The Horror of Crypticon – Board Game Inspiration

Chris RowlandsGame Design Comments

The synthetic smell of stage blood permeated the fang filled halls of the convention. Smiling rotted corpses shambled with excitement from booth to booth, meeting their favorite artists and actors. Oh Crypticon, how I adore you. Here in the greater Seattle area, Crypticon is a yearly convention that features various celebrities and artists from the horror genre. It has everything a horror convention needs; panels, make-up tutorials, and a horde of like-minded fans. But my favorite part of going to conventions, especially Horror centric ones, are the amazing costumes. Wandering the halls was like wandering through a gauntlet of my childhood nightmares, reliving the characters that I once feared as kid but now revere as an adult. This was the seed for this week’s board game inspiration, and it is one dear to my heart.

Some of my favorite cosplay includes the typical Freddy, Jason, and Leatherface variants, but every now and then you get a special B-side costume, a costume for the fans. One in particular caught my eye this year and it was really well done, the Jackal from Thirteen Ghosts. This costume made me think about all of the forgotten monsters, ghosts, and demons whose bit parts were never celebrated the same way as the popular characters. I felt inspired to theme a board game surrounding these lesser known terrors and play out their daunting rise to infamy. How will these creatures become prominent within the monster pantheon and be imitated and worshipped by their human followers? This is what I want this game to be about and by the power of the Lament Configuration, I shall name it… *cough* …I don’t know yet, but it’ll come to me.

If I had a choice, I would use all of the ignored and overlooked creatures from my favorite horror movies. The alien from Xtro, Rosemary from Demons, the zombie baby from Dead Alive, or even the Ghoulies. There are literally hundreds to choose from, but I decided to invent my own instead. To stay in theme I want this to be a horror game and every good horror game needs an element of fear. That is why I decided against the players playing as the monsters, the fear aspect could possibly get lost if you are the ones trying to cause it. So instead, I want the players to play as humans searching for the next monster to show their devotion too. But worshiping this monster can be detrimental to your health, as you may be its next victim.

Deciding on a fear inducing mechanic became troublesome at first. Do I want to shock the players with increasing pressure akin to Pandemic? Or, do I want to create tension through dexterity tests similar to the story game, Dread? If I had a huge budget and a copious amount of time, I would totally recreate the old VHS style games like Atmosfear, and scare you through visuals and cheesy acting. But, in the end I have decided to go with a controversial form of hidden information, so scary I shake just writing it… the dreaded random deck of upside down cards! *gasp* I know, this isn’t really blood curdling and nowhere near inventive, but with cards there are infinite possibilities to be had at your bladed fingertips. To the paper cutter!

After shuffling some freshly made blank cards… or more accurately, cut up pieces of paper… I have decided to add a press-your-luck mechanic to the game. Press-your-luck mechanics can add a great deal of tension, and with the right amount of risk/reward I think it will act as the fear factor I have been looking for. Do you flip the next card to bring you to glory or will ultimately end your life? …scary, I know. Ok, now that I have my main working mechanic, I am ready to put some icons on the cards, raid the bits box, and write up rules for some forgotten horrors. WAIT! For it shall be named… Forgotten Horrors. Oh man, I knew the Lament Configuration wouldn’t let me down. After a few goldfish playtests, I think I may have a first draft prototype to bring to the group play test.

Do you have a favorite horror book, movie, or TV show that inspires you to design a board game after it? Maybe a costume or a convention? Are you interested in seeing this game come to fruition? Please let me know in the comments section and have an inspirational day!