Final girl is a single-player modular board game from Van Ryder Games where you take the role of a final girl as you fight to take down a fierce killer. I saw it at the game store and was immediately reminded of games like Dead by Daylight, Sentinels of the Multiverse, and Horrified, so I had to give it a try.
The core box comes with 1 double-sided board, the rulebook, 6 dice, 23 action cards, 11 health tokens, 25 health markers (these are different things), 8 tracking tokens, 1 bloodlust marker, 1 time marker, 27 victim meeples (3 of which are special victims), 3 victim holding boards and 3 victim holding tokens.
Feature film boxes vary, but they generally contain 2 game boards, one for the killer and one for the location, along with a rule sheet for each. Killer items usually include 4 dark power cards, 3 finale cards, 16 terror cards, and any other odds and ends needed for their particular gimmick. Location items generally are 5 setup cards, 10 even cards, roughly 15-20 item cards, 8 terror cards, and whatever tokens and such are needed for its gimmick. They also include 2 final girls and 2 secret envelopes with an item card specific to each girl.
I’m torn on the modular concept. On one hand it’s financially not that big of a deal, since buying a film box and a core box would be about the same price as buying a standard board game. At the same time, it’s kinda frustrating to buy something you can’t use without something else. It would’ve made a lot of sense to, at the very least, just shrinkwrap a feature film box along with the core box as a bundle.
The core box is for the most part well organized. I admittedly had to look up how to sort everything on the BoardGameGeek forums, but once I figured it out, everything fit in pretty neatly. I do still have a couple of complaints, though. The generally agreed upon section where you keep the dice is a bit too small. It’s a little difficult getting them out and putting them back in. There’s one other section you could put them in, but that one’s a bit too big, and I’m using that to keep the secret envelopes. The secret envelopes themselves are a little too bulky to fit in the main card area, so it made more sense to me to put them in their own spot.
The feature film boxes, on the other hand, are a hot mess. The inserts are standardized, which is understandable, but they’re standardized in a way that doesn’t work well for any of them. There’s a section for cards and two sections for tokens and such. None of the feature film boxess I own have a need for that second small section, even with the extra mini pack. For the Slaughter in the Groves box, there are cards that just have to lay on top of the insert with the rules because they don’t fit. The rules are loosely laid on top of the inserts so they could be easily lost or damaged. I’ve also seen it mentioned on the Board Game Geek forums that the card sections are too small to hold sleeved cards.
The game consists of 5 phases. The game begins with the action phase. You start with a hand of 10 cards, which allow you to do things like move, fight, and heal. You can play as many cards as you like until you decide to stop or you run out of time, and you can always discard a card to gain more time. Next is the planning phase, where you can buy action cards with time. At the end, your time resets to 6 and any cards you’ve played or discarded since the end of the last planning phase go back in the tableau for you to purchase again later. Then it’s time for the killer to act. The killer (and their minions) will perform their specific action, then you’ll reveal a terror card. If any victims die, any other victims in the same space as them will panic in the next phase. For each panicking victim, roll a die and move them to a new space based on the number rolled. After all that’s handled, move into the upkeep phase. Usually not much happens in this phase, but if you revealed the last terror card in the deck during the killer phase, this is when you reveal the killer’s finale card. Play continues until you or the killer are dead. As an added twist, your and the killer’s last health point is special. If it would be lost, you instead flip the token. It could be blank or it could give back a small amount of health.
The make or break aspect for most people will be that this is a single player game. Some people specifically like board games as a social activity, and have no interest in playing one by themselves, which is perfectly fine. While this game is fun, if you’re someone who doesn’t find the concept of a single-player board game appealing, I don’t think this is the game that will convince you otherwise.
Setting this game up can be draining. It gets easier the more you do it, but there are still so many steps and so many pieces that it can get a little tiring, especially considering each location and killer has special setup rules you have to factor in along with regular setup.
One of the bigger problems of the feature film setup is that since each killer has a particular gimmick, and there’s no bare-bones boilerplate killer included with the core rules, it can be harder to learn the game. I’ve heard that Hans from the Camp Happy Trails set is more along the lines of that basic killer I was looking for, but that was the one box I couldn’t get ahold of (aside from the vignette) so I can’t personally confirm this. Some of the specialized killers were harder to understand. For instance, we had a hard time figuring out how Dr. Fright is supposed to attack you and victims. His killer action does not include movement, so does he just stand there and do nothing? He can attack you from anywhere while you’re asleep during the boiler room phase, what about any other time while you’re asleep? And how does this all effect victims?
This game can be very difficult. Random chance can really screw you over. In one game in the Carnival of Blood location, on turn 1 the terror card made all victims panic, then killed all of them in or adjacent to a certain space. This killed about 5 victims, skyrocketing the killer’s bloodlust to almost maximum. The spirit killer has a similar terror card that kills 5 victims or does 5 damage to you. I understand this is probably meant to ratchet up the tension and keep the game from going on too long, but the game is already pretty short. You only use 10 cards to make the killer’s terror deck, and when you run out of terror cards you reveal the finale, which is a new, often brutal killer power and a more powerful killer action, which does a pretty good job of speeding up the end of the game. This difficulty issue can make the game setup feel worse; it just feels kinda bad to go through all this setup for a game that’s over very quickly mainly because you had bad luck.
Full disclosure, this might be an issue of me simply “playing wrong,” but items generally feel pointless. Weapons can be really helpful sometimes, but with how much effort it is to get items, it almost never feels worth it to try and get any of them. A lot of items are one-time use for a modest effect, and many are very situational. The item decks all start with the top card face up, which is helpful in gauging whether or not you should bother with items that game, but after that top card is gone, you don’t get to see what you’re searching for anymore. Unless you’re in a scenario where you absolutely need a specific item to win (aka you’re fighting poltergeist) or all the victims are dead/saved and you’re really desperate, blindly searching for items is rarely worth your already limited time.
To be clear, the game is still fun. It’s fun to plan things out multiple turns ahead, and fun to successfully execute those plans. If you, like me, enjoy resource management, managing your time and actions in this game is enjoyable. It’s also fun to figure out a way to course-correct when something goes horribly wrong. While it can suck to get beat down, clawing your way back from what feels like certain defeat can be really satisfying.
I give this game three and a half out of five cthulhus. It’s pretty fun, but it can be really exhausting between the lengthy setup and at times grueling difficulty. S2 is currently on Kickstarter if you want to check it out. (3.5 / 5)
The Last of Us: Episodes 8 and 9: The End
Sometimes life gets in the way. Maybe you watched the episodes the nights they came out, but then you got your stomach tattooed so you didn’t have the energy to type on your computer, and then you had to work nonstop for six days straight and housesit 20 miles out of town, and then you got into a hit-and-run car accident with your boyfriend (luckily you’re both okay but really very angry at the asshole that just drove away), etc. etc.. March has been a lot, but I finally rolled up my sleeves, made time for my computer and stopped procrastinating the job of writing my final review on HBO’s The Last of Us.
Here we will cover the final events of Joel and Ellie’s saga. Both episodes were directed by Ali Abassi and written by Craig Mazin and, in episode 9, Neil Druckmann. The adaptation continued to cover the story elements of the game, leaving out and/or changing most of the fighting and action scenes. This change is especially noticeable in episode 9, “Look for the Light,” but we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s first do a recap of episode 8, “When We Are in Need.”
“When We Are in Need”
Ellie is on the hunt for food and comes across a deer, which she shoots down almost effortlessly. It is in this moment that she meets a preacher named David (Scott Shepherd) and his partner, James (Troy Baker, (Joel’s voice actor in the video games)). After a moment of hostility towards the stranger, Ellie agrees to give the deer to David in exchange for penicillin. Shortly after giving Joel the medication, Ellie has to leave again to deter David’s religious crew from hunting her and Joel. It turns out Joel killed a few of David’s men, and the preacher is out for revenge.
The religious group captures Ellie and puts her in a cell, where she discovers David has been feed them human remains. Meanwhile, Joel finally awakes and is stable enough to escape the house and search for Ellie. He tortures two men into disclosing her location, but he is almost too late. David places Ellie on a butcher block and is just about to chop her up when she narrowly escapes. The two fight until she finally has the advantage and takes him down, bludgeoning him to death with an insurmountable fury of vengeance.
“Look for the Light”
Episode 9 begins with a flashback of Ellie’s pregnant mother, Anna (Ashley Johnson, (Ellie’s voice actor in the video games). An infected bit Anna just moments before she gave birth to Ellie. Moments pass, and Marlene finds the two in a pool of blood. She is forced to take the baby and kill her friend. Fast forward 14 years, and Joel and Ellie are almost done with their journey. They finally made it to Utah. Ellie, still processing everything that happened with David, is sad and somber. Joel tries his best to cheer her up, but nothing seems to work.
Suddenly, the youth sees something and runs off to get a better look. Joel chases her until he stops and stares in awe. The camera pans from him to Ellie inches away from a giraffe. She is her old self again, cracking jokes and asking a myriad of questions. Later on, when Joel reveals that he tried to kill himself after Sarah’s death, Ellie provides him as much comfort as she can. But the fact that Joel can trust her enough to reveal such a secret means is a comfort on its own. He asks Ellie to read some puns to lighten the mood, but his moment is interrupted when a group of Fireflies knock them out.
Joel wakes up in a hospital to see Marleen, who informs him that the doctors are preparing Ellie for surgery to remove the part of her brain that makes her immune. This procedure, however, will result in Ellie’s death. No matter how hard Joel fights, Marlene won’t budge. She instead has two Firefly soldiers escort Joel out of the hospital, but he kills them and everyone else until he finds the surgery room, where he murders the doctor in cold blood. He escapes with an unconscious Ellie and makes it as far as the parking garage until Marlene stops them. The camera cuts to Joel driving a car with Ellie in the backseat.
Ellie wakes up and asks Joel what happens. While he lies to her that there is no cure, the camera flickers back to the parking garage scene with Marlene. He shoots her once. After listening to her begs and pleas, he kills her with a final shot.
The duo have to walk the last few miles to Tommy’s town. At the top of a waterfall, they get a spectacular view of their new home, their new futures. Before making the final trek, Ellie tells Joel about her past and how she saw her best friend die. This lead to watching Tess, Sam and Henry die because of the disease. The fact that they all had to go through such gruesome deaths, only for there not to be a cure, is too much for Ellie to handle. She makes Joel swear that he is telling the truth, and in a beat, he does.
HBO’s The Last of Us is a remarkable video game adaptation that deserves all the high praise it has received the past few months. From the set design and effects to the filming, screenwriting and acting, the show is a peak example of how to do an adaptation well. It is heart-throbbing and terrifying.
A few issues with HBO’s adaptation is how much they excluded the game play scenes. Despite the world being filled with infected, they were rarely on screen. This is disappointing, especially because it increases the stakes and so much of Joel and Ellie’s relationship builds in these fight scenes. The biggest disappointment was in episode 9, in which the show completely cut out the game’s highway scene. Furthermore, there are numerous creative weapons the show could have included to illustrate Joel and Ellie’s means of survival, from molotov cocktails and nail bombs to the beloved shotgun and its shorty companion.
Despite these small quibbles, the show is arguably one of the best American video game adaptations out there. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey were the perfect casting choices for Joel and Ellie, as was the casting for all the other characters.
It will be exciting to see where Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin take The Last of Us 2. I hope they will include more gameplay (aka a little more violence), more screen time for infected, and some creative liberties with the original story while also sticking to the heart of it. We will just have to wait and see what they come up with. Until we meet again, don’t forgot to read about the other shows and games we’re loving here at HauntedMTL.
(4 / 5)
Review: A Plague Tale series
Asobo Studios A Plague Tale series consisting of Innocence (2019) and Requiem (2022) has been out for a while. Weirdly enough, I struggled to put my thoughts into words about these games until now. The way I see it, it’s impossible to talk about one without the other, so let’s dive in, shall we?
Plot and characters
The story of A Plague Tale games takes loose inspiration from the Black Plague times with a touch of the Hundred Years’ War. Amicia and Hugo are siblings on the run from soldiers while also fighting off infected rats, meeting allies along the way. A huge theme of Innocence is Amicia finding a solution for Hugo’s long-term sickness. As one would suspect, it turns out to be connected to the plague itself. Amicia also goes from being a disconnected older sister to his biggest protector throughout the game.
Hugo himself is more or less an annoying kid who wants his mother. This is frankly a realistic characterization as he actually speaks and acts as a child would act. Granted, him essentially walking into the Pope’s trap is frustrating but the climax needed to be set up somehow. I also enjoyed Lucas’s character as an alchemist apprentice as he proved to be one of the more consistent helpers to the duo.
While Innocence ends on a hopeful note, with the characters on the verge of starting over somewhere new and the plague contained, Requiem shows this was a fake out. The sequel really puts Amicia through her paces. Her character is broken both physically and mentally to the point where she is barely recognizable. Hugo is more mature, although his insistence on this magical island that will fix the Macula issue is an immediate red flag. It’s not surprising the supposed safe haven turns into hell quite quickly.
The generational curse where the protector and carrier story repeats itself means a tragic ending for our protagonists. This means it can feel fruitless to play the two installments as the whole point of Amecia’s journey is to protect Hugo at all costs, which proves to be impossible. Was it because of certain choices they made or just extremely unfortunate circumstances? Either way, I felt horrible for them both while playing Requiem, so at least it invoked a strong emotion in me.
The series is a third-person stealth adventure with survival horror elements. Innocence has a clear-cut mechanic that relies on Amicia sneaking past or distracting threats with a certain number of puzzles to get past the rats. She is also extremely vulnerable, dying from one enemy hit, forcing the player to start all over. This is something Requiem updates, adding the opportunity for you to recover by running away from the enemy.
It can be frustrating to have to restart a whole section because of one mistake. However, it does make the player think methodically about what the best approach is. I found the challenges a tad repetitive which stopped me from binge-playing the game, but that’s just my opinion.
After taking this time to digest my feelings towards A Plague Tale games, I can still vouch for the amazing experience. The historical aspects are endearing, and the graphics are beautiful, as is the score. The scriptwriters knew what kind of emotional punches would hit the players just right and the voice actors really gave it all. It’s obvious a lot of love went into this project and I am grateful to have played it.
Regardless, there were certain aspects of the story that for me personally, did not sit right. I am not a massive fan of a tragedy that ends, well, in tragedy, especially with hints history will repeat itself again. The entire concept of the ‘greater good’ and the main characters sacrificing their happiness has been done before and while I can understand why they went that way, it also left me feeling a bit empty.
(4 / 5)
The Last of Us: Episode 7: Left Behind
The Last of Us series is winding down with only three episodes left. Directed by Liza Johnson and written by Neil Druckmann, “Left Behind” adapts the video game’s DLC story of the same name. Ellie and Joel are hiding out in a basement, and Joel is suffering greatly from his stabbing. He orders Ellie to go back to Tommy and leave him behind, but she’s reluctant. The episode cuts to a flashback of the events that happened before Ellie and Joel met, thus beginning the sweet, tragic backstory of our young protagonist.
Ellie is stuck in a FEDRA boarding school in Boston. Her best friend and roommate, Riley, ran away a few weeks back and Ellie has been grieving the loss. She gets into fights with classmates and even sends one girl to the infirmary to get 15 stitches. Everything changes when Riley suddenly returns and reveals she joined the Fireflies, the organization FEDRA is training students to fight and kill.
Ellie disapproves of her friend’s choices, but there isn’t anything she can say that will change Riley’s mind. However, as a sort of apology for leaving without saying goodbye, Riley asks Ellie to sneak out for a few hours and join her on a little adventure. Ellie reluctantly agrees.
The two sneak into an abandoned mall that was once used to hoard infected. Now it is filled with wonders and surprises beyond the youths’ wildest dreams. The girls connect like they haven’t been separated for weeks, and their chemistry is sweet and wholesome. Riley gives Ellie an array of gifts, from a photo booth and carousel ride to an arcade with Mortal Kombat and a brand new pun book.
All Good Things End
The evening comes to a halt when Riley reveals the Fireflies are sending her to the Atlanta base and this is her last night in Boston. Ellie is furious and runs away, fully intended on returning back to her dorm room. But she only gets so far before caving into her feelings and running back to Riley. They reunite in a Halloween store, where they wear goofy wolf and clown masks (replicas of the game’s masks) and dance to Etta James’ “I Got You Babe.” They share a kiss and the moment is so delicate.
Everything is perfect until it’s not.
An infected emerges into the store and attacks the girls. Riley shoots it and Ellie stabs it to death, but neither are unscathed. The clicker bit both of them. At the moment, any and all hope has been destroyed.
HBO’s “Left Behind” is the show’s truest adaptation of the video game thus far. The show cuts out the parts of the video game where Ellie roams through a mall and evades hunters as she searches for a first aid kit for Joel. Instead, The Last of Us focuses on Ellie’s history with her best friend and first love, Riley.
Just as Bella Ramsey is the perfect casting for Ellie, Storm Reid is perfect as Riley. The actors’ chemistry maintains the game’s charm; their portrayal of teenagers after an apocalyptic pandemic is pure and authentic. For the first time, Ellie and Riley can act like the kids they are, not the soldiers every adult is training them to be. It is endearing to see their relationship come to life.
Ellie’s backstory mirrors Joel’s in that it emphasizes their experiences of loss and grief. The pair have formed a connection they cannot lose. It is because of this that, at the end of “Left Behind,” Ellie goes against Joel’s wishes and stays with him to help him heal. She had to leave one friend behind before and she refuses to do it again.
“Left Behind” deserves five out of five Cthulhu. (5 / 5)
There are only just a few episodes left in The Last of Us. Episode 8 releases Sunday, March 5, where we should expect to meet the notorious cult leader, Dave. Until then, check out the other shows and games we’re loving here at HauntedMTL.