Miskatonic School for Girls Review

robsmSchool isn’t easy, but Miskatonic School for Girls from designer Luke Peterschmidt and publisher Fun to 11 is a special sort of Hell. One where homework and gossip take a backseat to having your best friend devoured by an elder thing masquerading as the janitor and classes will literally make you lose your mind.

The game is fun, though.

Class is in session.
Class is in session.

Miskatonic School for Girls is a different sort of deck builder. While you’ll still be using points taken from the cards in your hand to “purchase” better student cards, you also have to grab nasty teacher cards and dump them into other players’ decks. So it’s like you’re building your own deck while also building your opponent’s – only you keep the good cards for yourself and give the awful ones to them.

What’s interesting is that every card in your hand – both students and teachers – can be used to generate points for acquiring more cards. So tossing a real nasty creature like the Bus Driver into another person’s deck could end up giving them the points they need to hit you back with something even worse. Of course once all the card grabbing is over you’ll still have to deal with any teachers in your hand by blindly drawing one card off the top of your deck for each teacher, and hope you generate enough power to defeat them. And besting the faculty merely avoids the nasty effects they have rather than removing them from your deck. Although certain conditions can lead to their removal. If the stars align.

robsmRob – I always liked the way this game messes with the conventional deck building formula. Not just the way in which you buy bad cards for everyone else, but because of the dual points system.

dianasmDiana – You mean “Friendship” and “Nightmare” points?

robsmRob – That I do. I like how students can only be enrolled (i.e. bought) using friendship and teachers can only be hired (i.e. also bought) using nightmare, and I like how most cards force you to choose between one type of point or the other. Then it becomes a matter of whether or not you want to add that super awesome student to your deck or give a super terrible teacher to your friend.

dianasmDiana – Yeah… about that… I’m not a big fan of the “take that” nature of this game. I still think it’s fun, but you have to be in the right mood to enjoy it. And if you have a group that generally hates “take that” games it’s not going to excite them. And the game can end pretty fast if people are too aggressive.

Here there be monsters. And there. Also there. And I think I saw some more over there.
Here there be monsters. And there. Also there. And I think I saw some more over there.

robsmRob – I don’t necessarily agree with that. I mean it can be a little “take that”-y, but there are very few cards that will immediately affect someone. Most teachers won’t be dealt with until after that player has had a chance to buy more cards, which could give them a chance to avoid the bad stuff.

dianasmDiana – Not if I spend all the points I can dumping teachers into your deck and ignoring the student cards.

robsmRob – I don’t necessarily agree with that, either. I mean sure you could do that, and in a two-person game it might even yield some results, but if you’re playing with three or four you’d be screwed because the person you were dumping cards on wouldn’t be the same person that’s dumping cards on you.

dianasmDiana – Ehhhh…

robsmRob – Plus even the teachers can be helpful thanks to the points the generate and the defeat effects they might have. Remember the Librarian?

dianasmDiana – Didn’t she end up killing you last game?

robsmRob – Well she did drive me insane, yeah. But my point is, if you defeat her she gets passed along to another player. So even though she does lots of sanity damage it’s possible to make her somebody else’s problem. I mean she bounced back and fourth between both our decks several times. I just had the misfortune of not being able to fight her off that last time.

Class is more about fighting for your life against unimaginable horrors than it is about learning. Basically it's third grade.
Class is more about fighting for your life against unimaginable horrors than it is about learning. Basically it’s third grade.

Along with the students and faculty, events can also trigger that will either ruin everyone’s day or give someone a bit of a boost. Maybe. If you’re lucky. Then there are the Locker cards that can be set next to your player board and give you permanent bonuses for as long as you manage to keep them.

And yet, it’s also not a particularly complex game. That could be a turn-off to some, but it’s a good introduction to deck builders and there can be a fair bit of strategy in how you build out your deck (and your opponents’).

robsmRob – I know one thing we can definitely agree on, though.

dianasmDiana – What’s that?

robsmRob – The artwork.

dianasmDianaYes! It’s so good! There’s this mix of disturbing and goofy that’s absolutely adorable.

The Terrible Old Bus Driver is an easy favorite.
The Terrible Old Bus Driver is an easy favorite.

robsmRob – Right? And it’s not just the creative look of the monstrous faculty or the third year students who have obviously started to change into… something else. I also think the general artistic design makes sorting and identifying cards at a glance extremely easy. The starter cards all have that blue notebook paper look, teacher cards have more angular frames around their portraits, etc.

dianasmDiana – So what do we think? I think it’s a good game with fantastic art, but it’s not necessarily the best deck builder out there. And there’s that whole “take that” problem.

robsmRob – Aside from your issues with the “take that” mechanics, I agree. It’s a neat little game with some amazing artwork, but after playing so many other wonderful deck builders that are a bit deeper or more complex I feel like I’m not as in love with it as I used to be. It’s still a good game, but it’s not my top pick.

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