Antoine Bauza


No. of Players:
1 - 4

G@mebox Star



Sometimes small expansions of succesful boardgames are offered at ridiculous prices, but the cost-performance of the new White Moon expansion for the cooperative game Ghost Stories by REPOS PRODUCTION is really outstanding. I must confess that I really liked the new twists for the fates of the valiant Taoist Monks defending a peaceful village against the horrible sorcerer Wu-Feng, and whereas the basic game demands of the Taoists to protect the village locations from closing down, their task now becomes much more complicated since a random stack of three villagers now has been assigned to each of the village locations at the start of the game. The topmost villager of each stack is visible for the players, and a villager's tile shows the name of his family, the number of family members available in the game and the awards or setbacks which are applied to the players when the villager either is saved or dies.

With the village being threatened by Wu-Feng's abominable creatures, the Taoists will try to save the villagers by moving them through a magic portal which has been placed at the central village location. If a Taoist is at that location and at least one villager is standing there, the Taoist may decide to use his action to push the villager through the portal instead of using the village location.

All villagers saved by this method are collected on a special board, and here it is important to separate the villagers into their different families. If the player's succeed in saving all members of one family, the family will be so happy that it rewards the Taoists with a family heirloom or some other benefit. A heirloom is some kind of artefact, and it be a weapon, an armour or some other helpful object. Each of these heirlooms will prove to be an invaluable help for the Taoist who receives it. In general, the more members a family possesses the more powerful the benefit will be, and so the biggest families with three members actually may give the players a Divine Sword (turning one dice to white before the start of every combat) or the players may receive three freely distributable Qi-markers (Lifepoints).

However, as you might guess, there is a good chance that villagers might get killed, and this mainly happens when a ghost figure is standing on a space on one of the player gameboards. Whenever the ghost figure moves a step forwards, the topmost villager from the closest location will move one step away from the ghost. This does not sound like being a serious danger, but the problem is that a location only offers space for a maximum of three villager tiles. Any villager who is prevented from entering a location by this limit is instantly killed, forcing the players to discard the villagers and to face the detrimental effect listed on the villager tile.

Thus, especially at the beginning of the game the players should aim to move some villagers through the portal in order to make room for the movement of other villagers. However, whereas a villager actually can be moved together with a Taoist without an extra cost, a clever use of ghosts present on the gameboard actually may assist the players in directing some villagers automatically towards the portal. This may save player movements since a Taoist just must be standing at the portal to push the villager through, and so the whole affair of the saving of the villagers really adds a new, challenging dimension to the game.

Despite the fact that the saving of villagers might turn up useful rewards, the players actually stand on a difficult position because they will lose the game if 12 villagers are killed, and so they have to watch one additional condition which might lead to an ultimate victory for Wu-feng. However, the Taoists are not alone anymore, and so the ghost of a young villager called Su-Ling has joined the players in their task of saving the village. Su-Ling is activated whenever a villager dies, a location is closed down or the curse-dice is rolled, and her figure is placed on a "haunting ghost" space of one track on one of the four Taoist gameboards. With her mystical powers she now will block the powers of a ghost card on this track, and so a ghost facing Su-Ling does not move and does not apply it's ability which otherwise would apply every round.

Furthermore, Su-Ling has knowledge of the use of mystical Moon Crystals, and and the beginning of the game an altar for a Moon Crystal has been placed at any corner of the gameboard. A Moon Crystal is placed on an altar when Su-Ling is on a track adjacent to the altar, and another possibility is that a player who has earned a Moon Crystal as a reward can place it on an altar if he is in the adjacent village location. When all four altars have received a Moon Crystal, an ancient Mystic Barrier will spring into life, created by the villagers' ancestors who had been fighting Wu-Feng some centuries back. The Barrier will grant the players a temporary relief, and they now must use each of the Moon Crystals either to move one Villager through the Portal or to roll four dice to attack all ghosts on one Taoist board. This choice must be made for every of the four Crystals.

Playtesting showed that the Barrier is a great help for the players because they can speed up the saving of villagers or remove several ghosts at one single stroke. However, at the same time the different elements included in this expansion actually make a good cooperation between the players even more vital, since gameplay gets more diverse by the simultaneous use of Su-Ling, the Barrier and the villagers. Only a high degree of cooperation can ensure a maximum of effectiveness when using the different new elements, and the players will need all the help they can get to stand against Wu-Feng and his hordes. Talking about the devil himself, he receives help from a horde of Werwolf-ghosts with a new attribute which allows them to kill villagers, and due to the fact that the players loose the game when a 12th villager is killed the whole new setting is not just beneficial but also dangerous.

The White Moon expansion presents itself as a very capacious addition to the main game, and it shows the love for details and well-fitting rules which Antoine Bauza has put into the creation of his Chinese mystery game. Already the first testing round revealed a high degree of finetuning which must have been necessary to make the expansion run smoothly without unbalancing the game, but to my liking the author succeeded to a very high degree. Additional extras like a Kung-Fu school location and new Wu-feng incarnations all are helpful to in balancing the game while at the same time creating a whole new playing experience, and so expansion varies and widens the known gameplay of Ghost Stories considerably. Even seasoned Taoists who are not afraid of the Hell-level should face a really new kind of threat!

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2010 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany