by Matthew Pook
Torches & Pitchforks - The Card Game of Monster Movie Mayhem
Published by Green Ronin Publishing
Designed by Luke Matthews & Adam Conus, with Chris Pramas
Illustrated by Rich Werner
Better known for their d20 System roleplaying games and supplements
(three of which made our Christmas Gift
Guide for 2003), as well as the d20 System bending superhero RPG,
Mutants & Masterminds, Green Ronin Publishing has done well for
itself. Last year, the company brought out their first card game,
Torches & Pitchforks: The Card Game of Monster Movie Mayhem,
designed for two to five players, aged twelve years and up. Appropriately, it was brought
out just in time for the annual festival of ghosties and
The theme for the game, as the title suggests, is the perennial
favorite: the ordinary Joe up against a dangerous and horrifying foe.
In the case of Torches & Pitchforks, the ordinary joes are townspeople
who have grown tired of their blood being drained, their children
abducted and their teenagers turned into werewolves. Indeed, they are
not only tired, they are angry -- though not too angry, if you know what
I mean? The problem is that the town is located right next to the dark
and foreboding area of the Moors, to which all of the monsters you can
think of are irrationally attracted -- as well as to the town itself. So
being angry, the townsfolk have gathered together in mobs to save the town.
Not just one mob though; while they want to save their town, each mob
wants the glory of doing so to itself.
Each player controls one of these mobs, sent out to defend
against the rampaging monsters or to actually hunt the Moors in search
of monsters to destroy. The game consists of a 24-page 4½ by 5¼-inch
rules booklet and almost two hundred cards. Rich Werner pleasingly and
humorously illustrates both cards and rules, though it's a shame that
the cards weren't done in full color; the game's box shows how great the
cards would have looked. The rules are deftly written, clear and simple, and well served by examples. The cards are divided into the following:
The Monster Cards include six unique creatures, such as the "Creature
From The Tide Flats," "Irvingstein's Monster," and the "Wicked Witch Of
The South-Southeast." The Rules Reference Cards give the Order of Play
on one side and a handy index to the rules on the other.
- The 60-card Monster Deck, consisting of 12 Event Cards and 48 Monster Cards.
- The 106-card Mob Deck, containing 60 Action, 30 Enhancement and 6 Townsfolk Cards.
- 30 Townsfolk Cards.
- 2 Rules Reference Cards.
At the beginning of the game, each player receives six Townsfolk cards,
which make up their Mob, and a hand of five cards from the Mob deck.
These six Townsfolk cards are placed face-up in front of the owning
player. A Turn consists of five phases: Draw, Attack!, Hunt!, Recoup,
and Discard. In the draw phase, a player refreshes their hand back
up to five cards, and can then use the next phase to Attack! a monster flipped from the top of
the Monster Deck. If their Mob successfully kills the monster, the
player places it onto their score pile, otherwise the Mob is forced to
Occasionally an Event card is flipped from the top of the Monster
deck, and this has an immediate effect. Event cards include "Arms
Shipment," which allows players to equip their Mob with weapon cards
held in their hand; "Mass Confusion," which forces all players to pass
their hand of cards to the left; and "Swords into Ploughshares," which
forces all townsfolk to discard all currently held weapons. If an Event
card has been drawn or a Mob has successfully fled from a Monster
during the Attack! phase, they can go up onto the Moors and Hunt! for
any Monster currently roaming there. Should one or more Townsfolk
get killed during the earlier Attack! or Hunt! phases, one of
them can recover to rejoin their Mob during the Recoup! phase. Players
can also put down any Defense and Enhancement cards during the Recoup!
phase. Finally, a player can get rid of any cards from their hand in the
Combat occurs during the Attack! and Hunt! phases, and is a simple
matter of adding up the strength value of a Mob -- the number of the
Townsfolk cards currently alive, plus bonuses from any Enhancement and
Action cards played -- and matching it against the Power of the Monster
faced. Opposing players can play their own Action cards to adversely
effect an attempt to do in a Monster. If the total strength exceeds the
Monster's Power, the Mob wins the fight, but it if is equal or less,
then the Monster wins. When this happens, the Monster can kill a number
of Townsfolk equal to its Kill Rating. These dead Townsfolk are turned
face down and lose any Enhancements currently attached to them. Dead
Townsfolk return to their Mob during subsequent Recoup! phases. The
Monster card is then placed in the Moors area in the middle of the table
where it remains until a Mob hunts it down.
The alternative to facing a Monster is to Flee! Doing so will lose a
player up to six cards from their hand, determined by rolling a
six-sided die (not included in the game). If the player has enough cards
to discard, their Mob successfully flees, but if they do not, the Flee!
attempt fails and the Mob is forced to Attack! And in doing so, probably
lose and have several members of their Mob bumped off. Since Townsfolk can recover from dying ("I'm not dead yet!"), it may seem like failing to defeat a Monster has no consequences. But a Mob will be weakened until all of their dead Townsfolk can recover, making it less likely for that player to score points.
The game ends when a player's score pile reaches thirty or more points.
These points are made up of each Monster's Strength value, with Giant
Rats only having a rating of 4, Ghosts 5, and uniques like "The Glob" and "Vlad the
Inhaler" having 14 and 15, respectively. Of course, players will be
trying to prevent each other's Mob from attaining such scores, while at
the same time improving their Mobs with more Townsfolk -- there are an
additional six Townsfolk in the Mob deck, and Enhancement cards that are either
Weapons to be wielded by the Townsfolk or Leader cards that provide
benefits such as allowing the Townsfolk to carry two weapons instead of
the one. A Mob can have only one Leader card, and this is lost if the
townperson it is attached to is killed off. Otherwise, those are the only limits imposed on Mob construction.
Torches & Pitchforks is a fun little game that works better with
more players, as this allows for more interplay. Its pleasingly simple
play is not dissimilar to that of Steve Jackson Games' Munchkin
line of card games or the B-movie card games published by Z-Man Games,
such as Grave Robbers II: Skippy's Revenge. Certainly fans of
either of these game ranges should enjoy playing Torches &
Pitchforks, though it shares a stronger resemblance to the B-movie
games in that both employ plenty of pop culture references. That said,
such references are not as strong in Torches & Pitchforks as they
are in Grave Robbers from Outer Space and its ilk, making
Torches & Pitchforks better suited for playing with younger