Vampires. Can’t live with them, can’t be undead without them. Even vampire clans can’t seem to get along, so what’s a clan leader supposed to do? I guess grow their vampire crypt in hopes of overcoming their rival vampire clans…

Welcome to Vampires and Villagers: The Curse of Christoph, the game in which players attempt to have the strongest vampire clan at the end of the game by growing their crypts of undead. You must time yourself appropriately and attack your opponent when ready to claim victory over the village of mere mortals, and your opposing vampire frenemies. 

The theme is entertaining and it’s fun to play the villain.
There is a lot going on. Almost too much.
The pieces are of ace quality. Very sturdy.
The box is a little flimsy but can hold its own. I wish for an insert though.

About the Game

Players are attempting to be the clan at the end of the game with the strongest crypt. Crypts are your individual playing fields. Each vampire in the crypt has a power level on it. As long as certain requirements are met, the vampire in your crypt will score points equal to its level at the end of the game.

The game is made of four rounds, and begins with four villagers in the town square. Villagers come and go throughout the game due to actions taken, but when at the end of a player’s turn there are no villagers in the square, the round ends.

A player’s turn is done in phases. First, a player simply draws a card from the deck. Villagers drawn are added to the village immediately, otherwise the player keeps her card and adds it to her hand. Some of the cards she may draw are hunters, thralls, or vampires. Hunters and thralls help with attacking and may have special abilities. Vampires may have special abilities, and are mostly kept hidden or in hand to prevent opponents from successfully attacking them before they may be scored. Vampires can die too, y’know…

Second, the active player may play a card from her hand, or take a special villager from the village (if available) with an ability called Leadership. These special Leadership villagers are able to attack crypts while the rest of the villagers cannot. If the latter action is chosen, the Leadership villager is not kept in hand, but is instead placed directly into combat against a card in an opponent’s crypt. However, combat does not happen yet because the damage and defense power levels may yet change. If the former action is chosen, the player can play the card face-up into her crypt, an opponent’s crypt, or face-down into her crypt. If a card is played face-down, the player may place what are known as Stealth tokens onto the face-down card.

Players begin the game with nine Stealth tokens which can be used a multitude of ways. Mostly they are expended to kill villagers. Giant Bat Tokens may be earned when certain amounts and types of villagers are killed, and they count for end-game points. They may also be used to shuffle or look at cards from the two decks known as event decks, which modify the game once in a while. Stealth tokens must be on a card to be used, but are typically one-use only, so it is imperative that players judge whether they would like to use their Stealth tokens now, or later.

In the third phase, the active player uses skills from face up cards if she wishes, as well as performing attacks on villagers. In the fourth phase the active player may use those previously mentioned Stealth tokens appropriately.

Once the active player has finished the fourth phase, the fifth phase begins, which is resolving combat. If the active player attacked a card in an opponent’s crypt, the opponent may attempt to boost her defense. After the opponent chooses her defending actions, the final power levels are resolved. Attacking cards get their power level added to the power levels of the villagers, as though the villagers were helping with the attack. If the active player wins the combat, depending on what card she attacked, the card would either be discarded, or would turn into a Mist Form. Vampires defeated and turned into Mist Form receive a Mist Token, which has a secret number on the opposite side. This number will reduce the vampire’s strength, and at the end of the player who control’s the vampires turn, the vampire is forced to attack the village. If the villagers defeat the vampire in Mist Form, it DIES FOREVER.

Once combat has finally, totally resolved, the active player resolves the forced combat from any of her vampires if they are in Mist Form in the sixth phase. Finally, the active player checks the village square. If it is empty, the round ends. The active player earns a Bat Token and she draws an event card. If the square is not empty, she ends her turn. After four rounds, the game ends, and player with the highest value crypt wins the game.

Final Thoughts

Mechanics

Draw a card, play a card is something most gamers are familiar with. The game is mostly focused on that. Players are given a lot of options for actions, and I feel like it’s a little too much. The game is meant to be a filler game, 30-45 minutes. It takes a good while to figure out a strategy, and quite frequently players would forget some of the options they have, which can be frustrating when you miss out on a great play. A lot of triggers occur when crypt attacks happen, and like I mentioned, you can often forget about a triggered event. Speaking of events, there is no need for two event decks. I also feel like there is no need for an event deck at all, in fact. Why have even more actions occur then what is already required? You rarely draw an Event card, so I just didn’t see their need.

Rules

The rulebook is thirteen pages long, and the game also comes with player aids, which are normal pieces of paper printed on both sides and then folded accordion-style. The rulebook language was understandable, but because so much is happening and so many options are present, you are consistently flipping through the rules to make sure you’re playing the right way. The player aid is definitely needed, but the fact that a double-sided full piece of paper is needed as a player aid is representative of a game that has too much going on, especially for a thirty minute game.

Art

The art is cartoony, and uses a bunch of color. The color is fine, but the art seems a little…loose? I’m not sure how to explain it because I am not an artist, but the art just doesn’t feel symmetrical. Like it was worked on with haste. I could be misinterpreting the art style, and it’s not that the art was poor, but it was not to my liking. Some of the icons for the cards that indicate special abilities or actions were difficult to see. You had to look really closely to see what exactly the icon indicated.

I didn’t like the graphic design of the card, because there were both icons and written text on both the top and bottom of the cards. There was no order to the location of the icons, or why some cards had their identification as an icon and some as written word. For example some villagers had the “village” icon in the top right, some in the bottom left. Thralls have both an icon, and the written word “thrall” on them. The icons for Thralls and Hunters are similar also, so if you’re looking through your hand quickly, you might mix the two up. It just all around was a little confusing to follow, and could use some organizing.

Is It Fun?

Not yet. If you were really into the game, and you and your friends played it often enough to memorize all the options and actions and icons and whatnot, sure, it would be fun. The theme is great, and the concept is fun. It was just too much for the size and length of time this game took to learn and set up. There are a few recommendations I would make to improve on this game and make it have greater replay value. First I would suggest re-evaluating all the actions. There are just too many. It’s difficult enough to decide what to do when you can choose to attack one way or another, choose to play a card a few different ways, choose to expend your Stealth tokens a number of ways, and all that is a lot to follow. Eliminating the wording on the cards and using strictly icons, and having those icons remain uniform throughout with regards to the location on the cards would both really help this game. I don’t think the Event decks are necessary so I would re-evaluate those as well.

I also can’t help but wonder why the game has the subtitle Curse of Christoph. It doesn’t apply to the background story given to you in the rulebook, and there is only one card in the game called Count Christoph, who isn’t even the strongest vampire! I think it’s a little unnecessary. The game is on its way to being a great game, it just has some tweaking to do, in my opinion.

For more information about Vampires and Villagers: The Curse of Christoph, visit its page on BoardGameGeek.com.

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