I’m not a board game guy in general, so buying this was a weird move for me. In fact, at some point, I lost all of my competitive spirit. Probably right around the time when I realized that all of my abilities in everything were firmly in the suck-to-mediocre range. But still, I had this game thanks to that random impulse, so I thought we’d resurrect it this season and give it a go.
If you get Wanda the Wicked, you’re enchanted by a spell and are turned into a mouse. You take your plastic child piece and replace it with a plastic mouse of the same color. From that point on you can’t roll the dice to move until you a draw a Glenda the Good card. She breaks the spell.
The real fun starts, though, with the third witch, Ghoulish Gerty. Her card merely states, “Drops it down the chimney.” In her hand, she holds a skull. This one takes a bit of explanation. It’ll be fun, though, so stick with me.
See, the four rooms are arranged around a chimney. When you pull Gerty, you pick up a metal ball the size of a marble, the “whammy ball,” and drop it down the chimney. The ball ricochets at random through one of four chutes into one of the rooms, setting off a booby trap and knocking over any player standing on a danger spot. Those booby traps include a plastic broom that falls over, a section of wobbly floor, a bucket that lifts a section of wall, and a plastic staircase. If you’re on a danger spot when the whammy ball sets off the trap in your room, your piece gets sent back to the beginning of the room. Basically, Ghoulish Gerty is the snake in Snakes and Ladders.
However, when it comes to 3D board games, it can be troubling because it means that the environment, being mostly cardboard, is probably ripped or warped or bent in a way that makes the game unplayable.
But as I sat there putting the pieces together with the nervousness of somebody trying to set a world record for a house of cards, it soon became evident that not only was the game fully intact pieces-wise, but they all fit together fine. This thing is a survivor. And I was suddenly sitting in front of a miniature haunted house. All I needed were friends and witches to surround me. If only both of those groups weren’t mythical.
But I do have a family. So my five-year-old and my wife and I sat around our kitchen booth to play. We don’t have shag carpeting, unfortunately.
Per the instructions, we set the board in the bottom half of the box to keep the whammy ball from rolling away every time it dropped from the chimney. Most of the cards were Ghoulish Gerty cards, so that meant a lot of ball-dropping. In the course of that, we realized that the 45-year-old board was warped, because the ball kept landing in the same room.
Versions of this game were sold all over the world, with names like Ghost Castle or Spookslot or Kummituslinna. The art varies widely with each version, as do the game elements themselves. For instance, sometimes a spinner was used instead of cards and sometimes the entire chimney was plastic. None of it made me wish I had those versions instead. Except for one thing. Later versions of the game came with glow-in-the-dark skulls instead of metal balls. That’s exactly what the original needed.
Honestly, I thought playing this game would be more of a gimmick than an experience. I thought we’d throw on I Put a Spell on You, pretend to play a game that was too old to take the wear and tear, set up a few photos, and call it a Halloween Season post. But to date, we’ve played this game five times on three different nights. Also to date, I’ve lost this game five times. And that’s exactly why I’m not competitive.