A maze of corn has been set up for the local citizens to wander through. You decide to take the tour. You round a corner and come to a dead end with a scarecrow holding a sign that says Turn Back. You try to go back, but the way has closed off. Confused, you turn to see that same scarecrow holding a sign that says Too Late!
Slaughterville II is a complete standalone expansion to the original game. It's a co-op horror board game where you and up to 5 other players work together by exploring the most haunted town in America to find clues, weapons, and allies to help in the fight against the nightmares that plague the town. The original game won several small awards including Best in Expo and Best Tabletop Game at 2015's Let's Play PA, and has had several reprintings and revisions over the years.
Set-up is simple. Every player chooses a character card that embodies a horror movie stock character, The Jock, The Nerd, The Final Girl, etc., and six locations to explore. Each location's respective deck is then shuffled and put into play. Then, a Villain is chosen, each one with their own unique deck and special Win/Lose conditions, which becomes the main antagonist for the game.
Players then take turns going to different locations and explore them by revealing encounter cards from their respective decks. Most of these encounters involve skill checks where the player must roll dice based on their respective stats to determine whether or not they survive their scrape with evil, and will either gain Clues which can be used for abilities or as currency for other items, weapons to increase their survivability, or allies to help them out.
This is to prepare the group for their final encounter with the Villain, who attempts to stop the players at every turn, their actions determined by revealing cards from their respective deck. They are defeated either by having their particular plan thwarted by players or if their deck, which doubles as their health pool, is completely depleted.
On the surface, Slaughterville is no different from similar co-op board games on the market. While Slaughterville does borrow elements from games like Touch of Evil, Betrayal at House on the Hill, or Elder Sign, it also introduces two major elements that make it stand out. The first is how compact it is. Including expansions, the more focused experiences mentioned can spread themselves out across a very large table and can be very difficult to accommodate for, compared to this game just being a matter of eight boards, several decks of cards, and a few tokens, it can be played in just about any casual home environment.
Furthermore, the versatility of the game's numerous Villains leads to a much longer shelf life than one would expect. The Zombie Hoard Villain turns the entire game into a case of tower defense and resource management, with the hoard being able to discard multiple cards from the six locations, with the Villain winning if any of the decks are completely discarded. The Serial Killer has a ticking clock mechanic where if they are not defeated in a set number of turns, they win. There's even a social deduction mode with the villain of Jack The Ripper possessing different players throughout the game, leading to stretches of paranoia and shifting alliances. Each playable location also includes a special mechanic where players can either earn additional turns, get bonuses based on random die rolls, or even have allies turn on them at the wrong time. Despite this game having very little specificity, it's replay value and creative potential is astonishing.
Slaughterville II builds even more content on top of this adaptable foundation. While the original game had Villains and locations closely tied to slasher movies of the 1980s with monsters like The Slasher, Dream Demon, and Cannibal Rednecks, this follow-up has become more, pardon the pun, Universal. The five new Villains will include the immortal Dracula seeking his next meal, the mad scientist Victor Frankenstein trying to assemble the modern Prometheus from the body of his tragically deceased wife, and the cosmic horror that comes with the dreaded Cult of Cthulhu.
Several quality of life and mechanical tweaks will be introduced as well. First and foremost, the text on the cards and mats have been given a major visibility update, as the original printings managed to ape the appearance of yellow, dried out paper a little too well, and will be sporting a more universal symbol system to keep track of resources.
Slaughterville II will also be a more aggressive, fast-paced affair. Originally, if a player's character is killed, that player was effectively retired from the game, and because of this finality, a lot of the more aggressive Villains played more passively than one would think, making them feel less like an immediate threat in some playthroughs. Now, if a character is killed, their resources are left behind and the player simply chooses another character to play as, but the Villain now automatically wins if a set number of characters are killed.
The changes were practically night and day in the preview build I played. While an entire game could go north of an hour before a character was killed in the original release, I had two characters go irreversibly mad against the Cult of Cthulhu within four turns. It was sadistic, but it also leads to a fun watercooler moment where I could laugh at how my private investigator went to the wrong part of the library and got his personal beliefs in the universe utterly destroyed by the appearance of a shoggoth. After all, half of the fun of a horror experience is seeing how certain heroes get taken out.
As it is still seeking funding on Kickstarter, Slaughterville II does have other features and ideas in the pipeline as well as stretch goals and bonuses. In addition to backers getting a complete edition of the original game, bonuses include the Demonraiser Villain, a full-on competitive mode where players will have to make deadly deals with demons in order to escape from Hell, the virgin's bloodbathing Elizabeth Bathory, and a brand new Weather Deck system. But even if these extras don't become available, Slaughterville II is shaping up to be a great addition to an already great horror co-op experience, one that you should check out before its campaign concludes mid July.