Connect with us



Winter can be the dullest of seasons; the sun is scarce, the weather sucks and my skin becomes criminally dry. Even so, I don’t hate winter because it can create great opportunities for learning new things and broadening horizons. This winter, I’ve played the 2018 God of War, watched several movies and finally played a board game that’s been sitting on my shelves for years: Donner Dinner Party.

Who was the Donner Party?

Before we dive into the game, let’s get a little context of its inspiration. The Donner Party was a group of pioneers in the 1840’s who traveled from the midwest to California in search of opportunities and fulfilling the manifest destiny. While the group began their journey following the Oregon Trail, they eventually changed course and took the Hastings Cutoff, a “shorter” route. Yet this so-called shortcut not only lengthened an already arduous journey, but resulted in dozens of deaths and lead the starving pioneers to no other choice but cannibalism.

board game: Various cards players can use to win the game.

Growing Up Near Donner Lake

As someone who grew up near Donner Lake, the location of the pioneers’ peak cannibalism, local culture loves the story. Restaurants and bars will have special drinks named after the event while artistic references pop up in paintings and murals. It’s a history we can’t escape, one so incredulous and terrifying that we’ve resorted to joking about it and playing board games about it.

Cannibalism Is My Passion

My brain – like many others – likes to go through periods of intense fascination with various subjects, and a few years ago one of the topics was cannibalism. No, I promise I was not researching for any personal reasons nor do I have plans on becoming the local cannibal. But maybe you can relate to this interest, considering you’re on a horror website and clearly enjoy horrific topics.

Donner Lake: I took this photo of Donner Lake in 2017 because I liked taking photos and skipping class
I took this photo of Donner Lake in 2017 because I liked taking photos and skipping class

Anyway, the Donner Party was of course among the many items I researched; just because you grow up learning about it in grade school doesn’t mean there still isn’t more to learn! So you can imagine how excited I was when, after discovering this game exists, an old friend gave it to me for Christmas. Ever since then, I’ve spent years looking for at least three other people interested in playing the game. Opportunities came, all of which were squandered, until finally, on Christmas day of 2021, I finally played it.

The Rules

Donner Dinner Party is akin to the classic game Mafia and requires four to ten players. During each round, the players receive three hunting cards and three supply cards to aid their survival. In the chance that there is not enough food to feed your teammates, the players must draw a vote on who to eat. This leads to bickering amongst the players, in which everyone turns on one another so they may live to see another day.


If you’re a pioneer, your goal is to eliminate (eat) all the cannibals. If you’re a cannibal, you pretend to be a pioneer to trick your teammates into eating someone else. Pioneers can only win if, at the end of the game, they outnumber the cannibals. When there is only one cannibal and one pioneer left, or there all the pioneers are dead, the cannibals win.

Board game: the small board for the game
The little circular cards are the players, either cannibals or pioneers. Flip the pioneer over when you die and you can play as a ghost before vanishing into the afterlife forever.

My Verdict and Suggestions

Once the instructions were read and a few rounds were played, Donner Dinner Party was simple and fun to play. The instructions are clear and anytime my teammates had a question, I was able to find the answers right away. However, when I played with my three friends, we usually ended the game within two or three rounds because we were able to eliminate the cannibal fairly easily. We all agreed that, while the game was fun, it would have been better to play with more than the minimum four person requirement. Additionally, if you play with six or more players, there is a special supply card (Ol Tasty, see above) that you can use should you be so lucky to earn it.

Donner Dinner Party is a game I’m excited to play again. I absolutely recommend it to you, reader, especially if you have a knack for fascinating history and eating your teammates. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)


CourtCourt is a writer, horror enthusiast, and may or may not be your favorite human-eating houseplant.

Continue Reading
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jennifer Weigel

    January 8, 2022 at 8:08 pm

    This is fascinating. I’ve never heard of this board game but it has great artwork and looks fun. Glad you found some unsuspecting friends to join in the consumption -cough- I mean fun…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Quest Master @ PAX: A Dungeon-Builder First Look



Next in my journey of all the cool games I saw at PAX, Quest Master! Quest Master is a love letter to retro dungeon crawlers and level designers. Taking inspiration from both Mario Maker and the Legend of Zelda franchise, Quest Master promises the ability to play and design dungeons with a variety of enemies, traps, and puzzles. 

Check out the Quest Master game announcement here:

I was given a private 30-minute demo, where I got to try out some of the core features in a pre-beta version of Quest Master. This demo was led by one of the developers, Julian Creutz who shared some insight into the game design and user experience. My interview with Julian about Quest Master can be found here.

Quest Master has two main modes, playing dungeons and building them. I got to try out both, though I had a more comprehensive experience playing dungeons. While playing dungeons, the game mechanics were intuitive and simple. However, I was continuously surprised by the complexities offered by the puzzle and logic systems. For example, you can collect a boomerang which is incredibly easy to use. To solve one of the puzzles, I had to throw the boomerang through a torch (which I thought was just decorative) to catch the boomerang on fire and enable it to activate a gem. While the individual mechanics were basic, they combined into a sophisticated puzzle-solving experience.


Immediately, I was eager to look under the hood and see how the dungeon building mode enables the puzzle solving as previously described. Once again, I was impressed with the sophistication of a system with such simple mechanics. The controls for building weren’t intuitive for me, though I also don’t use a controller for much of my gaming (like I was during the demo). Additionally, I could see how it would be really easy to get accustomed to as you build.

As it was a short demo, I wasn’t able to try any of the multiplayer features (i.e. co-op, online map sharing) so I can’t speak to the success of their implementation. As this is supposed to be a large part of the game, I’m wary of wholeheartedly suggesting Quest Master for those interested in the multiplayer experience. However, I was impressed with Quest Master’s modern take on retro dungeon crawlers like the Legend of Zelda games. The graphics and controls feel like much needed quality of life updates for a system taking inspiration from older classics. 

I recommend wishlisting Quest Master if you are a fan of old Legend of Zelda games or are looking for a fresh take on the dungeon builder genre. If Quest Master interests you, don’t forget to check out my conversation with Julian too!

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Check out my other PAX posts here!


Continue Reading


Interview with Game Dev Julian Creutz: Quest Master @ PAX



As mentioned in previous posts, I had the opportunity to demo a pre-early access version of the game Quest Master alongside the Lead Developer, Julian Creutz. Quest Master is a Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Maker inspired dungeon crawling and building video game. While the other post covers the game itself, this one covers the inspiration and vision for the game as told by Julian.

How did you become involved in video game development?

I’ve been a huge gamer, and especially a Zelda fan, ever since I was a little child when my dad put a GameBoy Advance with “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past” into my hands. Sometime during elementary school I started dabbling with game development using visual tools like Scratch and GameMaker. I quickly got into making Zelda fan games and had dreamt of the day when I would make my own Zelda game one day. Over the years I’ve honed my game development and programming skills, resulting in where I am today.

What has been the most challenging aspect of the development process?


Developing Quest Master is essentially like making two games at once – the making and the playing part. Both of these game elements have to be equally as polished to form a cohesive one.

The most difficult thing by far about the game’s development has been to make the maker mode experience intuitive for first-time users and people who know nothing about Zelda-like games, but at the same time powerful and complex enough to allow creating anything you could dream of.

One good example is the gameplay feature to link certain parts to others, like linking a pressure plate to opening a door. We’ve been through countless iterations affecting both the visual, gameplay and user experience aspects of it – I hope that the one we are using right now is the final one!

Quest Master takes a lot of inspiration from classic dungeon-crawlers like the Legend of Zelda franchise. What about these games was so enchanting to you and how does Quest Master try to capture that enchantment?

As described earlier, I’m like the biggest Zelda fan, which I’m sure shows. My gripe with many Zelda-likes on the market is that none perfectly capture the feel of the classic entries… there’s always something missing.


I confidently believe that Quest Master differs from that greatly. We are trying to make Quest Master feel like an in-house 2D Zelda like Nintendo used to make, just from an indie team like ours. Many people crave the classic 2D entries, just like I do.

What emotions do you hope the player will experience while playing Quest Master? What design choices were made to assist in that desired atmosphere?

A big aspect of Quest Master is its local multiplayer. The game is deliberately designed to work flawlessly with that, and makers can create specialized puzzles in the game that require all players to work together for example. The result is both rewarding, funny, and sometimes infuriating altogether, for example when one of your buddies throws you into a hole.

As a community dungeon maker, what features are you most excited to see implemented in player-made dungeon crawls?

I’ve already been hugely amazed by the creations of the existing Quest Master demo. With all the new features the game will launch into Early Access with, I bet this will be tenfold. I myself always enjoy the brain busting puzzles people come up with. Other things I also like a lot are the unintended mechanics the players find, which dynamically emerge from the many, many gameplay systems working together.


What’s it been like working with Apogee, an indie publisher who goes back to the early 1990’s and has a long legacy of terrific game releases?

I’ve only had very few interactions with game publishers in the past, and Quest Master is my first large scale commercial game project. There’s preconceived notions floating around everywhere on the internet about how evil game publishers are and how much better you would be off self-publishing your game. Contrary to that, working with Apogee has been nothing short of supportive and family-like. They are very invested in the project, and they have many Zelda fans on the team also helps a lot. They are supercharging the potential of Quest Master and without them the game would not be where it is today.

Is there anything else you would like to plug or that you think is important for people to know about Quest Master or other upcoming projects?

Early Access is just the beginning! Quest Master will be hugely expanded upon during its Early Access phase, with many more themes, dungeon parts and entire new gameplay features coming in short intervals and a rapid update schedule. There are always new things around the corner. For example, things like the singleplayer story campaign and the overworld maker will be most likely not be part of the initial Early Access release, but we will make sure to build anticipation by introducing bits and pieces into the world of Quest Master to build up to that.

I hope you are looking forward to it as much as I am!


Continue Reading


LONESTAR @ PAX: Spaceships and Bounty Hunting



This past week I had the opportunity to go to my very first PAX East convention! For those who are unfamiliar, PAX East is a large gaming convention in Boston. This year marked its 20th anniversary, which meant an extra layer of celebration and festivities! Courtesy of a HauntedMTL Media Badge, I got to play tons of new games and meet even more interesting people. One of the games I was able to demo was LONESTAR by developer Math Tide. 

LONESTAR is a roguelike spaceship building game reminiscent of FTL and Dicey Dungeons. It was released for early access on Steam in January and has gotten largely positive feedback. In the game, you play as a bounty hunter traveling through various sectors to defeat your bounties. Along the way you can visit a shop, take a breather, or experience other various events. 

I was able to play the early access build for thirty minutes on the showroom floor, and I was pretty instantly hooked. I love roguelike deckbuilders, with Slay the Spire (especially the Downfall fan expansion) being a strong favorite. LONESTAR nails what I love from the genre, with an aesthetic smoothly integrated in its form and function and novel gameplay mechanics.

A screenshot from the LONESTAR Steam Page of game play.

LONESTAR’s ‘deckbuilding’ element takes the form of ship systems. You can collect, buy, and upgrade them as you progress through a run. However, your ship only has so much space on board. As a player, you have to prioritize weapons and utility systems while also ensuring you diversify your damage output/defense across all three sections of your ship. At the beginning of each round, you are randomly given number values that can be input into your ship systems to achieve varied effects. The enemy responds in kind, meaning whoever can get the highest damage output is who overwhelms the other in the round.

I loved the possibilities for synergy and strategy as your pilot explored more dangerous sectors. It was incredibly rewarding to turn a couple of crap numbers into a super powerful attack. I also enjoyed the various options for “vacation” time in between battles, which kept everything feeling fresh. Of note, I only played for thirty minutes. While they were a rewarding thirty minutes, the game was not incredibly difficult. I cannot speak on the general replayability, though I would have been happy to continue playing for at least another hour. My only critique from the whole experience was that some of the vocabulary was unclear. However, that could have been due to starting mid-run during my demo. 


If you enjoy deckbuilders and are interested in a spaceship game a bit easier than FTL, I think LONESTAR is a great choice. It is still in early access, however, I feel confident that the game is plenty of fun already. It is also only $10, so definitely worth taking a chance on. I’ll continue to watch the development of LONESTAR with great excitement! 4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)

Continue Reading