Gregory Horror Show – Collectible Game Experience Review

robsmIf movies, books, and games have taught me anything about spooky mansions, it’s that we should never ever spend any time in them. They’re full of traps, monsters wander the halls, and all sorts of other unspeakable horror awaits.

If Gregory Horror Show (the “collectible card game experience”) – from designer Kris Oprisko and publisher Upper Deck – has taught me anything, it’s that monsters are both nutritious and delicious.

Wow, this came out 13 years ago. I feel old.
Wow, this came out 13 years ago. I feel old.

You may or may not have heard of it before, but Gregory Horror Show was actually a TV show once upon a time. A TV Show that had its own Gamecube game, and then apparently went on to receive a board game. Weird, huh? Well, not as weird as the monsters you’re going to encounter as you wander around Gregory House.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Gregory Horror Show (insert extraneous words here) is a compact little board game with an emphasis on cards and a special game variant that relies on owning some extra minis that were sold separately. Anywhere from 2 to 4 players take turns moving their pawn around the house in an attempt to gain control over three different rooms and then get the heck out of there. Because monsters, duh.

You can also win if everyone else is dead, which tends to be the easier path to victory.

A fair bit comes in that tiny box.
A fair bit comes in that tiny box.

Movement rolls can affect more than just your own character, however. You may also choose to move the “wandering monster” (i.e. Gregory) instead. Or you can move both your character and the monster – so long as the number of spaces moved doesn’t exceed what you rolled any combination is possible. It uses this really bizarre system though, where you roll a 20-sided die and consult a chart to see if you move anywhere from two to five spaces. Considering how big the board is, and that you’re splitting your movement between yourself and the monster (at least sometimes), this is kind of disappointing.

If you encounter the wandering monster you have to fight him, and if you fail to defeat him you lose some life points and get dragged up to the second floor. It’s an interesting dynamic, but the amount of movement you can generate on your turn just isn’t enough to make the monster anything more than a mild nuisance (even if you rolled the maximum and use all of your movement). On rare occasions it can lead to some intense moments where you have to pass within a few spaces or waste too much time going around – because you don’t know what the other players might roll or how they’ll move the monster – but more often than not it’s no real threat.

On the surface, the game presents an interesting situation. You have to rush in order to gain control over various rooms before everyone else, but you also need to plan your route to make use of helpful spaces that can increase your attack power or heal you. You also need to be careful of spaces that can cause unavoidable damage, but sometimes you need to move through them in order to reach the good stuff.

Of course once you make it to a room there’s no guarantee you’re going to take it over, since you’re going to have to fight a monster first. So you enter a room, draw a card, hopefully have more attack power than the monster on the card, defeat it, regain health (because you ate the monster, obviously) and possibly get a small reward of some kind, then drop a claim token on the room.

Although even assuming you manage to pull this off there’s still the possibility that another player will wander over and replace your influence with their own.

The horror!
The horror!

Then there are the cards that players can use against each other, Munchkin style. I have mixed feelings about these as some of them can be a huge pain, but acquiring more than the two they begin with means you won’t be moving or healing as often. Still, if you’re not a fan of having someone turn certain victory over a room’s monster into a defeat, this will probably bug you.

The basic game isn’t bad but it’s also not particularly exciting. I’d say it’s definitely better than I’d expected, though. It’s just that everything is so slow. The wandering monster, your own movement around the house, progress in general – too dang slow. Introducing feral monsters helps a bit, though.

Yes, feral monster; the optional variant that’s kind of essential. These special monsters can be summoned by players who possess the right miniature (whether they bring their own minis or you divvy up your stock is your choice, but the minis in question are sold separately from the main game). There are a few different ways this can be done, and I’m going to skip over them all because there’s not much point in going into specifics, but it’s worth noting that you can introduce your own monsters in addition to the wandering monster. What’s more, the player who controls a feral monster is the only one who can attack with it – although everyone can move a feral monster on their turn, just like the wandering monster, if they so choose.

Seriously though, don't let this guy catch you.
Seriously though, don’t let this guy catch you.

Being able to summon your own monsters to further mess with everyone else is a very welcome addition that brings a little more strategy and chaos to the game. It doesn’t really turn it into something amazing but it does make things feel less plodding. Of course it also requires having minis to match the monsters. Although I suppose you could make your own little printout minis if you’d rather not try to track down any of the originals.

Gregory Horror Show (absolutely terrible sub-title) is a decent game that’s better than you’d think but not as good as you might want. It’s simple but kind of slow, and having to consult a chart when you roll for movement is a bit ridiculous. I personally think it’s enjoyable enough. Although with so many other fun, interesting, and exciting options in my collection it’s unlikely I’ll be doing much more than putting the minis on on a shelf (they’re actually quite cool and kind of adorable) and calling it a day.

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