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 final girl core box, along with the Carnage at the Carnival, Slaughter at the Groves, The Haunting of Creech Manor, and Frightmare on Maple Lane feature film boxes.
The core box, along with the Carnage at the Carnival, Slaughter at the Groves, The Haunting of Creech Manor, and Frightmare on Maple Lane feature film boxes. I wanted to line them up straight but the magnets said no.

Components

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 inside of the core box, minus rule book and player board.
The inside of the core box, minus rule book and player board.

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.

Comparing the inserts of a random killer (Dr. Fright) and a random location (Creech Manor) box. Both box's components take up much less space than is given.
A killer box and a location box

Gameplay

Set up for a game against Dr. Fright in Creech Manor.
Set up for a game against Dr. Fright in Creech Manor

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.

Thoughts

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.

Verdict

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 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)