Innsmouth Escape

Innsmouth Escape

From: Twilight Creations Inc.

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck

Most Lovecraft fanboys agree that The Shadow Over Innsmouth is one of his top ten stories (although its position in the top ten is a matter of debate). A significant factor in its popularity is that it is one of the few instances where Lovecraft featured an action scene, and arguably the only time he did it well. So, with the works of Lovecraft being such a major fixture of the gaming industry, it should come as no surprise that a game would employ it as a premise.

From the rulebook:
In the summer of 1926, a Miskatonic University field trip got lost while touring through New England, and found itself in the shadowy, monster-infested town of Innsmouth. The locals didn’t take kindly to the outsiders’ poking around and, under cover of night, kidnapped them.”

Innsmouth Escape is a cat and mouse deduction game where one player maneuvers the human through Innsmouth while evading the Deep Ones controlled by the other players. The human player’s goal is to locate fellow humans and get out of Innsmouth. Meanwhile, the Deep Ones intend to overwhelm the human with their superior numbers and kill him before he can get away.

The board consists of a six-by-six grid, with the columns labeled A through F and the rows labeled 1 through 6. Each game round consists of the Human’s turn followed by the Deep Ones’ turn. The human player starts off by revealing his current location. If that location allows for the drawing of cards (indicated by tokens placed at the beginning of the game), the human player draws the indicated number and removes the tokens. If there are any Deep Ones in the space, combat occurs. The turn is finished with the human player plotting out his movement and placing two Location tokens indicating the destination coordinates facedown so as to keep him honest. The Deep One players start their turn by moving each of their pawns a maximum of two spaces vertically and/or horizontally. Based on which spaces their current pawns occupy after movement, Deep One players can draw Deep One cards, summon a Shoggoth, and/or place additional Deep One pawns on the board.

There are three decks which the human player can draw from. Equipment cards provide a wide variety of useful gear, primarily in the form of weapons. Encounter cards enact events which can give the human player a boost. Most important are the Captive cards. These represent the fellow humans in need of rescuing and will usually provide one or two Victory Points. Many of them also cause Deep Ones to spawn in the space. Once the human player accumulates eight points, he must survive to make it to the southern or western edge of the board to win.

Combat is simple and straightforward. The human player starts off by rolling one or more dice depending on what weapon (if any) is being wielded. Depending on the results, one or more Deep One pawns in the same space may be removed from the board. If there are still Deep Ones in the same space, each Deep One player rolls dice equal to the number of pawns they have in the space. Each roll of four or five inflicts one wound, while each six will inflict two wounds. The number of wounds needed to kill the human is based on the number of players in the game. Once combat is concluded, all Deep One pawns involved are removed from the board. This has an adverse effect on game balance which I’ll elaborate on later.

Plotting movement is the heart of the game. The human player possesses a deck of nine cards. These consist of one Three card, two Two cards, three One cards, and three Rest cards. At the end of the turn, the human player selects and places three cards in front of him, with numbered cards facedown and Rest cards faceup. For each numbered card, the human moves that many spaces in one direction horizontally or vertically. While the human can change directions on the second or third card, backtracking is not permitted. Playing a Rest card allows the human to recover from one wound. After the new location is revealed at the beginning of the next round, the numbered cards are set aside until all of them have been played. So while deducing the human’s location will largely be a crapshoot with a fresh deck, as cards are expended it becomes easier to figure out where the human will appear.

Deep One players have more options than merely overwhelming numbers. The Deep One cards allow for a wide variety of effects to either hinder the human player or temporarily enhance the players’ Deep One pawns. However, each player may only play one per round. Each Deep One player also has the option to summon a Shoggoth once per game. Shoggoths cannot be destroyed and automatically inflict three wounds on the human if they share the same space, but they can only move one space per turn, making it easy for the human player to evade. So they are really only worthwhile in a four or five player game as long as everyone summons one.

From the rulebook:
What the Deep Ones don’t know, however, is that one of the students has escaped, and he’s not leaving without his friends…

As is frequently the case with the cat and mouse deduction games, the number of players can have a significant effect on game balance. Specifically, in a two player game, the human player is all but guaranteed victory. This is exacerbated by how all the Deep Ones involved in a combat are removed from play immediately afterwards. As it’s not possible to place more than three Deeps Ones on the board per player each turn, generating superior numbers is not easy (especially since most of the really good Deep One cards require the player to sacrifice Deep Ones). A possible method of correcting this imbalance could be had by eliminating the rule of removing Deep One pawns after combat. This can either be applied solely to the two player game, or the number of wounds the human can take can be increased in a game with three or more players.

In conclusion, The Shadow Over Innsmouth is a story which lends itself really well to the cat and mouse formula. So it’s unfortunate that the power balance is so uneven, particularly with the two-player version. However, a couple of house rules can potentially serve as a reasonable fix, so ultimately it’s not that big a hassle.

Rating: 13

Product Summary

Innsmouth Escape

From: Twilight Creations Inc.

Type of Game: Board

Game Design by: Darrell Hardy

Cover Art by: Slawomir Maniak

Additional Art by: David Aikins, Miguel Coimbra, and Slawomir Maniak

Game Components Included: Game board, 1 Human pawn, 100 Deep One pawns, 4 dice, 6 Captive tokens, 7 Equipment tokens, 3 Encounter tokens, 4 Shoggoth tokens, 12 Location tokens, 20 Wound tokens, 9 Movement cards, 46 Deep One cards, 19 Equipment cards, 12 Captive cards, 8 Encounter cards

Retail Price: $39.99

Number of Players: 2-5

Player Ages: 10+

Play Time: 60-90 minutes

Website: http://www.twilightcreationsinc.com

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck