Quick Look: Horror in the Library
Designer: Marcus Pullen
Publisher: Blue Donut Games
Year Published: 2021
No. of Players: 2-6
Playing Time: 45 – 120 min
Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com
A Victorian Steampunk Horror Boardgame
Sunday 18th August 1895…You have been invited to dine at the fabled mansion of the Mad Professor. After a delightful dinner, the Professor announces to his guests that he has invented a contraption that has opened a doorway to allow hideous nightmares to be released upon the world—ghosts and creatures of nightmares. But, there’s a catch: whoever can survive the Horrors of the library will be the sole inheritor of the Mad Professor’s fortune and all of his secrets.
Horror in the Library is a 19th century Victorian themed tile-based competitive card collecting game for 2 to 6 players. Players compete to collect all the items they need to confront the Horror they have been challenged with by the Mad Professor. Once all components are collected it is a race to the Portal to win the game!
Players will combine strategy and luck to find the required cards and moving tiles. A balanced token bag determines penalties and rewards while a simple attack and defense system with non-player characters adds to player interaction and strategy.
Horror in the Library is as competitive and as fast as players wish it to be through the setup of the game. It can be either a light game for 2 players through to a highly competitive and entertaining evening for up to 6.
Horror in the Library combines strategy, luck, and a bit of persistence to play. Although cooperation can be helpful throughout the game, only one player will be the winner (sometimes a little chaos is a good thing). I went in thinking this was going to be a deduction game, like Clue or P.I., but it has a much more social deduction element to it. The gameplay is not overwhelming or intricate, so people who want a lighter game will enjoy it, but it is also no so simple that you don’t have to think and plan accordingly
The current rule book pdf presents the game in a nice concise manner. Each phase and action is described with enough detail that is easy to follow. The rule book is lacking in potential examples and depictions of gameplay, but that doesn’t really detract from how the rules are understood. The rules are easy to follow and flow from one section to the next. Going through the rules and starting to play could easily be accomplished in less than 10 minutes.
The main playing area is created by taking the desired number of tiles and arranging them in the pattern associated with the number of players (typically a 3×3 grid for a 2-3 player game and a 4×4 grid for a 4 player game). The Library Bookcase is placed at one end of the playing area. Page Cards, in each of the represented colors, are placed next to the Library Bookcase. The Blessings and Curses cards are placed next to the playing area, along with the bag of Blessings and Curses Coins. Monster tokens are also placed next to the board.
Each player picks a Player Board and the corresponding tokens. Players decide on how many pages will need to be found and then players select Item Tiles, which determine which pages they will need to collect. Their Fortitude marker is set to 0, and each player places their Character token in the room on the board where they want to begin play.
The players each roll a die and the player with the highest roll is the start player.
The theme of the game is designed to immerse you in a Victorian style setting of mystery and intrigue. Players have been trapped in a mysterious library by a Professor friend. Since you’re all in the same predicament, there is a desire to be accommodating and assist the other players, but there can only be one winner, so it is every person for themselves.
The main mechanic of the game is item collection. It is only by collecting the correct set of items that a player may win the game. There is a little bit of luck in collecting items, but not so much that it is chaotic and unattainable. An additional mechanic is that of resource management. Players will need to manage their Fortitude as well as where they search on the board. Players can only search once in a particular location in a room, and there are consequences if there are 4 or more search tokens in any given room. Finally, there is also a bit of a race mechanic, because it is the player who can find their pages and be the first to leave that will be the winner.
Horror in the Library doesn’t have a set number of rounds or turns. Each player takes 3 actions (and any number of bonus actions) on their turn. Play continues until someone is able to collect their pages and escape. This could be done quickly, or it could go on for a while. It all depends on how effective players are at performing their actions.
The game starts with everyone in a room of their choosing (may be in a room with any number of other players). The Start Player takes their first set of 3 actions (any combination of Move, Search, Look) and any Bonus Actions (Exchange, Use Blessings or Curses, or Attack Monsters). Once that player completes their actions, play moves to the next player for their actions and bonus actions. This continues until someone has collected all their pages and makes their way to the Portal Room and escapes.
The designer has done a very good job of balancing the game play so that players will do better by interacting with other players, but may also do just as well by trying to avoid other players. Interacting with other players carries its own risks and rewards; they may help or not, or help and then turn around and stab you in the back. For those who choose to forge ahead and go it alone, this too can be a successful strategy.
The game provides enough variety so players aren’t just moving and searching over and over again. There are choices of where and when to move or search, including helping or hindering others. If that isn’t enough, there are also monsters to contend with as they come out on the board. This makes it so the game is not a single track, race to the end of the game.
The rules include an exception to the Protection Blessing Cards. While it is easy to understand the main protection provided by the card, it is not readily understandable that the protection cards somewhat protect from other attacks as well. Using a protection card in this manner may help, but a player may need that protection for the associated attack later on. If a player doesn’t fully understand the strategic decision of when to use a Protection Blessing Card, the player may get frustrated.
Managing Fortitude. Managing Fortitude in the game is vitally important. If your Fortitude is below 0, the types of actions you may perform are limited. There are a number of ways to lose Fortitude, but there are also plenty of places to gain Fortitude. Some players may not enjoy how much of the gameplay is taken up just in managing their Fortitude (sometimes it feels like half of the actions are just used for managing Fortitude).
I played this game using a Tabletopia version of the game and can honestly say I am looking forward to this game being produced. The game was very entertaining and quite replayable; the number of pages needed to be found and the layout of the rooms can be altered to fit the length and depth of the game you want to play. There is enough action to keep people engaged, particularly if you are tracking who has what and how they can help or hurt you. There is a bit of luck involved with the roll of the dice and the cards, but that adds to the mystic of the game. There’s still plenty of choices that need to be made. Winning the game is very satisfying. I think players who enjoy deduction or mystery games will find this game enjoyable to play and I plan on adding the new edition to my game shelf once it is published.
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I grew up loving to solve puzzles, play games, and have fun. In my younger years I had fun playing pencil games, enjoyed the creativity of playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends, and generally hanging out with others. My favorite thing to do was to make puzzles of all kinds, mazes, word games, picture games, etc.
Sadly my career took me in a different direction, solving computer problems rather than gaming problems.
Gaming came back into my life, though, in a big way about 15 years ago, and I have held onto it since. I still enjoy designing games and have 9 published titles, which I did through my own game publishing company, Toresh Games, prior to the Covid pandemic. Sadly I was not able to sustain the company through the pandemic.
I highly encourage people to play games, make friends, and have fun. As a game enthusiast, I would love to see a return to games as the best social media platform for the masses.
All of Thomas Shepherd’s reviews can be found HERE.