Welcome to Table Top Terrors! In this monthly series, we’ll help you recreate some of the terror, tension, and fun of scary stories by examining what the world of tabletop gaming has to offer horror fans. We’ll look at board games, card games, pen and paper RPGs, and miniature war games. We’ll offer reviews, insights, and tips on how to create an immersive and awesome game night.
Imagine a cursed town in the 1980s prone to natural and supernatural disasters. What if that same town was also overrun by an army of colorful killers competing to see who gets the highest bodycount? What if there were some brave citizens willing to save their neighbors as they fought to escape their doomed municipality? And what if it was all tied together with great pop-culture savvy, black humor tone? Sounds like a hell of a movie, right? It’s actually something better though because the town’s name is Tall Oaks, and you can visit it and take part in all the macabre fun!
Tall Oaks is the setting for Bright Light Media’s Mixtape Massacre series of board games. In this piece, we’ll look at the titular base game, the new semi cooperative spinoff game, Escape From Tall Oaks, and the new Lockdown expansion that adds elements to both games including a sheriff character; making it a great fit for Nightmare on Film Street’s Cops ‘n’ Killers Month. On top of that, we’ll have our usual tips for creating the perfect game night for the people you’re sheltering in place with or for when it’s finally safe to reunite with your gaming group.
“Mixtape Massacre is a game for every horror fan that’s wanted to don a hockey mask, pick up a chainsaw, and stalk the streets of a quaint, suburban town.”
Mixtape Massacre is a game for every horror fan that’s wanted to don a hockey mask, pick up a chainsaw, and stalk the streets of a quaint, suburban town. It allows up to six players to take command of a diverse collection of killers inspired by classic slasher film franchises, supernatural horror movies, and even killer creature films like Gremlins. These killers prowl the streets of Tall Oaks in search of victims to slay and rivals to battle.
On your turn, you roll the dice to move around Tall Oaks. If you make it into a locale you’ll draw a “Killer Scenes, Dude” card that is either a victim for your killer to collect a grisly trophy from, or an opponent to defend against. The cards feature great comedic art that reference classic 80s films, pop culture personalities, and iconic horror movie cliches. You then roll three action dice, and depending on the symbols rolled you’ll either gain a trophy, or be sent back to start. The first killer to collect a set number of trophies wins. The other way to win is to be the last killer standing. You can lose life by failing an action die check, from a card draw, or losing a rumble with another killer. These smackdowns happen when one slasher lands on a space adjacent to another.
The game is fairly rules-light so it’s perfect for beginning gamers, but it has enough atmosphere and flavor to satisfy veteran horror gamers too. That flavor comes via kitschy and thematic components like the knife-shaped life counters and the Killer Scenes cards, which look like classic VHS tapes. Plus, each killer has its own unique design and special ability, which adds immersive fun.
Escape From Tall Oaks is another nostalgic, horror/humor game for up to six players, but it’s a semi-cooperative that allows you to indulge your inner Laurie Strode or Nancy Thompson. Players take control of one of Tall Oaks’ teenagers looking to save their friends and escape the town. To do that, they need to find weapons to battle and kill rampaging slashers and accomplish a series of four tasks that will send an escape chopper to the center of town. The first player to “GET TO THE CHOPPA!” wins!
Each player has a “Final Scenes, Dude” card that they keep face down. On their turn, they role their movement dice and head to various locations. If a place has a scene marker and they’re armed with a weapon they can attempt a rescue by drawing a “Killer Scenes, Dude” card. If they’re successful in the die roll on the card they take a scene marker. If the location doesn’t have a scene marker they can search it for items like first aid kits and flashlights, or weapons like revolvers and chainsaws. Weapons are needed to attempt rescues and kill slashers. If the location is empty they can also attempt to accomplish one of the four group tasks.
Every other task leads to a confrontation with one of the slashers from the Mixtape Massacre game; each one more difficult than the last. Making noise is the other way to attract a slasher’s attention. Killer Scenes cards and using loud items can add to the noise meter. If things get to loud, you’ll have to defend yourself from an attack by the current slasher.
The endgame is triggered when all four group tasks have been completed and a player has collected five scene markers. The player then flips their Final Scene card to see where they have to go and what they have to do to stop the game’s final slasher. Once they do that, they can head to the landing pad in the center of town. The other major win condition is, of course, not dying. You can lose life via card draws, slasher attacks, or if a fellow player decides they want to get into a “scuffle” with you.
Escape From Tall Oaks uses some similar mechanics to Mixtape Massacre, but its rules are a bit more intricate. So you might want to introduce a beginning gaming group to Mixtape Massacre first. Like that game, Talk Oaks has a number of fun ’80s themed components including the Killer Scenes cards. This time though, most of them have a school feel to them like life counters in the shape of rulers and the backs of the supply cards, which look like the covers of old school notebooks.
Escape From Tall Oaks and Mixtape Massacre are great standalone games, but if you add both to your library there are a number of benefits. One is that later this month on the Mixtape Massacre website Bright Light Media plans on publishing free rules supplements that let you combine both game boards into an expanded edition of Mixtape Massacre or a Slashers Vs. Survivors mega brawl. All of these modes are for 6-12 players.
The other main benefit is you can make the most of the new Lockdown expansion that adds new mechanics for both games. The most noticeable element of the Lockdown expansion is the Sheriff of Tall Oaks, John Burton. In games of Mixtape Massacre he’s a boogie man that will jump out and attack noisy slashers. If you’re playing Escape From Tall Oaks you can don Burton’s impressive sheriff’s hat and open fire on the killers over-running your town. Another cool feature for both games is the slasher known as Anonymous. In Mixtape Massacre they’re a new character committing copycat style crimes, but in Escape From Tall Oaks if a certain card is drawn a survivor becomes Anonymous and sets out to cut down his fellow players! On top of that, there are new mechanics for each game like items for slashers in Mixtape Massacre and a deck of event cards for Escape From Tall Oaks called “Sidetracks” that resemble old Eight Track cassettes and unleash apocalyptic and traumatic events on the titular town
Since this month’s theme at Nightmare on Film Street is two-fold our recommended immersive refreshments will each represent a different aspect. For Cops, try serving thirsty guests this “Police and Thieves” cocktail courtesy of Food.com. And when they develop a “killer” appetite serve them these homemade jelly-filled donuts (so they can pretend they’re killers shedding blood) via My Three Seasons.
To help create the perfect mood Bright Light Media compiled a huge and diverse “official” Spotify playlist of ’80s songs. Alternatively, if you’re in a purely Rock ‘N’ Roll, mood I put together my own Spotify playlist of songs about cops and killers featuring music by The Clash, Motorhead, Judas Priest, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie and more.
The games we’ve covered here will keep you and your group occupied for quite some time, but when you’re ready for more Bright Light Media has you covered. There’s an expansion for Mixtape Massacre called Black Masque that adds new slashers and several new mechanics. Three Slasher Booster Packs are also available that contain a new slasher, a special ability token, and some new thematic killer scenes cards. And later this month, Bright Light Media will launch a new Kickstarter for an Escape From Tall Oaks expansion titled Invasion, which introduces new characters and interstellar invaders into the world of the game.
Let us know all about your own immersive game night setups, and your favorite horror-based board games. Who knows, your recommendation might become our focus for next month’s installment of Table Top Terrors. Roll the dice and spill your guts over Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!