Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them? Ghoulish Terror in Time for Halloween (or Friday the 13th ) from Ares Games. Last Friday Game Review!
Last Friday Game Review. Publisher: Ares Games’ release of a Pendragon Design Designers: Antonio Ferrara and Sebastiano Fiorillo, Price: $41.25
Passed Inspection: Innovative design, fun, captures the excitement of a slasher film from the 1980s, great value for the price
Failed Basic: Rules need an index; a tracker sheet could have been included for “saving” the game between chapters
This is the second part of our Ares Games’ double feature of science fiction and horror goodness for the month of October.
“My name is Alice and I’ve come to Camp Apache ostensibly as a counselor but in reality, I wanted to find myself. I figured that the peaceful woods and the beautiful lake would help me in that goal. But, to put it mildly, things have not been going well since we arrived. First, we got to the camp to find several of the owners’ bodies just lying near their tents (that should have been our first warning that things were about to go horribly wrong); Second, a masked killer starting stalking us, the new counselors, through the woods! That really sucked! Well, all five of us scattered and ran as fast as we could to get to safety! Luckily, the killer went after Jason so I put on my track shoes and ran as fast as I could towards the nearest cabin. I think I have a key that will let me in. Oh no! Was that a scream? It sounded like Jason! Why didn’t I listen to that strange man by the road who looked at us sadly when we arrived and said ‘You’re all doomed’? Why?”
Last Friday is a game of survival horror in the grand tradition of the slasher films of the 1970s and 80s such as “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”. Two to six players play one killer and up to 5 campers at Camp Apache. The goals are simple – the killer must destroy as many counselors as possible to spread terror and despair and the counselors must try and survive and, in later chapters, try and kill the killer! The game has four chapters or scenarios and each chapter has different rules for each side. The chapters link together as a legacy game or they can be played independently of each other. If played as a legacy game, how well each side does in one chapter influences the course of the next chapter – also bodies, keys and clues stay on the board and can affect the new chapter as well. Each chapter can be played in as little as 30 minutes but some chapters may take up to 2 hours or so.
The player playing the killer uses a system similar to the system used in “Letters from Whitechapel”. The killer has an enclosed tracking screen which allows him or her to plot out his movement from point to point on a small map of the Camp Apache board. In addition, when observing the game board, the killer looks through eye slits in the screen which helps keep the players playing the “victims” . . . er . . . “counselors” from directly seeing where the killer player is looking while adding to the “slasher” ambiance of the game.
The game includes a beautiful 33 “ x 22 “ mounted map board, 1 sixteen page rule book, 1 fold-able maniac tracking screen, 15 camper cards, 7 wooden pawns, 65 cardboard tiles and tokens and 30 yellow transparent plastic tokens.
The map includes trails with either numbered circles used by the killer or smaller circles used by the counselors. There is also a lake surrounded by cabins which can be entered and searched. When a cabin is entered, a specific cabin card is placed in its position on the map. One side of the cabin card shows the rooms the counselors see them while the other side is used if the killer chops his way in to the cabin with his axe. The killer can access secret tunnels which link the cabins to each other. This could result in a deadly surprise for any counselor looking for safety or items to use in the cabin! In addition, a boat is located at one of four peers on the lake and can be used by the players to row to safety. Alternatively, the killer can attempt to swim the lake and arise from its depths to catch the unwary counselor.
The turn sequence depends on which chapter you are playing but in general, either the five counselors move in a predetermined order before or after the killer. The killer plots his or her moves on a secret screen but reveals either his current location or his location 3 turns earlier depending on the chapter. This leads to some very tense playing as the counselors try and anticipate where to go or not to go. Some items, such as sneakers, if found, allow the counselors to move faster. When the killer’s path intersects the location of a counselor, that counselor usually dies and the killer gains extra speed for that turn as his rage drives him on. As stated previously, the player playing the killer keeps track of his moves in secret and this greatly adds to the tension and atmosphere of this game.
There are 15 turns in each chapter. The players must achieve their objectives by the end of the game but, in some chapters, the killer can use a special ability to extend the game by one turn. This captures the feel of the false endings common in slasher films.
Each counselor has different abilities which can help him or her to survive. Items such as bear traps and lanterns can be found and utilized to make the counselors’ lives easier. When a lantern is placed on a trail on the map, small yellow transparent disks are placed on areas adjacent to the trail. If the killer moves through that area, he can be spotted. In addition, bear traps can be placed to catch the killer. As he tries to escape the trap, he becomes spotted due to the noise.
If the counselors encounter the bodies of the killer’s victims, they can become panicked and can’t move past the bodies unless they have a shovel to bury the poor unfortunate person. This can create channels through which the killer can anticipate the directions that his victims will take.
This game is very much a game of anticipation and planning. If the counselors group up, they risk the killer picking them off in one quick stroke. If the counselors split up too much, they may not be able to coordinate actions to trap or kill the killer. This plus the fact that goals, actions and movements change in each chapter, gives this game an extremely high replay value and increases the tension for each chapter played.
There are very few negatives to this well designed and solid game. 8 ½ “ x 11 “ maps could have been included to allow players to write down locations of clues and items if between game sessions. In addition, an index for the rule book would help the players locate rules during the heat of play.
I’m deliberately not describing the game beyond Chapter 1 as much of the fun comes from the surprise twists in the goals of the players. No spoilers here folks!
As I write this review, Halloween is approaching. When the leaves fall and Jack O’ Lanterns light up the night, pick up Last Friday, get a group of friends together, put on some horror movie mood music and play this game! But, keep telling yourselves, “It’s only a game. It’s only a game…”
Armchair General Rating: 97 %
Solitaire Rating: 1 ( 1 = not suitable to 5 = perfect for solo)
About the Author
A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!