Night of the Ill-Tempered Squirrel

A card game for 3-6 players by Tyler Sigman published by Mythrole Games
These comments copyright 2000 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated December 17, 2000

Night of the Ill-Tempered Squirrel is a light multi-player game that you have to print yourself. Mythrole Games (link to their website above) provides Adobe Acrobat files for their card games after a very modest payment, and you print out the cards yourself.

In Night of the Ill-Tempered Squirrel, players are directors trying to make the worst horror movie ever. In some ways it resembles both Show Manager and Traumfabrik, but is a unique game all its own, with a much lighter feel than either of those games.

What You Get

Mythrole Games supplies you with all the files you need to print out 100 cards, two pages of rules, and printing instructions. The cards are interesting. There are two basic types: Filming cards and Release cards. They recommend you print them on two different colors of cardstock, so I did. And they're right - it works much better this way.

There are eight different types of Filming cards, all clearly marked on the back: Movie Title, Actor, Monster, Plot, Set Location, Special Effects, Finale and Movie Events. A completed movie consists of one each of the first seven types; Movie Events can be played to mess with people's movies and minds. The first seven types are each rated in a number of stars, from 1 to 5. So using state-of-the-art monster special effects earns you five stars, while a man in a gorilla suit with the zipper visible gives you only one or two stars.

There are two different types of Release cards: Release Events and Movie Reviews. Each movie may have one and only one Review, but any number of Release Events.

The Play

Shuffle all the cards together, both Filming and Release cards. Everyone is dealt six cards, then you bicker and argue over who goes first. (Yes, the rules phrase it like that, setting the tone for the game right away.)

On your turn you play a Filming card, then draw a card. The next player does the same, and so on until everyone has a complete movie (one each of all seven Movie Elements).

At that point, you can't play any more Filming cards, and everyone plays Release cards until everyone has exactly one Review. Then you take turns describing your movie, count up the stars you got, and the player with the fewest stars wins the game. (You're trying to make the worst movie, remember!)

Some Interesting Details

What makes the game interesting and fun is that you can play a Movie Element card onto any player, not just yourself. In addition, all cards are played facedown to the table in front of someone. Since the back states what type of element the card is, everyone can see if you have an Actor or not, but no one except the person who played the card knows how good - or bad - the actor is.

You are never allowed to look at the face of a card once it's been played to the table, unless you use a Movie Event which allows you to do so. This applies to cards you play and cards played onto your movie by other players. It even applies to cards you play onto your own movie - once it's on the table facedown, you can't look at it.

You can't have more than one element of each type, unless a Movie Event forces you to. Having two elements of a given type is very bad, of course, because even the worst card adds at least one star to your score, and you want the fewest stars possible. So other players will be sure to play those Movie Events that allow you to have extra cards ... Aren't you lucky!

So the turns go fast and furious around the table - play a card on yourself or on someone else, then draw a card. Very nice pace, and no one, even in a six-player game, feels there's too much down time.

Movie Events

The Movie Event cards are quite entertaining. Some allow you to swap two cards of the same type. For example, if you have the worst Actor in the deck, you obviously want to play that on yourself. Before your turn, however, someone plays an Actor card onto your movie. You have no idea how good it is, but you fear the worst - er, the best. But you can't play your own Actor card onto your own movie now - a movie can only have one type of each element. So on your turn, you play your bad Actor onto another player. On your following turn - or perhaps later in the game, hoping people will forget who played what where - you then swap that Actor with the Actor played onto your movie. If you've managed to keep track of things correctly, you now have the worst Actor in the deck, and are sitting pretty.

Other Movie Events allow you to look at a card, discard an already played card, call for an eighth card for someone, steal cards from other players, and so on. The only one I don't like is the card which forces everyone to shift their whole movie to the player on their left. This seems a bit too random even in such an obviously light game. Sometimes you work hard and deviously to create a very bad movie only to see it be given to someone else. I'll probably remove that card from my deck.


The game has a lot of potential for bluffing since all cards are played face down. Since you know people will crave any card you play on your own movie, it's easy to figure out that maybe you should give yourself an undesirable card so someone will steal it. Of course, it's also easy to figure out that they know that, so you really do sneakily give yourself a card you want to keep. But they know that, too ...

So it becomes a game of bluff: do I really mean this Plot I'm giving you is horrible, or am I secretly hoping you'll swap it back to me? Only the Shadow knows, which is in keeping with the theme of the game, of course ...

Why Wouldn't You Like This Game?

There are reasons. First, you might hate the concept of making your own game. The printing to cardstock costs more than the fee to Mythrole Games, and even then, unless you have access to some equipment I don't, it looks like a homemade game. It'll probably shuffle poorly unless you invest in some plastic sleeves, too, so there's even more expense. By the time you've paid for all that, it costs almost as much as a low-end game from Rio Grande Games, but doesn't look nearly as nice.

Then you might not like light games with a fair bit of luck and some element of bluff. Since that describes this game very well, this alone may disuade you.

The game has some problems with 6 players, and sometimes even 5. The problem is that each player must have seven Movie Elements before you go on to the next phase. After about 3/4 of those have been played, the remaining deck is heavily loaded with Event cards, many of which allow you to discard Movie Elements. So it can stagnate, never quite getting those last couple of Movie Elements for a long time.

Fortunately, there's an easy fix to this: if you need to reshuffle the deck, only reshuffle Movie Elements (and Release cards, if any). This means Movie Events can be used only once, and are then removed from the game. This doesn't hurt the game at all, and can save it in a five- or six-player game.

I haven't yet tried to play this with three players, but I suspect it'll lack a bit there. I think four or five players makes for an optimum game, though it works with six with the above fix.

It's a silly theme, and some serious gamers hate silly themes. I happen to like such games, so it's not a problem for me at all. But it may be for you.

At this point, I'm not yet sure of the long-term replay value. So long as you keep it to once every month or two, you'll probably enjoy it for a long time. But I don't think it's the type of game that would bear frequent replays, to be honest, at least for my personality type.

Summing Up

I like this game better than Traumfabrik, but not quite as much as Showmanager. Traumfabrik moves much too slowly to my tastes, a fault definitely not shared by Night of the Ill-Tempered Squirrel. On the other hand, Showmanager is a classier game but takes longer and isn't as light in tone, so I play them in different situations.

For an occasional silly game when we're all punchy, Night of the Ill-Tempered Squirrel is definitely the right game of these three to pull out. Recommended if you ever get like that yourselves.

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