Miskatonic School For Girls
Publisher: Fun to 11
Release Date: March, 2012
I first came across Miskatonic School for Girls on Kickstarter, where I joined a little over eleven hundred people to back the game’s publication. I put in fifty bucks for the game and the four special Kickstarter only cards. The game was wildly successful, raising nearly $64,000 dollars. My copy arrived in March of 2012, but due to all the actual products sent to me for review, I just didn’t get a chance to monkey around with the game until now. After reading the rules and playing a few games of MS4G, I find that it’s an interesting deck building game where you balance improving your own deck with damaging your opponent’s. I love the satiric and comical twist on Lovecraft’s creations and the artwork is wonderful, but the game itself? Well, I’m not really a big fan of card games to begin with, but I had hoped this would be the exception to the rule due to my love of all things Cthulhu. While the game isn’t going to be one of my favorites, I still had fun with it. Although I’m on the fence towards whether I got my fifty dollars worth or not , let’s take a look at what all the game entails to see if YOU just might get yours (Actually, yours would only be $45 with free shopping if you purchase directly from Funto11.com).
Miskatonic School For Girls is a self contained card game for two to four players. Each player takes control of a “house” of young girls attending the illustrious Miskatonic School for Girls. Of course, this being Miskatonic, it should come as no surprise to anyone who recognizes the name that the school is run by horrible monsters straight out of the Cthulhu Mythos and their deranged cultists. Whoops. The goal is to keep your house as sane as long as you can while whittling down the sanity of your opponents. Once an opponent hits 0 sanity (you start at 20), they are out of the game. Last man standing wins. Pretty simple, eh?
Each player has their own game board in the shape of a paddle. On the paddle are six areas: Your sanity track, your “purchase” area, a spot for your deck, the “Classroom,” a Discard Pile and your locker. Each player’s deck starts with nine cards. This deck consists of two cards for each of the four starter students and one for the House Leader. This pile of cards is shuffled as best you can and placed face down on the deck section of your paddle. After that, you shuffle the Student and Faculty decks (although there are some cards you’ll remove for a two player game), and then you reveal the top three cards of each. Finally, you place the Substitute Teacher and Transfer Students decks in the middle of the table. There’s no need to shuffle these as they are all the same. Setup is extremely easy and takes less than five minutes. There’s a lot of shuffling, but that’s about it.
The cards themselves sport great artwork, but they are exceptionally busy with a lot of stuff on them. They might seem confusing at first, but it’s similar to Magic: The Gathering. In the upper right hand part of the card, there are both a heart and a Cthulhu face. Each has a number in there. The number in the heart represents how many friendship points the cards are worth and the number in the Cthulhu head represents the card’s nightmare points. You may use one or the other to purchase the face up cards drawn from the Faculty or Student decks. So with say, Henrietta Akeley (a year 3 Student), you get 0 friendship points and 3 Nightmare points to spend on other cards. In the middle right of a Student card, there will be a mallet and a shield, both with numbers in them. The mallet is the “Girl Power” strength of the card and the shield is their resolve. Think of it as attack and health respectively. A Faculty card will have an apple and a paddle. The apple is the Faculty member’s health and the paddle the Sanity Damage they do. So the Terrible Old Bus Driver has a 2 in his Apple and a 3 on his paddle. That means he does 3 Sanity damage and has 2 Hit Points. Finally, the number on the bottom right of the card is the cost to purchase said piece and add it to your deck (Student) or your opponent’s (Faculty).
An interesting thing about combat is that attackers don’t deal damage simultaneously. The human children always go before the monsters. Weird, but that’s how the rules go.
So let’s do an example of how play goes. All the decks are shuffled. The first move player one has to make is to draw cards from the Purchase pile on his board. As this is the very first round of the game, there is nothing there to add. Now player one draws five cards, which will consist solely of the starter students. He drew 1 Keziah Mason, 2 Wanda Gilmans and 2 Alberta Wilmarths. The store is already stocked with three upright cards for both the Faculty and Students, so he doesn’t have to do anything there either. Now it’s time to purchase available cards to add to his or his opponent’s deck. Looking at the five cards, it appears we have 2 Nightmare points and 6 Friendship points. Player one will spend all six friendship points on Edwina Derby for my deck. She costs 6 Friendship points and player one places her in his purchase pile. He only has 2 Nightmare points and all of the the faculty that he can purchase are either 5 or 7 points. Because he can’t afford a Faculty, he gets a free Substitute Teacher and places that in his opponent’s purchase pile. Now player one looks at their hand. They must put all student cards in the discard pile and all Faculty cards in the classroom. As this is the first turn in the first round, player one has no Faculty cards, and thus puts his entire hand in the discard pile. As there is no class activity for him to do, player one’s turn ends and we go to player two.
Player two does have something in her purchase pile thanks to the substitute card, so she draws that and four cards from the starting deck. She also adds a new card to the Student pool from the Student deck (as one was purchased by player one on his turn). As there are three Faculty cards already out, the oldest gets discarded and a new one is put in its place. Player two has 4 Friendship Points and 4 Nightmare points that she can use. She uses her Friendship points to add Antonia Wilcox to her deck. Antonia has no Girl Power or Resolve, but she does give Player two 4 Nightmare points whenever she is pulled (meaning next turn, which lets her get a big nasty Faculty member). She then uses her 4 Nightmare points to purchase Elle Hazred (the new Faculty card that came up and places her in Player 1’s purchase pile. While Elle only costs 3 Nightmare points, each player has to spend their full amount of Friendship and/or Nightmare points on his or her turn. You only get one of each card. Now it’s the discard phase. All four of Player 2’s student cards go in the Discard pile, but the one Faculty card goes in the classroom.
As Player 2 had a Faculty member, it means class is in session and Player 2’s House must do battle with the faculty member to keep their sanity. Each time there is class, a player gets to draw 1 card from his or her deck to do battle against the Mythos spawn. If it’s a student, this is known as a BFF. If a faculty member is drawn (It won’t happen until much later in the game), it’s known as a “Pet Teacher.” The pet teacher doesn’t help prevent sanity loss or attack the faculty member who is doing harm to you, but after combat, you get to put that Faculty member is someone else’s discard pile – forcing them to eventually deal with them down the road. Player 2 draws her card and it’s a student as no Faculty have been shuffled into her deck yet. She draws Alberta Wilmarth who has a 2 in Girl Power but 0 resolve. Luckily for Player 2, Students always go first and Alberta’s 2 GP is strong enough to take out the substitute’s single Hit Point. This means no sanity is lost by Player 2! Hurrah! Now both cards go into the discard pile and Player’s 2’s first round is over. Let’s do one last round to see what happens.
Player 1 has two cards in his Purchase pile. One is Edwina Derby who was purchased by him in his first round. The other is Faculty member Elle Hazred who was purchased by Player 2 for him. As each player must have five cards to start the round, Player 1 draws three more cards from his deck. All are students, and he has only one card in his deck left, so in Round 3, Player one will be drawing that and then reshuffling the discard pile and starting the deck over. All cards purchased for the deck are in there and so the deck grows with new allies and new horrors. Player 1 flips over a new student and a new faculty card to bring both purchase areas up to three cards each. Unfortunately Player 1’s hand isn’t very good. He has a max of 5 Nightmare Points and 5 Friendship Points but most of the cards have both Friendship and Nightmare points so he has to pick one or the other. He decides to go all out and use all five cards as Nightmare points and purchases The Terrible Old Bus Driver for Player 2. This leaves him with 0 Friendship points and so he has to take a Transfer Student as his Student purchase this round. Now it’s class time and player 1 has to deal with Elle Hazred. He discards all of his hand except for Elle and as he only has a single card left in his deck, he flips it over. Unfortunately for Player 1, it’s Natalie Peaslee who only has a single point of Girl Power. As Elle has 2 Hit Points, Natalie fails horribly and it’s time to see how much sanity Player 1 loses. Elle has a damage of 2, but Natalie has a Resolve of 1. This means Player 1 only takes a single point of sanity damage. Alas, it still means the downward spiral to crazy town has begun. With no cards left in the deck, Player 1 reshuffles his discard pile and places them in the deck spot knowing full well Elle is in there somewhere to strike again.
Round 2 for Player 2. She takes The Terrible Old Bus Driver and Atonia Wilcox from her purchase pile and draws three more cards to fill her hand up. She flips over a new Faculty card. The she removes the oldest Student card and flips over a new one. What’s this? Instead of a Student, a Locker card is pulled. A Locker card is a permanent power-up for a player. In this case, the Locker card is called “Overdue Book” and every time the player that has it defeats a Faculty member, EVERY OTHER opponent loses a point of Sanity. This is too good to pass up, So Player 2 purchases it for 4 Friendship points. This puts Player 1 in even more trouble. Player 2 still has 5 Nightmare points she can spend and she decides to purchase another Elle Hazred (which is the new card that came up) since player 1 had such trouble with her last round. This ends her purchase phase and now it is time for class. The Terrible Old Bus Driver has 2 Hit Points and does 3 Sanity damage. If Player 2 can beat it, Player 1 takes a point of sanity loss due to that Locker card she purchased earlier this round. Of course Player 2 only has one card left. She turns it over and…oy. Natalie Peaslee again. This means Player 2 is going to take 2 sanity damage (see Nat’s stats in the previous paragraph), dropping her to 18. Even worse, The Bus Driver has a “Survive” ability. Survive powers only come into play in the Faculty member well..survives. It reads, “Put the Student Card you purchased this Turn into your Discard Pile.” As that was the Locker card, Player 2 lucks out as Locker cards may be in the Student deck, but they count as Event cards. So no additional punishment stands. As Player 2 is out of cards, she reshuffles, with two faculty members lurking within her deck…
At the end of two rounds both players have taken Sanity damage. Player 2 might be down more, but she does have that Locker card to help her out. Who will win? It could go either way, but in the end, none of these young girls are going to have a happy ending.
As you can see from just these two rounds of play, Miskatonic School For Girls is both a simple and yet complex game to play through. Once you learn how the cards read, the game flies by pretty quickly, with a full game playing out in a half hour or less for two players – longer for three or four. There’s a decent amount of strategy to the game, but like any card game, there is also a great deal of luck involved as well. Player One almost always seems to have an advantage at the start of the game, but that can be overcome based on what cards are drawn and how the decks are built. I also like that the game is self-contained. Too many board games as of late have been milking the “expansion pack” idea and it’s nice to see that Miskatonic School For Girls won’t be headed down the route. The game reminds me a lot of a cross between the classic card game War and Magic: The Gathering, which should make it appealing to a large group of people.
Perhaps the hardest hurdle the game will have is convincing the average Joe to pony up forty-five dollars for a “card game.” The game has a decent amount of strategy, but nothing so deep you’ll be plotting your next move for more than a few seconds. It’s got enough of a thinking element to engage your brain, but is light and fluffy enough that children can play it with no problem. Miskatonic School for Girls isn’t for everyone, but it’s a nice lighthearted satire on Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu RPG. If you’re going in expecting a extremely strategic deck building game like Ascension or Dominion, you’re going to be disappointed. If you’re looking for something more akin to Munchkin or just something comedic, this will probably be a good bet for you.
You can learn moiré about Miskatonic School for Girls by visiting the official web site of Fun to 11. They’re you can watch a video on how to play the game, download some artwork or the rules manual, and even purchase the game complete with free shipping.