Preacher have brought a new generation to the clan!
It’s the mix between violence, romance, power, control, and eternal life I think that interest’s people so much. But how dos that translate to board game form? Very well is the short answer! Vendetta delivers in fascinating mix of bluff, card play and strategy in a deeply engrossing way.
I want to bite your neck!
Set-up is relatively simple. After each player chooses their faction, everyone receives their respective cards, stay or withdraw tokens and blood and influence cache. You then lay out the parts of Chicago you will visit in the game according to player count, and each player places their marker there. Each player receives one victim card to draw blood from and once the game has started, an Ally card is placed at each location. In the game, you will simply place a card and blood if you chose, at the locations you want to try and have influence over it, in an attempt to win more alliances.
There are only three rounds of this and you can only lay a few cards each round. Always one less than your hand size, starting with two from three cards in round one and increasing by one each turn. In a three-player game, you play three cards from four in round one. This is the only major difference to a four player plus game other than being able to hold one more card in your hand. For the full rules you can head here.
Bluff, Bravado & Brains!
This game is a delicious blend of bluff, bravado and brains. I absolutely loved playing this game and introducing these mechanisms to different groups. Each person I taught this to found it a fresh and enjoyable experience. One area that was new to many was the opportunity to play cards either face up or down. Face down costs you one blood but allows you to hide not just the cards powers, but your intent. Once all cards have been played, players then reveal if they intend to stay and fight at each location, or retreat to the final stage at the Princes Haven.
Cards could have been placed face down to hide some game changing or rule bending powers that would allow a player to win a location easier than the quantity of cards and blood might have suggested. Or it could be a bluff or double bluff, hiding weak or powerful cards that are destined to fight at this area or another. There is a lot to think about! But it all happens very quickly and in a highly entertaining way.
My Vampire and your Vampire, sitting by the fire.
Each players card’s are completely different. Depending on the faction you chose at the start of the game, you could find you are incredibly powerful at fighting, using card powers twice in one round or perhaps more adept surprising your opponents with shocking revelations that allow you to use your opponents unused cards on top of yours. Particularly useful when you also laid a card that lets you use all your own unused cards too. You could go from 2 cards to four pretty quickly!
At the end of each round, each card you play, win or lose, returns to your hand. You then add one more to it from your draw pile. This means each round, players will start to learn what powers you are capable of as cards are reused. But there is always an element of surprise up each players sleave with their new or previously unplayed card.
The art is absolutely stunning. Although I would say suitable for teens and up. The art on some cards is a little graphic with scenes of violence and horror. I loved it but wouldn’t play this with my kids. But with young adults and up, this is an utterly brilliant game.
The game is wrought with suspense, second guessing and mischief. If you enjoy games with a lot of interaction, bluffing and asymmetric card play, I am confident you will love this. I was blown away with this game from game one.
2-6 players. Officially 14 plus. I played with my five year old and she loved it!
Unicorn Fever is an interesting game. At first glance, you will assume this is for young children only. Then after reading the rules and setting up, which is not initially overly clear, you will rethink and understand why this game is marketed as 14 plus. But then you will play a round and realise this is a family friendly game, suitable for all ages, and wonder what the confusion was ever about!
Equally, with the mechanics, you will first think this is a race game. You will then realise it is more of a gambling game. But finally, come to think of it as a card-playing party game with bluffing, betting, and racing, that delivers a lot of fun!
It’s Time to Race!
Set up, Unicorn Fever looks stunning. A veritable feast for the eyes. My daughter (5) was quite literally panting with excitement at all the colours, cards and of course, the Unicorn miniatures! A lot has been put into this production to make it visually appealing, but also simple to play. Everything has its place and once you learn the game, you will be moving from round to round with great efficiency.
I mention this as the game does initially seem a little complicated. Everyone I know who has played this has independently said they felt this way. But after a round were realising how simple it is. I don’t think the rule book is bad, in fact, it is very good. It is more that there are quite a few stages to each round; and at first, it can be a little confusing. There are six phases of Planning, then four stages of Racing, followed by six stages of Results. The first time you play this, you will be following the rule book closely, and probably miss at least one thing if you are anything like me! However, once you have got through one race and learnt the core mechanics, you will come to find the Unicorn Fever has a fantastic blend of strategy and luck mixed with a fun tension and push-your-luck chance that flows elegantly from race to race.
Each game offered very different experiences for me. Some games, I found I was lucky and dripping with winnings. Other times, I did not fare quite so well, and was forced to take loans to stay in the game. But both ways of playing are equally fun if you can take out one’s personal sulking from losing a bet of course! But the game adapts well for each scenario, win, or lose, and keeps each player involved to the final race. The catch-up mechanic is such that you can just go big on the bets if you need a ‘Hail-Mary’, whereas a winning player, perhaps may play more conservatively.
May the odds be ever in your favour.
The odds of each runner are adapted well with a simple turn of a card each round based on their previous performances. This gives each Unicorn a varying likelihood of victory, and with it, potential rewards. But players can create their own luck by playing magic cards to certain Unicorns, either helping or hampering their chances in the race ahead. All cards are played face down by all players until the race starts when one player will turn them over and read them out loud to the group. It’s a hilarious part of the game to see what each person has tried to do, and often cards will cancel each out if one player is trying to give a Unicorn a head-start when another is trying to slow it down. Sometimes, a certain Unicorn could get all the favours in the world, but still not quite get the luck of the movement cards or sprint dice. There are so many elements that affect each race, you will be kept guessing throughout.
This is a brilliant fun family game, suitable for all ages and potentially higher player counts in a party style where players join forces. It has that “race-night” feel to it, where you could theme the entire evening around this magical gambling world! The production is fantastic, and the table presence very high. This one comes highly recommend to all fans of games like Camel Up but are looking for the next stage up. Unicorn Fever is a brilliant game that packs a lot of punch for its genre and will deliver an incredible amount of magical Unicorn laughs to your table.
1-6 players with the boards included. 1 to as many as you like with multiple copies or these print outs! 8 plus.
Over the last year I have played more of Railroad Ink than any other game. It works brilliantly over video call, scales brilliantly from a relaxing yet challenging solo up to as many as you can fit on a Zoom screen, and can be taught to anyone in minutes. As such, this must be up there as one of the best games of 2020, if not all time.
The premise is simple. This is a roll-and-write in its truest sense. Rule four dice, (more if you use any of the now many expansions) then write the dice faces visible onto your board. Your goal is to make as many connections as possible, whilst building the longest single rail and road network possible, avoiding dead ends, and trying to get the centre nine spaces full.
It’s genius in its simplicity, and I can see why it grew from its humble beginnings, to the recent new Green and Yellow versions being backed by over 10,000 people! This Kickstarter has just shipped and looks brilliant. Full review of that to come.
If you enjoy roll-and-write games, you will love this. If you are looking for a game to play with friends over video call or perhaps as a quick filler before or after games night, this is ideal. If you want a game that scratches your gaming itch for a quick 10-minute coffee break during the working day, I couldn’t think of anything better to recommend than this. Railroad Ink has no Jack, but it is a Master of all trades.