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Spirits of Carter Mansion Kickstarter Preview

Quick Look: Spirits of Carter Mansion

Designer: Keith D. Franks III
Artist: Seth Rutledge
Publisher: Cutlass Board Games
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 3-5
Ages: 14+*
Playing Time: 10-15 min

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Spirits of Carter Mansion. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.

*Note: The developer set the recommended age of this game at 14, and while the mechanics are certainly fine for that, the theme of this game is luring a child into a nightmare basement to be lost there for eternity. The theme is, in this reviewer's opinion, too heavy for most 14-year-olds. Of course, use your best judgment. 


tl;dr: One step removed from social deduction, this is a social persuasion game that can be played 100% truthful the whole time. With the added dark horror theme.

Getting to the Game: Remove from the 18 cards in the box the cards named Foyer, Basement, and Grand Entrance. Shuffle the rest, and deal three to each person. Place the Foyer face up in the center of the table, and then shuffle all the rest of the cards not dealt out into the deck, placed next to the face-up card.

Each player now chooses their team, based on the cards in their hand. It's this step that separates Carter Mansion from most social deduction games. If you only have scratches or only have blue totems, then your choice has been made for you by the spirit world. The rest of us choose a card with either symbol (red is bad, blue is good, like always), and place it face down in front of us with the alignment marker placed on top of it like a card protector. This is the team you've decided to be on. If you're on the blue team, you're trying to get a kid the soccer ball they kicked into the house and get them out before the red team can lure them into the dark basement...for all time. Dark, right? I know.

Playing the Game: Each round, a Spirit guide is the first player, and their job is to choose which card put forth by the spirits (the players) the kid will be lured into. If the baddies can get the Spirit guide to choose the basement before the kid gets the soccer ball, then they win. Somehow, the soccer ball prevents the kid from becoming trapped there? It's like...a ward of good, or something? If the Grand Entrance is chosen, and the kid has the soccer ball, they get to go home to their parents and tell their friends they braved the evil mansion. 

Here's the trick, though--this game can be determined completely by everyone telling the truth. Unlike most social deduction games, where there's some mechanic in place to prevent role claims, this one lets the players be their own judges. As the Spirit guide changes every round, the forces of good and evil are going to ebb and flow as they each jockey for the soul of the kid. Let's do this scenario, though: In a five player game, it's possible (though, statistically unlikely) that each player chooses the path of evil. Let's say even three of them do. If the second Spirit guide chosen is evil (can't be the first, since the basement isn't in anyone's opening hand), and another evil player has the basement card in their hand, all that has to be done is for them to say, "I have the basement. This is it." The Spirit guide chooses that card, and they win. Not exactly a rousing evening.

Also, since teams can change based on card effects, there's no reason why everyone shouldn't be completely honest with what team they're on. The ability to change someone else's team back and forth is pretty standard in social deduction games like Werewolf or Growl, where you're looking to turn all the townies into baddies. Here, however, there's an interesting spin--two rooms in the house are able to change another player's alignment, so if you regret the decision you made early, you can change it, or you can recruit whoever you think has the soccer ball back and forth; a wonderful mechanic that keeps games from getting stale, or players on the "other" team from being shut out in a game. 

Overall, the game works well when it works, but that isn't often enough to keep me bringing it to the table. It's a great idea, fitting actual horror onto a social deduction game, but there has to be enough at stake for both sides to avoid just coming out and owning who they are. That part is missing still, and I hope it gets added in before the game hits mailboxes.

Artwork and Components: The artwork you're seeing on the cards above isn't washed out by a bad camera. The wooden tabletop is the correct color. The cards overall just feel overly watered down. For a horror game, the usual problem is that everything's too dark, but here, it just feels overly hazy or watercolored. It's not that the art is bad--it's not. It's actually quite good. It's just that some cards aren't quite colored correctly. Maybe this will get resolved in the retail release.

There are no components in my review copy besides the cards, which are of decent stock. Should hold up well.

The Good: Quick gameplay, lots of room for negotiation and persuasion. Art is decent.

The Bad: Theme is super dark, which might be fine for some. Possible for an early victory to ruin the game.

Score: While there are issues here, the game itself is a cool take on social deduction, and I'm here for games with a dark tone and story. As someone on BGG put it so succinctly, "Just because a game's mechanics are light doesn't mean the theme has to be." Well stated, friend. Also, keep in mind, social deduction games as a whole change based on the group you're playing with, so my experience might not be yours. That's one of the many things to love about the genre. I'm giving Spirits of Carter Mansion a score of Stay Out of the Basement.

Check out Spirits of Carter Mansion on:


Nicholas Leeman - Reviewer

Nicholas has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.

See Nicholas's reviews HERE.
Spirits of Carter Mansion Kickstarter Preview Spirits of Carter Mansion Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by The Madjai on March 12, 2019 Rating: 5

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