Grind House by Everything Epic is a horror adventure/escape room board game. 2 to 6 players work their way through a series of rooms, meeting challenges, and trying to be the least injured player to survive the house in order to take the 10 million dollar prize.
I'm a huge fan of massively complex games, that come in huge boxes with loads of components. But I'm also a fan of simplistic games, with limited rules and a small amount of essential thematic components. These latter games tend to be more powerful if they're good, as they show you with limited components, and their firm grasp of theme, what a great tabletop game can be. Grind House is one of those games.
In Grind House, 2 to 6 players take on the roles of characters, mysteriously invited to a house, which if they stay in for 12 hours, they can win 10 million dollars. What that means for the players, is that they must work through a series of 4 rooms and a final room to make it out the other side. Each room is a challenge, and they are a mix of voting, option choosing, and dice rolling.
Each player has a player board, which is simply a way of tracking wounds thematically on your character. Each character has 6 double-sided tokens, 2 arms, 2 legs, torso, and head. Each token represents a wound, then a loss of a limb for the second wound taken on the same area. Single wounds can be healed, but limb loss is permanent, and if you need to take a wound to a limb, and you've already lost it, you take a wound to the torso or head. The loss of the torso or head after taking 2 wounds is fatal and means that your character becomes a ghost. But not all is lost, and it's still possible to win as a ghost.
At the start of the game, each character also gets a persona card, which adds a unique element to the game, either with a special ability, or bonus points at the end. Persona cards also have your ghost ability, which always ties into the type of persona you had in life. These are all very thematic and well designed, adding an interesting element to the game which changes each time you play.
There are 54 room and 17 final room cards in the base game, which means that even if you never shuffled in cards used before, you could get 13 games out of the base set. There is also a free Krampus expansion included with the base game, that has an additional 12 rooms and 6 final room cards. Combined with the different personality cards, which do have an impact on the game, it gives a lot of replayability out of a very small component count.
A separate expansion, Cthulhu/Carnival, adds in more rooms, persona, and items cards, along with new mechanics, Insanity, and Tickets. Each expansion can be played using only the rooms/final rooms for the expansion, or they can all be shuffled in to make a truly random experience.
Player elimination is handled very well, and players can still get points as ghosts. Some ghosts are even better able to win than before they died, and they nearly all have a unique effect that still has an in-game impact. The player count for Grind House states 2 to 6, and while you can play with 2, it's not a great experience as the voting is very obvious, more players here is almost always better.
I've avoided detailing any specific rooms or details, to keep the review spoiler-free, but it's worth mentioning that Grind House is extremely luck-based. There is some skill and subterfuge required in the choices and voting, but generally, you'll win or lose based on a series of random factors. This isn't a bad thing, and Grind House is a lot of fun, playing into your persona and trying to screw over your friends while surviving yourself. If you're part of a group that takes things very personally, there is a fair amount of voting and player choosing in Grind House that probably isn't best suited to players who take things with them away from the table.
The Bottom Line
Grind House is a straight-forward game with limited rules, a small number of thematic components, and a huge grasp of theme and enjoyment. It includes player elimination, but it's done very well that still keeps players involved, to the point where it's not really player elimination at all. The core set has a solid amount of replayability, which is hugely increased with the purchase of the expansion pack. Players who take games personally should be aware that this includes tactical voting that can't be avoided. If you like escape room-style tabletop games and can get behind the persona cards, you will have a blast with Grind House.
Get This Game If:
- You like escape room-style games.
- You want a huge amount of varied replayability.
- You can get behind the persona cards and enjoy getting into the theme.
Avoid This Game If:
- You or your playgroup take things personally away from the table.
- You want a game you can win purely based on skill.
The copy of the Grind House used to produce this review was provided by Asmodee UK.