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.
We’ve reached one year of the ongoing COVID pandemic. So this month, the writers of Nightmare on Film Street are taking a much needed break. Some of us are doing that with articles exploring creepy vacations and murderous spring breaks. Others are writing pieces about broken bodies and broken minds. In this month I thought I’d do both by writing about a game that allows you check into one of the most iconic hotels in horror and then challenges you to hold on to your sanity and your life. That’s right! I’m talking about the Overlook and Mixlore’s board game adaptation of The Shining from Prospero Hall (The makers behind Ravensburger’s Jaws and Horrified games).
So, come with us dear reader as we wander the halls of the Overlook, try to stay out of room 237 and take a look at how The Shining captures the spirit of Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1980 horror film while also being quick, easy to learn, and fun to play. Plus we’ll have have our usual suggestions of themed refreshments and music.
The Shining is a game for 3-5 players who step into the roles of not the Torrance family, but a group of “caretakers” who’ve made the foolish choice to look after the haunted Overlook hotel during the winter months. It’s a cooperative game where players must hold onto their sanity and keep themselves and each other alive for four months of game time That’s done by exploring the hotel and acquiring various Willpower tokens to help you withstand the psychic onslaught of the horrific visions the lodging afflicts you with. Each month, the rooms of the Overlook are replenished with Willpower tokens from a collective pool, and players can spend tokens from the pool to travel further into the hotel. Be warned though! Willpower is a finite resource and if it runs out surviving the game becomes infinitely harder.
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You set up The Shining by unfolding a board that represents the Overlook and perfectly captures the isolated feel of Kubrick’s movie. It features several iconic locations including Room 237, the “Colorado Room,” and the “Hedge Maze.” After that, you build the Willpower pool by selecting 13 tokens for each player. You then shuffle the Event and Shining cards. Two Shining cards are dealt face down to each player and they’re not allowed to look at them. Lastly, a first player is chosen and given the keychain to room 237.
“[…] The Shining captures the spirit of Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1980 horror film while also being quick, easy to learn, and fun to play.”
The game begins with the first player drawing an Event card that will complicate players’ journeys in the hotel that round. One of the cool things about these cards is the text on them repeats just like Jack Torrance’s manuscript. Then, each player will take a turn moving through the Overlook, collecting willpower, and using a room’s special abilities. Once that’s done, a new round begins and a new event card is drawn. The color of that subsequent event card determines if the month will be two rounds or three.
When the month ends the “Shining phase” begins. It’s here where you check to see if you’ve accumulated enough willpower to avoid being possessed by the ghosts of the Overlook. You do that by adding up the numerical amount of the Willpower tokens you’ve collected and comparing if to the numerical value of your Shining cards for that month. Each “Shining” card has a number on it and an art rendering of a scene from the film. The higher the number the more disturbing the image. If your willpower total is equal to or higher than the sum of your Shining cards you’ve managed to whether the hotel’s spiritual assault for that month. If it’s below you’ve been possessed and you move to attack your fellow players! The back side of each Shining Card has a number range giving you a hint about the amount of willpower you’ll need to collect that month.
Some willpower tokens, especially the high value ones, have weapons on them like Jack Torrance’s signature fire axe. Having a high number token is good, but if a player does become possessed they could use the weapon on the token to deal extra harm to one of their fellow caretakers. A good way to avoid possession or attacks is by stocking up on Whiskey tokens which increase in Willpower value with each one you have, or hiding out in the hedge maze, which protects you from attacking players in the hotel or keeps your possessed caretaker from bashing the brains out of the people who’ve taken refuge in the Overlook.
Gameplay continues until the players have survived four months or one of them loses three health tokens. If the latter happens they all win. The former means a collective loss. And that’s The Shining! It’s a relatively quick and easy, but immersive cooperative experience. The Shining also has something to offer people who want a more complex and competitive game. Those players will want to check out the “Corrupted” variant mode, which basically adds a hidden traitor player to the game. The “Corrupted” will work to sabotage the players efforts, spread paranoia, and get people killed. Players must try to expose the Corrupted and work together to survive their murderous machinations while also contending with the malevolence of the Overlook.
“[The Shining] a relatively quick and easy, but immersive cooperative experience.”
The Shining is a fast moving game, which means you could play it multiple times or get in a viewing of Kubrick’s film or Mike Flanagan’s 2019 sequel, Doctor Sleep, afterwards. Either way, all play and no refreshments makes you a dull host! To keep that from happening and turn your game night into a bloody good time we’ve got two thematic suggestions. For the first, you’ll indulge your inner Lloyd and mix up this Red Rum cocktail courtesy of Secrets of the Booze. The second is this delicious recipe for Doctor Sleep inspired french fries from our friends at Geeks Who Eat.
The right music will elevate your game night to the heights of the peaks surrounding the Overlook, and fortunately you don’t have to look far for a fitting score. You can get things started with these two tracks from Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind’s music for The Shinining, which appear to be the only readily available streaming score selections from the film. You can follow that up with the Newton Brothers creepy and cool score for Doctor Sleep.
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