A game by Mike Suchcicki
Published by Ghoulash Games
Players: 2
Time: 20 minutes
Reviewed by Susan Rozmiarek

I was a little reluctant to accept a review copy of this game because it didn't really look like something I'd enjoy. When a cheap-looking magazine with cheesy art arrived in the mail proclaiming to be the game, I was really wishing I'd gone with my initial instinct. This appeared to be a far cry from the flashy looking strategy games that I prefer. I was obligated to give it a chance though, and was surprised to find a simple and amusing game/activity lurking (bad pun - couldn't resist) under the cover.

Ghoulash is basically a simple pencil-and-paper dungeon crawl type of game. Players are exploring a city area and trying to complete a scenario-specific goal. As they do so, they will have to deal with ghouls and various obstacles placed by their opponent.

Ghoulash resembles the typical, inexpensive crossword and Sudoku booklets found on magazine stands everywhere. It is full-sized and has newspaper quality pages between a sturdier cover. The art is pretty amateurish and cheesy but it does fit the theme. The plus side of the component quality is that its retail price is only $6.95. This particular booklet contains enough material for four games of each of three different scenarios. The pages are meant to be written on and discarded. I made copies of mine so as to leave the booklet intact. The basic rules take up a single page and are easy to understand.

Game play:
The game is very simple. Players each take a scenario sheet and a pen or pencil. Each sheet has two identical gridded maps of a city area showing buildings and streets. One map will be the city that the player will be exploring. On the other map, he will hide the items, obstacles and ghouls at the start of the game for his opponent's city. Each scenario has a list of these things as well as the victory condition.

Now players take turns exploring their city. The player whose turn it is announces in which direction he is moving either vertically or horizontally and describes his movement, including when he changes direction. His opponent follows along with the map on which he has hidden the objects and lets the active player know when he encounters something. When this happens, the player's movement ends for this turn. If the encounter is an item, the player can choose to ignore it or acquire it. Items are harmless things including first-aid kits for healing or things specific to that scenario. Obstacles include holes, which cause a player to lose his next turn, or debris which give a player a wound.

Ghouls always attack and must be fought until defeated. On the side of each player's sheet, there are illustrations of ghouls with their bodies divided into 6 numbered areas. The opponent will secretly choose and circle one of the areas to be this ghoul's weak spot. The active player will now "fire" at the ghoul, in the style of the classic game, Battleship, by calling out the area that he is targeting. If he hits the ghoul's weak spot, he defeats the ghoul. Otherwise, the player receives a wound and keeps firing. There is a wound meter for keeping track of wounds. If a player ever has 15 wounds, the game is over and he loses. A first-aid kit will heal all current wounds.

That's basically all there is to the game. The three scenarios in this booklet all involve finding something or multiple things and taking it/them back to the center of the city. Two of the scenarios have a special item to use - flares in one and talismans in the other. The simple strategy in the game involves trying to cleverly position things for your opponent to either easily find if they're bad, or be difficult to find if they're good. Other than that, it is just a race of luck to be the first to accomplish the goal.

This game really cries out for more interesting items and scenarios. Actually, it would be quite easy and fun to create your own maps and scenarios. This booklet is titled "Scenario Pack 1" and according to the official website, there are more available.

Ghoulash reminds me of my school days when my friends and I would amuse ourselves with pen and pencil games like "Dots & Boxes" and "Pencil Golf" after we finished our class work. It is not something that I'd ever pull out on a game night with my gamer friends, but I can easily see it as a fun activity with my family to pass the time in a car or plane on trips or while watching sports on TV. Given that it needs no table to play, it is portable and fun, especially with kids, and so is ideal for those kinds of situations.

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