So next month my family is taking a trip out to the-middle-of-nowhere-Ohio to enjoy a little peace and quiet in a nice cabin. We booked the cabin considering essentially one main factor: it’s far away from people, places, and things. This is excellent for de-stressing, but it also means we’ll have to provide our own entertainment. We have a good few board games to take with us, but I like to think of myself as the adventurous one of our little outfit, and I wanted to try something a little different.
I could have just googled “good tabletop rpg to play with the family,” but I like to do things the hard way. You remember that itch.io bundle I bought a while back? It includes a ton of card games, rpgs, and story-telling games, and I’ve been itching to try them. You see where I’m going with this. Unfortunately, there is no way to sort through the bundle except by title, and there are 59 pages of games.
So I’ve spent the past few days sorting through them to find an interesting game to play with my sister and parents. My initial sorting process involved a check for four things:
- Playable by four people.
- Short and simple. Relatively. The last thing I want is to have to explain twenty pages of rules. It also needs be able to be played through in a single night, preferably under 2-3 hours.
- Kinda spooky. My whole family is into horror, and we’re going to be in a cabin in the woods. Something a little creepy would be right up our alley.
- I also went ahead and passed over any that promised to get you in touch with deeper emotions or be some sort of profound experience. Sounds fun and all, but that is exactly the opposite of what I’d like to do on our vacation.
Using these four criteria, I narrowed it down to five options to download and take a closer look at.
Haunted Memories: This GM-less game places the players as childhood friends who have met up again after a long time, and it has some serious IT vibes. It sounds like it could be a pretty intense experience depending on how you play it, though. Besides, you have to have a Jenga Tower, and I don’t really feel like buying one.
Satan, Pay My Rent!: This game looks like it could be really fucking funny. Someone GMs as the landlord while players try to earn enough money for rent. Evil actions get you a bonus, but lose you some of your Soul. I am tempted as hell to try to run this, but I don’t think any game with the words “capitalist hellscape” in the description is going to fly with my father at the table.
Crazy Cultists: This card game has the right semi-creepy vibe, and it’s fast-paced with simple rules. Be the first player to collect all the candles you need for your pentagram and summon your dark lord, while using Hijinxs cards to set the other players back. Unfortunately, it has 14 pages of cards and materials to print out, and I’m not made of printer ink.
What Is Here?: This game was a really close second to the one I picked. It’s a myth-building game where each player draws a card and answers its question, and through several rounds of this you create a creature. It has the potential to be whimsical or terrifying, and I think the four of us horror lovers could come up with something to leave us looking over our shoulders around the campfire. However, I’m looking for a game with just a little more structure.
Into the Flames: I almost didn’t consider this one. I was looking for something simple, and the PDF is 38 pages long. I kept it in the running solely for the fact that it is designed to be played around a fire, and that is perfect for a family game night in a cabin in the woods.
Into the Flames is a storytelling game that, while best with 6-10 players, can be played by four or more. It’s GM-less, though one player does take on the role of the spirit and has some control over the flow of the story. Acting as travelers sat around the fire, the players build the world they’re in and the road they’re on. The spirit stands behind them, whispering doubts and suggestions in their ears and deciding whose offering is worthy… and who won’t make it to the next day.
Not gonna lie, I’m positively itching to play the spirit.
Everyone has a bit of a storyteller in them, and I hope that with the right atmosphere and a bit of prompting, this game will add something fun and a little scary to our campfire.
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