I’m usually pretty skeptical about board games based on movies, books, video games, and the like, because starting with a pre-established theme that isn’t your own (especially if you are not an experienced game designer) often ends up with some sad results.
So when the internet comes to me with a game based off of the classic 7th Guest video game, designed by Rob Landeros (original creator of the game), I was cautiously optimistic. I mean, I loved the original game. It was kinda cheesy, the puzzles were challenging, and I was young enough when playing it that there were some genuinely creepy moments. What could go wrong?
As soon as I started reading about The 7th Guest Board Game on Kickstarter, I knew I was in for some grumping. The description starts: “We got it in our heads that making a board game from The 7th Guest was a no-brainer. We knew that if we stayed true to the scheme and spirit of the original, the game would practically design itself. And it pretty much did.”
Knowing as many game designers as I do and having been to many game design discussions, the one thing I have heard over and over again about designing is that it takes work. Games don’t design themselves. They take hours of planning, testing, and reworking. So first line in, alarm bells are ringing.
From there it is all pretty much as I feared.
The 7th Guest Board Game has some older sensibilities in play style. You have to explore Stauf mansion, just like in the video game. To begin the game, you’ll get a randomly assigned destination and must move to that room. Of course you can’t just go there. You have to roll the magic die whose sides are: 0, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11. So if I’m reading these rules right, if you roll a 0 often, you just don’t get to move. That seems pretty crappy. It is a lose-a-turn mechanic disguised as a die roll and I’m not a fan of those.
When you finally enter a room you must solve a puzzle from the deck of puzzle cards. If you cannot solve it in a time the group has agreed on, you can ask for a hint. Each puzzle has 3 hints. Each hint you ask for subtracts 1 from your subsequent die roll(s). If you solve it, congrats! You get a new destination card. If you don’t, the player to the left of you can try to solve it. This continues until everyone has had a crack at it. This means the game can take a loooooooooong time, as a full game will have 18 destination cards to solve and you can play with up to 6 players! The estimated play time for The 7th Guest Board Game is 1-5 hours. That is a large and worrisome range.
The puzzle aspect also means that once you’ve seen a card and figured out its puzzle, you can’t really use that card in future play-throughs. That would just be cheating. You already know the answers. There are 300 puzzle cards, so it would take you a while to get through them all, but it is a limiting factor for the games replayability.
One cool mechanic is the Mystery Spell Cards. If you happen to land on a Mystery Spell space you can draw a card from the deck and use the spell whenever you like. Some spells are things like take an extra turn, create an alliance with another guest and share the rewards of solving a puzzle, or go straight to your Destination.
This can mitigate those bad rolls if you can get the right cards, but it still seems chancey. Also some of the cards are attacky, so if you are doing well, another guest might decide to mess with you and send you to the start location or turn you into a ghost who cannot participate in solving puzzles until they are “unghosted”. To do that you either have to tag another player (who then becomes the ghost) or get the Mystery Spell Card that sets your spirit free.
I do like the minis they have proposed. They’re nicely designed and they make the game a little more modern looking, but honestly, I don’t think I’m buying into this one. I really don’t like trashing things, especially when they are on Kickstarter and there is nothing at 100% finished, but I feel like we should expect more out of our board game designs in this day and age. There are so many board games being created every day that nostalgia can only carry a game so far. The competition is fierce and in my case, as I suspect many gamers cases, I have to be discerning lest my home become literally walled in by board games. Oh right, it already has…
If you are interested check out The 7th Guest Board Game on Kickstarter. While it might not suit my fancy, you may find it more to your liking. It is being created by the original designer of the video game, so you know a lot of care is going into the theme and if that is your jam then go forth and puzzle my friend!
What do you think of The 7th Guest Board Game? Let us know in the comments below!