Spooks is a horror-themed card game from Steve Jackson Games. 3 to 6 players can play. The game only takes about 10 minutes to play, but it’s a lot of fun. Even though it’s recommended for ages 12 and up, I’m pretty sure an intelligent child of 8 or 9 could probably handle the game, especially if they’ve played some card games before.
The game has five suits, and they are not the traditional suits used in a traditional card game. The suits in Spooks are:
The cards in each suit are ranked numerically, from 1 to 10. Each suit also has a “master card.”
To play, you deal out all the cards in the deck to the players. (Shuffle ’em first, of course.) Whichever player has the 1 of Spiders goes first. When it’s your turn, you just play a card face up in the center of the table.
Depending on what card is face up in the middle of the table, the rules for what card you can play changes. With Spiders, you always have to play a card that’s one rank higher than the previous rank. So, for example, the first player plays the 1 of Spiders. The next player has to play a 2 of something, regardless of suit.
With other suits, you might have to play any other card in your hand, regardless of its rank, as long as the suit or the rank matches. (If you’ve ever played Uno, you’ll recognize this game mechanic.)
When Goblins have been played, the game changes into a trick-taking game like Spades.
The “Master” cards in each suit have special powers that also change the rules. For example, you might
When the first player plays the last card in her hand, the round ends. The goal is to have the lowest possible score. Any cards left in your hand at the end of a round (or hand) gives you penalty points. You play until someone hits a pre-defined number of points.
The production value and the artwork on Spooks is surprisingly good. The gameplay is pretty abstract. This isn’t a horror-themed card game in the same sense that the Call of Cthulhu card game is a horror-themed card game. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either. When my nieces and nephews come over on Halloween this year, I’m going to break out the Spooks deck at the Halloween party and try to get them to play with me. I’m sure I’ll need to bribe them with candy, but I guess that’s okay, too.
For the price, Spooks is well worth the money. This isn’t Magic: The Gathering, Bridge, or poker, though, so if you’re looking for something really involved that’s going to get your creative juices flowing, you’ll probably need to look for another game. But if you’re just looking for a fun game to play with some buddies, this is a neat one, and it has a neat theme. The game sells for just $10, although you might be able to find a used Spooks deck with the rules for less than that on eBay or BoardGameGeek.