Years ago, I reviewed the original Slaughterville after discovering it at a convention. It was an ambitious game, an attempt at a more streamlined and accessible board game experience with a focus on modularity. Something that emulated the atmosphere and tension of more dedicated titles like Touch of Evil or Arkham Horror, but with less set up and more tongue-in-cheek grindhouse presentation. But rules and standards do change over time, and a game of this nature thrives on continuous updates and additional content. Hence the release of Slaughterville 2, a standalone expansion designed by Christopher Brown and published by Laughing Rogue Games.
Slaughterville 2 is a co-op, card and dice-based horror game. You and up to six players pick a character to play as, all based around horror and urban fantasy stereotypes. You and your allies take turns exploring one of six locations, represented by decks of cards, and slowly collect weapons, tools, and clues, all to help defeat a villain that is terrorizing the town. By the game's nature, whatever villain that is in play has their very own unique rules and specific win/lose conditions. If any of these conditions are met or if the villain's deck (which doubles as their health) is completely depleted, the players win. But if a set number of characters die or a different set of conditions are met, the villain wins.
Slaughterville 2 can be played standalone completely out of the box. Alternatively it can be played with locations, characters, and villains from the first game as an expansion that erratas the rules in a number of areas.
The first big thing that sticks out with this sequel is in its board and card designs. The color palette on villain boards has shifted from a more washed out gray to a vibrant – but still fittingly ghoulish – yellow. Combined with larger text and line breaks makes it much easier to parse out information and ensure that each villain's unique mechanics and systems are affected properly. This same focus on more compact and succint language and format extends to the character cards and location decks as well. This is a major improvement since readability was one of the biggest issues plaguing the original game. Furthermore, there's a more unified form of shorthand, using symbols to summarize things like different enemy types or providing a cheatsheet for what certain allies or equipment does without pouring over the text every time. These are small but invaluable quality of life improvements that make each game that much smoother.
As for the new villains themselves, they lean heavily on more classical monster archetypes while still pushing the versatility of Slaughterville 2's core. Doctor Frankenstein turns the game into a race against the clock as he assembles his machine and acquires fresh parts to make his creature. You win by either stopping him before the ritual is fully complete, or by defeating the monster. Dracula introduces a day and night cycle which changes his stats as well as a grab bag of additional rules like brainwashing players and holy weapons. The Cult of Cthuhlu introduces a sanity system that taxes character's nerves and perception. The closest thing to contemporary villains are the Ancient Burial Ground which focuses more on turning locations hostile and abducting players, and the Demonraiser, who turns the entire game into a competitive scramble from a hellscape with the aid of a certain puzzle box.
As for rule changes, they're mostly here to speed up and streamline things. Games with fewer players have more actions. Ally cards are more versatile and can even be equipped with weapons. But the biggest change is a shift from player death to character death. Originally if your character was killed, you just had to wait until the game was over. This could be frustrating if it happens within the first couple of turns and infuriating if it's against a villain that plays the long game. Now, the slain character is placed next to the villain's board, all items and clues are removed, and the player picks a new character and continues.
This is a fantastic change since it keeps players engaged, makes for great watercooler moments – hey remember when the bitter skeptic character went mad from seeing the shoggoth – and allows the monster encounters to be much more lethal. Enemies and villains can easily escalate into having upwards of ten dice for combat, which is daunting considering the average attack dice for starting characters is two to three. There's even an Insanity Mode if you really want to test your group's limits.
Despite all of these changes and additions, this is still in service to Slaughterville's core, and this sequel expansion delivers more of it. Each location is packed with references and shoutouts to horror and nerd culture alike, I didn't expect the works of John Carpenter, Steven King, and Kevin Smith to work so well together for example. The mix of photoshopped character cards and expressionist oil painting artstyles give the whole game an atmosphere of campy fun, one that can pivot into laughter or shock at any moment. If you have ever watched direct-to-video schlock with some good friends and heady drinks on hand, it is the kind kind of environment this game strives in. The greatest indicator of this is the Weather Deck, an optional feature which allows players to add ongoing weather effects to the town. This deck includes cards titled Shark Tornado, Zombie Flood, and Ratvalanche respectively. Yes, really.
However, if you were expecting more complexity in the smaller moments in Slaughterville 2, you may be left wanting. For all of the praise I have given to how this game and sequel have managed to include so many different modes of play, that very modular structure relies on a foundation that can be seen as too reductive or too simplistic. Every single challenge is resolved with six-sided dice rolls, fives and sixes are deemed successes, with certain weapons and gear allowing for additional dice or the ability to re-roll certain results. Aside from light inventory management and whatever special rules are in play, these mostly luck-based rolls can be seen as tedious or repetitive depending on whoever's playing.
Personally, I think there's enough variety to be found in item effects and ally abilities as well as character talents that help mitigate this. But, there can still be moments that slam the game's momentum to a crawl like both player and creature rolling to a draw six times in a row, or a game escalating too quickly with a player feeling underpowered and low on resources. These are problems with no easy solutions since these are intentional design decisions, this is still a horror game after all, but it is something to keep in mind if you are adverse to games that rely heavily on luck and chance.
The Bottom Line
If you enjoyed the original Slaughterville and wanted more of it, this expansion gives you just that. If you had problems with some of the original's design, there are some welcome improvements on display. If you haven't played before and are looking for a horror game for parties, this is a great place to start.
Get This Game If:
* You Enjoy Campy Horror
* Love Diversity and Replayability
Don't Get This Game If:
* You Don't like Rolling Dice
* Want A More Elaborate Experience
The copy of Slaughterville 2 used for this review was purchased by the author.