By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on August 3, 2017
Let's get spooky, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Come with me and let me take you on a trip to Canterville Castle! Never heard of it? Well, that might just be caused by the fact that not a lot of people visit the castle anymore. You see, besides the naturally creepy vibe most old castles give off, Canterville Castle is actually haunted... by a ghost named Max!
So now it is time for a group of courageous young ghost hunters to enter the castle and try to catch the mischievous Max and make Canterville Castle a nice place to stay once more! Are you up for the challenge, or will you run away in terror? Come with me and let's find out as we play a round of Ghost Chase!
Ghost Chase was originally published in 2001 and enabled five people to play a game of ghostly hide-and-seek together. One of the players takes the role of Max, the mischievous ghost, while the other four take on the role of junior ghost hunters. Now, you would say that it is pretty easy for four players to catch one other, but you might just be wrong. You see, because Max is a ghost, he is invisible! With that in mind, others will probably say that it will be cinch for Max to elude the four hunters. Well, they would also be mistaken. Max can be forced to reveal himself, as well as the route he took to get where he is. Confused? Let's start at the beginning, shall we?
When the players have decided who will be Max and who will be the hunters, the player who plays Max will receive a stack of 54 room cards that he or she can use to plan a route through the castle. Because Max is an honest ghost, he will play by a strict code of honor and will not enter the same room twice during the entire game, unless he uses a cheat card, which I will get into later. Each hunter selects a room he or she would like to start in en puts their figure in that room. After all four hunters have chosen a room, Max decides where to start. The player that plays Max, selects the corresponding room card to the room they start in and puts it face up on the table. All follow up cards are placed face down, so the hunters have no clue where Max has moved after the initial room.
Max starts the game by the corresponding room card for the room he wants to move to next and places it face down on the table to the right of his initial card. Because he is honest, Max will only mover to adjacent rooms and never diagonally. He can, however float through walls and, in doing so, create a path for himself that the hunters cannot take, because they can only enter rooms using doors or ladders. Apart from this, Max can also use two "hidden paths"; the secret passage that runs underneath the castle or the chimney. These paths allow Max to "jump" between two rooms that are quite a bit apart. These passages can also only be used once per game. After declaring his starting room, the Max player takes the ghost figure off the board, denoting that Max is invisible.
After Max had his turn, all four hunters have theirs. Just like Max, they can only move one room at a time and, as I've already mentioned, can only use doors an stairs to get from room to room. Unlike Max, they may visit each room in the castle as often as they like and have no use for room cards to track their progression. The hunters cannot use the secret passage or the chimney to get around, because the passage is secret and they don't know where it is. Why they cannot use the chimney should be pretty self-explanatory. People just can't fly, can they now?
After each of the hunters had their turn, they may take one of the animals, surrounding the castle, off the board. What animals, you ask? Good question! You see, when you set up the board, you see drawings of animals next to the map of the castle. The game comes with cardboard punch-outs of these exact same animals. The animals are divided into five different species: bats, cats, hedgehogs, owls and mice. Each of the species is comprised out of a certain number of animals, which varies from specie to specie. When they start their hunt, the hunters select one of the species and put the corresponding animal frame next to the board. So now, each time they may remove an animal from the board, the place it in its proper frame. When all animals of a particular species are removed from the board, something extraordinary happens; Max becomes visible! And, what's more, he reveals the cards that make up the path that he has taken since the room he started in. This is the time for the hunters to watch carefully and try to remember the rooms Max has already been to. After giving the hunters a good look at his cards, Max discards them all, except the room card of the room he's currently in, face down in the box of the game and they may not be looked at again. The current room card is placed face up on the table and the whole shebang starts all over again.
The game ends when one of the ghost hunters moves into the same room as Max, upon which Max becomes visible and the hunter catches him, or when all the animals are taken off the board without Max being caught, in which case Max wins. Alternatively, the hunters also win if Max has backed himself into a corner and is unable to make a next move. After one side wins, the players can decide which of them is going to take the role of Max next and set off on a brand new adventure
To spice things up a bit, a few special cards are added to the game. For the player controlling Max, there are two cheat cards, which can be used to enter a room twice. If such a card is used, it is placed face up next to the other room cards and the player must declare that he or she is "cheating". Next to the cheat cards, there are also two break cards. These cards can be used to leave Max in the same room instead of moving to a next one. The break card does not have to be declared and is placed face down, just like a normal room card. The hunters have a trap card, which can be placed in any room upon leaving it. If Max enters a room with the trap in it, he must become visible, giving the hunters an idea of where he is at the moment or even where he is heading.
All in all, Ghost Chase is a very fun game that can be played by children and adults of practically all ages. It is really fun to play and can be quite challenging at the same time. As Max, you need to keep a close eye on the paths the hunters can take and adjust your own course accordingly. As the hunters it is essential to try and remember where Max has been and to back him into a corner, after which one of you can catch him. The cartoon-like art style fits the premise of the game perfectly and makes it also fun to look at. So, if you're into playing a fun board game, why not try Ghost Chase. if you dare!
999 Games (website in Dutch) & Amigo Spiel + Freizeit (website in German) & Rio Grande Games
Designer: Kai Haferkamp
Artist: Doris Matthaüs Players: 2 - 5 players, ages 6 & up
Playtime: approx. 60 minutes