Neither myself nor the Bruddha had ever played this particular game before, though he is a fan of Fortune & Glory, a Flying Frog game which I have not yet had the pleasure of trying out. The Manimal was a bit leery, as he felt the packaging and the inclusion of a CD to add ambience to the overall experience was too cheesy for his tastes, but he ended up liking it as much as the rest of us.
A Touch of Evil
Type: Cooperative / Competitive Tabletop
Number of Players: 2 – 8
Release Date: 2008
Publisher(s): Flying Frog Productions
You and your crew are 19th-century monster hunters who arrive in the sleepy country village of Shadowbrook just in time for the shitta to hit da fanna – a creature of supreme darkness is unleashing eeee-vell upon the simple (or not so simple) townsfolk!
Your job is to investigate the town for clues leading to the great beasty’s lair – and build up your skills and list of potential allies while you’re at it so you stand a chance in hell of making it out of there alive. You can choose to compete against one another in a race to be the first to defeat the vile villain, or you can opt to work together to bring down a stronger version of the monster.
The standard game includes eight Heroes: Inspector Cooke (police inspector); Anne Marie (school teacher); Karl (soldier); Katarina (outlaw); Victor Danforth (playwright); Isabella von Took (noblewoman); Thomas (courier); and Heinrich Cartwright (drifter). The villains included with it out-of-the-box are: Vampire, Werewolf, Spectral Horseman, and Scarecrow. And since this is a Flying Frog game, they’ve included the aforementioned CD as a bit of mooooood music, as well.
(1) The game really focuses on investigation and requires a bit of long-term planning to successfully conquer, which is great as it not only forces you to use all of the game’s components but also creates more of a story with quite a few twists the longer you wait to confront the beast. Sure, you can get a hunting party together and rush off to the vile beast’s lair after only a couple of rounds if you want… but you’re gonna die, clown. We played for about two hours before even trying to track down the beast, and only then after discussing our plan – and even with all three of us armed to the teeth, accompanied by a couple of Town Elders and dragging as many boosts, allies, and perks as the rules would allow, we still came very, very close to losing completely, and my poor Heinrich did actually end up having to make the ultimate sacrifice… but not before valiantly finishing off that ridiculously-boosted lycanthrope with a few well-placed shots to the dizzome.
(2) The downside to waiting until the last possible moment to attack the villain is that while you’re amassing allies, weeding out traitors, and gathering together a small arsenal to take with you to your final showdown, so is the baddy… and that is so awesome! Our first game showcased the Werewolf, who at first glance didn’t seem like too much of a threat for a bunch of Touch of Evil noobs… until we realized after only a few unfortunate Mystery cards that the bastard had gained +2 to his already established five combat, not to mention he’d leapt from a five wound max (how many hits he can take) to twenty-two. I mean… what the what? Twenty-two??!! Even with perks we each only could withstand five or six, and none of us could do more than six damage on each turn – and only then if we had maximum crits!!! If it wasn’t for two greedily horded reward cards, we would have been eff-to-the-ucked.
(3) The story is actually pretty clever and has a Victorian penny dreadful feel to it, like some sort of pulpy gothic horror. You begin with not much at all and at a fairly leisurely pace; you’re just a few out-of-towners wandering around Shadowbrook and its surrounding environs, skipping across the Bridge, visiting the Magistrate’s Office, wandering around the Manor. But then one of you stumbles upon a clue or a juicy tidbit about a Town Elder… and then someone else is attacked by a minion… and from then on it picks up momentum until ending with a desperate last-ditch effort to cleanse the evil from the village. It took us about twenty or thirty minutes to really get things moving, but it was a definite snowball effect – once it took off a little, the game kept building in intensity until we had a hellish boulder the size of a house. Or as the Manimal said as he dropped his head into his hands when things went from 70/30 in our favor to 90/10 against in just two rolls, “Well, this whole thing went to shit real quick.”
(4) As corny as this might sound, the soundtrack was actually pretty good and really did help the overall “feel” of the game. There was the initial bit of giggling on Yours Truly’s part, when the CD began with the clang of an alarm bell and a man’s panicked cry of, “Murder!” (I’m a huge fan of The League of Gentlemen and one of my favorite skits went through my head, which was the real reason I laughed… for those of you familiar with Psychoville, it was: “Colonel Bluster, come quick, there’s been another murder!”) But once we got into the game, we actually all – the skeptical Manbeast included – quite liked having the music playing in the background… so much so that once it stopped, it was quiet for only a few seconds before the Bruddha was asking, “Hey – what happened to the music? Let’s get that going again!”
The Bantha Poodoo
(1) After one initial sit-down at the standard game, it’s fairly certain that the expansions are really necessary to get the full enjoyment from the game. The standard game is quite fun and can still have you at the table for about 3 hours or so, but the board is so small that there’s really just not a whole lot to explore, so you end up looping back around quite a bit.
Expansions & Supplements to Date
The Madness (2008): this set contains a new rules sheet along with fourteen new game cards (three Events, three Mysteries, and eight Location cards), the latter of which are meant to be shuffled directly into your existing decks. This supplement is only available via the Flying Frog website.
Something Wicked (2009): this is a huge pile of new material, including options for solo-play, a new add-on game board with three new locations, four new heroes (Brother Marcus, Captain Hawkins, Eliza the Witch-Hunter, and Valeria the Eternal), and four new villains (Banshee, Bog Fiend, Gargoyle, and Unspeakable Horror).
Hero Pack One (2009): this includes ten additional Event and Location cards, as well as a new villain – Necromancer (zombie minions!!!), not to mention four new monster hunters: Adrianna (foreign traveler), Harlow Morgan (inventor), Lucy Hanbrook, and The Scarlet Shadow (highwayman).
The Allies (2009): this set contains a new rules sheet along with fourteen additional game cards (two Events, one Mystery, three Town Items, and eight Location cards), the latter of which are meant to be shuffled directly into your existing decks. This supplement is only available via the Flying Frog website.
The Coast (2012): this is another full expansion which includes a new add-on game board with three more locations, a whole new town, three new Town Elders, four additional heroes (Master Hunter Argot Blackwell, Liliana the Lost Soul, Doctor Edwards, and Maria de la Rosa the Smuggler), and four new villains (Ghost Ship, Dreamweaver, Siren, and The Sunken Seven).
Hero Pack Two (2012): this pack introduces four new monster hunters: Sara the Bright Witch, Jack Fellows the Privateer, Frederic Leon the French Diplomat, and Student Abigail Sturn (once just an ally and now a Hero). This pack also includes the Reaper villain.
Web-Exclusive Villains: Delion Dryad, Volgovian Nutcracker, The Shadow Witch, and Krampus.