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
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
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.
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.
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
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,
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
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.
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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