The other weekend my friend was in town, and to say she isn’t into horror would be an understatement. She hasn’t even seen It. Yeah, I heard there was someone in Florida and someone in the deep jungles of the Amazon who hadn’t seen the film yet, but I thought that was a myth. Well, I’ve met her. She’s real.
But that said, on one of our recent visits, she mentioned that she was going to be gathering with a group of friends that coming weekend to play a VHS board game I may have heard of called “Nightmare.” I think I scared half the employees and all of the customers inside that particular 2nd & Charles with my reaction.
Needless to say, I quickly made plans to join her and her group of friends the following weekend to finally get my chance to play the lost treasure that is Nightmare: The VHS Board Game.
This is an account of my Nightmare. Moo-haha.
Okay, let’s start this out with a bit more history of the board game. A lot of this I’m taking straight from Wikipedia (I know, sue me) but I took the following pics/video myself, so there. But truth be told, the game is so batsh*t that I’m not sure what the hell happened over the course of the 60 minutes it took for the game to unfold.
But I do know this: it was awesome.
Rundown via Wiki:
Nightmare is a horror video board game released in 1991 by A Couple ‘A Cowboys and J. W. Spear & Sons as part of the Atmosfear series.
The game is set in a place known as “The Other Side”. This place has six Harbingers, each of whom has authority over a Province. To play the game, each player adopts the persona of one of the Harbingers: Gevaudan the werewolf; Hellin the poltergeist; Khufu the mummy; Baron Samedi the zombie; Anne de Chantraine the witch, and Elizabeth Bathory the vampire. The final character in the game is the Gatekeeper, whose job is to ensure that the other characters do not escape from The Other Side.
The game requires 3–6 players to attempt to collect keys while trying to beat the clock included on the video cassette. At random intervals, the game stops and The Gatekeeper appears to either taunt, reward, or penalize the players in a variety of ways. Prior to beginning the game, the players are required to write their “greatest fear” on individual slips of paper. The game is won by collecting six special keys before making it to the center of the game board where the player draws a ‘fear’. If that player draws someone else’s fear, the tape is stopped and that player is declared the winner. If no one accomplishes this within 60 minutes, The Gatekeeper is declared the winner.
The six Harbingers in the game are: Gevaudan the werewolf; Hellin the poltergeist; Khufu the mummy; Baron Samedi the zombie; Anne de Chantraine the witch; and Elizabeth Bathory, the vampire.
Each of the Harbingers is based on either a real person or a myth, except for Hellin. Hellin, “in hell” reversed, is the only Harbinger entirely created by Brett Clements. Hellin is also the only character with limited background information, as Brett wanted players to use their own imagination for this character.
Baron Samedi got his name from the voodoo loa of the dead, though the game’s creators misattribute him as the ancient Arawak Indian God of the Dead. Anne de Chantraine is based on the first “official” witch who was burned at the stake. Elizabeth Bathory is based on a serial killer who is believed to have murdered and drunk the blood of about six hundred and fifty virgin girls. Khufu is based on a Fourth Dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh. Gevaudan is based on a man who was hunted by armies of people for supposedly carrying the sickness of lycanthropy.
The final character in the game is the Gatekeeper (played by Wenanty Nosul), whose job is to make sure the other characters cannot escape from The Other Side to the real world. The Gatekeeper’s character is based on the old cemetery gatekeepers, whose job was to guard cemeteries against grave robbers.
Now, all of that out of the way, let’s get into the game. Like I said before I jumped at the chance to play this game, but let me go a bit more in-depth. My friend was playing in St. Augustine, Fl. and I live in Gainesville, Fl.
This meant my happy-ass had to saddle up for a 2 hr. drive – both ways – the night after a party. I didn’t go to sleep until 4 am. But all the same, I jumped out of bed at the ripe dawn on 1 PM, threw together my “Awesome Horror Shite is Happening Somewhere in the World and I Need to be There” go-bag and headed out to the beach for some VHS horror games.
I did this, not only for my own benefit but so you guys could live vicariously through me and experience the hard-to-find game yourself. You know, in words… But that’ll have to be good enough for the time being.
There is actually a video I recorded of the gameplay which you can check out below, but I have to admit I half-assed the video component a bit as I am known to be a bit competitive and I was mucho into gathering up all my keys and winning this damn game!
Did I succeed? Well, you’ll have to read on to find out…
The first thing you must know about Nightmare: The VHS Board Game is that the son of a bitch requires you to have a VHS player (duh?). But no worries, I hang out with just the kind of cats that still own VCRs.
So we dusted off the old tape-eater and after fighting for too long with the damn connection cables, we hooked it up, gathered around the coffee table, dimmed the light, turned up the speakers, and hit play.
After the standard VHS blue screen and the FBI warning (which took forever) the game began. A creepy creepster emerged onto the screen and we were given a timer that counted up to 60:00. If one of us didn’t gather all six of their keys by the time the 60th minute struck, then that damn curmudgeon Gatekeeper would win it all.
Not. Gonna. Happen.
Because I know all of you skipped the Wikipedia rundowns above, I’ll explain the rules again. Nightmare: The VHS Board Game requires 3-6 players. We had 8. Oh, no. What to do? Promptly, one of my better-organized friends recommended two couples played with each other as a team, and boom! That seemed to work out just fine.
Damn good plan.
After the FBI warning, The Gatekeeper jeepered and creepered his blue and green tinted ass up on the screen. He then immediately began being a total jerk to everyone in the room. But in all the right ways. This dude (played by Wenanty Nosul) started calling us all maggots, yelling at the top of his lungs and demanding that whenever he asked us a question we had to respond with “Yes, my Gatekeeper!”
Remember, this is a game for children. Guess the makers felt the need to sneak in a bit of the old S&M training for the kiddies. Is that wrong to say? Meh. Wait till I get to the part about the staring contest.
No worries, it’s creepier than it sounds.
As you can see from the pic below, the whole VHS element is shot in a very Creepshow-vibe that I dug quite a bit. Green light here. A blue light here. A tattered cloak over greasy hair and rotten, yellow teeth. Good times.
Add in the VHS artifacts and I was in nostalgia heaven.
To say the gameplay was a bit confusing would be to do the game a bit more of a favor than it garners on its own. Sure, there was an entire scroll included in the box that detailed all of the rules, but pfft, who reads the rules, right?
Exactly. We’ll just figure this shite out as we go.
Or will we?
The game, as I mentioned above, begins with a counter on screen. This counter ticks upwards to 60 minutes, again as mentioned above. But what I did not mention is that there isn’t an opportunity to pause the game. Sure, you still could, but you don’t want to be that guy, do you? You better not.
Suffice to say, once the play button was pressed and the Gatekeeper started his taunting and name-calling, the game was off to the races. It was intense, and fair warning if you plan to snag your own copy of the game and play at home: make sure to bring your cocktails with you to the living room and take your bathroom breaks beforehand.
Because something tells me that if you need to stop the game for a pee-break, The Gatekeeper will just nightmare straight out of the screen and proceeded to evacuate your bladder and bowels for you, free of charge. Haha. But that’s just being silly now, isn’t it? We still didn’t attempt it. You give it a try. Let us know what happens.
Some of the highlights were one of our group was told in secret by a card marked “time” to – randomly af – let out a f*cking blood-curdling scream (which she did with aplomb) and whoever she scared the living f*ck out of (which was everyone single one of us) lost a turn or something.
I can’t fully remember, because a girl randomly super-screaming in your ears will have your head spinning for a moment or two. I don’t know what she gained from that scream of the banshees, but whatever it was, she got it.
She earned it.
Another top moment was when the old Gatekeeper picked one of us at random by popping up on the screen and asking “Who’s turn is it next!?” He then proceeded to make our friend enter into a staring contest with him for a full minute and 30 seconds (I went back and checked the timer). Taunting him the entire time.
Don’t think that’s hard? Try it. Right now.
Yeah, it was impressive as hell.
Plus, it wasn’t as if any of the rest of us were offering him much help, honestly. We stared him down like prison guards making sure he didn’t so much as think about taking a blink. We were afraid the man was going to go blind afterwards. In the heat of the moment though, this was a worthy challenge.
And again, he pulled it off. That’ll show that gatekeeping creeper.
Now, I don’t want to spoil the ending — but I’m going to anyways. We all lost. Every single one of us.
However, one of my friends (the girl who hasn’t seen It) was very close to winning. Thus giving us all a heart attack as the game speeds up like a motherf*cker in the last 15 mins. Hence why there is no gameplay video of that section. Sorry.
But in the end, like all the rest of her comrades – my friend failed to roll a damn six by the time the final bell chimed.
So the old Gatekeeper won.
And after an hour of playing, with all the random screams, staring contests and constant taunts from the Gatekeeper, the game was over. And there wasn’t a single winner amongst the eight of us.
It was awesome.
You can check out the video compilation I made from my adventures below and then let us know what you think of Nightmare: The VHS Board Game!