Thursday, December 23, 2004

Review: Fearsome Floors

Fearsome Floors is the recent English release of Friedmann Friese's 2003 hit, Finstere Flure. I first played the original German version of this game several months ago and I've been eagerly awaiting the new English release, brought to us courtesy of Rio Grande Games.

In Fearsome Floors, players each control a group of people trapped inside a fiendish dungeon. They are all at one corner of a large pillared room. The exit is in sight on the far side of the room. Unfortunately, there is also a large, rather stupid monster lurking in the room as well. The monster would like nothing more than to sink his fearsome fangs into the foolish foreigners. Your task is to help as many of your people escape as possible, and to be the first one to do it.

Inside the box you'll find a very attractive game board, several colored wooden character disks with attractive full-color stickers that go on either side, several sturdy cardboard floor tiles, and enough punch-out cardboard pieces to assemble one of several different three-dimensional monster figures.

The way the game works is very simple. Each player has a set of colored character disks. Each disk has a white number (1, 3, 4 or 5) on one side. The other side has a black number (6, 4, 3, or 2). Both numbers on each disk add up to seven. The numbers indicate how many spaces each character can move on a given turn. Characters can move up, down, left or right and can even change direction during their move. You move your character up to the number of spaces shown on the disk, then you flip the disk over to indicate that it's already been moved that turn and to reveal the number of moves that character will have on its next turn. Each player takes turns moving a character until all the characters have been moved. Then things get interesting.

After the characters have all been moved, the monster moves. Players turn over a tombstone shaped tile that indicates how many steps the monster will take that turn. Then the monster moves following a very specific set of rules. Each time the monster takes a step he looks in front of him and to the sides (but never behind). If he sees a character to either side, then he turns to face that character and takes a step, otherwise he continues straight. In the case where he sees two characters, he moves toward the closest one. If two characters are equally as far away then the monster becomes confused and continues straight. If he strikes a character then the character is eaten. During the first half of the game, characters that are eaten get to start over, but during the last half of the game they're gone for good.

Players who are clever will take advantage of the way the monster moves and lure him into a path that will cause him to eat their opponents' characters. In fact, the most satisfying aspect of this game is finding a way to position your characters so as to make the monster move in some way that your opponents didn't anticipate.

Adding spice to the game are a number of obstacles such as stone blocks, slippery pools of blood, and teleporters which affect the way the monster and the characters move. These obstacles are positioned differently at the beginning of each game and can even be pushed around and moved during the game which means that no two games need ever be quite the same.

Fearsome Floors is forty-five minutes of fantastic fun for a family of two to seven players. It's extremely easy to learn and it will appeal to players of all ages. The horror theme is given a very light-hearted treatment that is more silly than scary. It's a hit with my family and I'm sure it will be a hit with yours as well.


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