“ A fiendish game of suspense and fun! Players plot their escape from Dracula's castle and move stealthily towards the exit. But beware! Dracula prowls the castle looking for a victim. „
Before Christmas we decided that Sunday night's would be a games night for the family where we would dig out a board game that we hadn't played for ages and see how we got on. This is a review on the one that we played a few weeks ago but as it's only just been accepted on the suggestion list I've been a while in publishing it over here.
Made by Waddingtons (the makers of the famous Monopoly games) this came out in 1977 and it was a Christmas pressie for me when I was 7. Oh no I'm showing my age again. Anyway when I'm doing a review I like to see where you can get hold of the item I'm reviewing and I must admit I almost fell off my seat to find out that this one is a bit of a collectable. Most collectors sell this one for between £25 to £30 for one in good condition which surprised me greatly as I don't believe it was a very expensive game when it came out and although we've had many hours of fun with this game, it's not the best I've played. You can still find it on Ebay if you're really interested and may be able to pick it up at a bargain price.
***The Aim of the Game***
The story of the game is that you are trapped inside Count Dracula's castle with your friends after sheltering for the night and you have to travel round the board avoiding being bitten by Dracula or his Vampire friends to escape through one of the exits marked Home.
This game is for 2-4 players and is recommended for ages 7 and upwards which was ideal for me when I got it. The rules are quite simple and unlike many of the board games around at that time this one doesn't involve any money which makes it easy to set up.
***Inside the Box***
The Board - The board folds in half for easy storage in the box and is is set out showing an aerial view of the rooms with yellow pathways going through each room. Each room is a different colour so it's easy to see where one stops and another starts. Along the way their are candlestick squares, orange hiding places, blue and green vampire squares numbered 1-6 and Dracula's route which is made up of blood drops and goes all around the castle. At the top right of the board lies Dracula's coffin where he starts the game from and at the bottom of the board are the four coloured starting positions for the players. There are 2 Home squares for the players to make their way to.
4 Player Pieces - Choose from Red, Yellow, Blue or Green, made of plastic these are basic pieces which stand about an inch tall.
3 Other Pieces - The Red Dracula Piece which shows Dracula from the waist up. This is very well detailed with him grasping his cloak around him and baring his menacing fangs. The other 2 pieces are the Vampire figures - one green and one blue. These show the vampire bats sitting on a turret with their claws clinging on and looking like they are going to sink their teeth in to you at the first opportunity.
2 Dice - One white with the black numbers 3 and 4 on along with 2 ' V ' symbols and a standard red one with gold dots on it
Green Vampire Mask - I remember as a child thinking this was a very scary looking mask which looked more like a monster than a vampire bat but now I guess I can see it more. A fun accessory, this sturdy cardboard mask is to be used if you are bitten.
At the start of the game Dracula is placed on the blood splatter next to his coffin and the Vampires are placed on the vampire spaces numbered 1 and 6. The players start on their corresponding coloured square and throw the red dice to determine who starts the game with the highest score winning the first battle.
The red dice thereafter determines how many blood spots Dracula moves along. The white dice determines the players move. It is up to the player whether to move himself or The Count first and this is to avoid landing in the same room together where you will be bitten. You can of course land him in the same room as one of your 'friends' where they can get a bite. The first to have a chunk taken from their neck automatically gets turned into the Green Vampire who swoops down and drags the unsuspecting player off to vampire space one (we have active demonstrations of this). After that any bitten players are taken to Dracula's lair to restart down a long passageway.
The Green Vampire is then controlled by the player underneath it, who is given the special vampire mask to wear and moves along totting up the score on both dice. He has to try to escape the clutches of the Vampire by capturing another player and running away as far as possible before he is recaptured. The 2 Vampires can also be moved around the board to different squares if the V symbol is thrown and this along with the number on the red dice determines where either one goes off to. Green can be moved from 1-4 round the board and the Blue alternates between 5 and 6 which block the exits. The Vampires themselves cannot harm you on their own but as you cannot pass them they can make your path to freedom more difficult. There have been many times when playing that I have been celebrating inside thinking I would be home free on my next go, only for someone to change the position of the Blue Vampire thus sending me running off in another direction.
The 8 candlestick squares are helpful if the Green Vampire is after you as they do not like the light and will not cross them. Try to always keep one between yourself and him.
The 6 orange hidey-holes keep you safe from both the Vampire and from Dracula himself. The only problem is that you have to land exactly into these squares which are in a few of the rooms round the board.
Along Dracula's route you will see some chances to take shortcuts to try to catch your friends or to quite simply send Dracula off in a different direction from yourself. These routes are marked by smaller droplets of blood. This can be useful if you think the next player may send Dracula into the same room as you.
When you reach home you do not have to land on it exactly but just make sure you get passed the unoccupied blue vampire space before it as you are not allowed to land on these spaces.
This is one of these games where it is difficult to set a time limit on. Sometimes it can be over in 5 minutes and other times you could be playing in excess of half an hour. It is fairly quick though compared to many board games and does not get boring with longevity although frustration can set in - (hold on, that's another review).
The first player home is the winner although you can keep playing to see who will be left as the Green Vampire which is fun too for kids.
***The Fun Factor***
I've found this game to be just as much fun playing now as when I was a child and I'm a little bit surprised that it hasn't appeared again. If you can manage to pick up a cheap copy on Ebay then I would certainly recommend it - I know I won't be parting with this anytime soon.
We do have to hide this game from our 3 year old son as he hates masks and we don't want to risk any more nightmares so this is definately something to watch out for if you have younger children around.
This is a good fun game - not the best ever - but very good nonetheless. The rules are easy to learn and the pieces withstand the test of time well - unlike some games with paper items in them which end up tattered and torn after normal use.
***To Sum It Up***
I'm pleased to say that nearly 30 years on this board game is in great condition and that is after many hours of playing not only by myself but by my daughters when they were younger too. I only hope it will re-appear in the shops as some of the other forgotten toys and games from the 70s seem to have done in recent years.