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kickstarter Game Preview – Transylvania: Curses and Traitors

Posted by Jim {Power Gamer} | 23-May-14 | 5 comments

Transylvania close-up

You must break an ancient curse, but a slight sting on the neck, a glancing scratch of a claw, or exposure to a strange biological agent and you’ve become the monster you were hunting.

The following is a paid preview for a Kickstarter project (already funded!). The art work the component and the rules are not in their final form.

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Your Quest!

You are an adventurer seeking to break the curse over Victorian era Transylvania. Travel around the countryside and gather the knowledge needed to break the curse. But you are not alone. A Vampire, Werewolf and Zombie are stalking you! Transformation cards will move you one step closer to becoming one of these monsters. Will you break the curse or transform, seeking only to kill the other adventuring characters?

Let’s get ready…

Place the Church tile out in the middle of the table. The Quest and Event decks are shuffled and placed within reach along with the other tiles and counters used in the game. Randomly choose which adventurer each player will be to start the game. Take the matching Adventurer card, set a marker to the starting health, and draw one Quest card. Then in player order, place your adventurer token on any one of the starting spaces on the Church tile. Take a deep breath and prepare to explore Transylvania.

Transylvania gameplay

Your Goal

As an Adventurer your noble quest is to break the evil curse that lies over the land of Transylvania. As you move around the tiles, you will collect Knowledge cards. You must return to the Church with five Knowledge cards, one for each of the three different types of monsters roaming the land (Vampire, Werewolf and Zombie). During the course of the game you may be transformed into one of these monsters. When this happens, you win the game by killing half of the remaining Adventurers. If you are one of the remaining Adventurers when this happens, you win if you kill the monster. Victory!

The Cards

The Adventurer: In your quest, you will take the role of one of several adventurers in the game: an Inventor, a Secret Agent, and so forth. Each has four key traits that will dictate your level of success throughout the game. Movement, Strength, Mind and Spirit. The value of each is the number of dice you throw when that trait is tested during your quest. Each adventurer also begins with six health and fingers crossed that they will be the one to break the curse!

Transylvania adventurer

Quest cards: There are three types of these cards: Knowledge, Item and Transformation. These are the critical focus for your quest: Collecting five Knowledge cards (with the small “K” icon) will win you the game. These cards also grant positive effects: usually affecting your Adventurers four Traits. Item cards can be played in front of you and will help you on your way. However, Transformation cards when drawn must stay in your hand until that fateful moment when the unthinkable happens: you succumb to the evil around you and transform into one of the monsters!

Transylvania knowledge cards

Transylvania item cards

Above: Knowledge & Item Cards

Events Cards: Bad things happen to good people. And good things happen to… well good people too! When adventuring around Transylvania, you will inevitably have good and bad things happen to you as a result of the Event cards. Hounds and Poltergeists will plague and attack you, Sunbeams and Spirits will protect you. You never know whether Event cards will hurt, hinder or help.

Transylvania event cards


Moving around the board tiles of Transylvania you will encounter all sort of obstacles and possible discoveries. Adventurers follow the paths marked with foot prints. The large gear spaces contain Quest tokens that allow an adventurer to be tested to gain a Quest card. Spaces with locks on them require a Skeleton Key card to open and are not accessible otherwise. There are also Secret passages that travel beneath the city. These will begin the game locked and are keyed by color to other matching spaces on other game board tiles. When unlocked they allow quick movement between game tiles. Finally, tramping across a space marked with an “E” will cause you to stop immediately and draw from the Event deck.

There are 16 unique game board tiles. When adventurers move off one tile, the next tile is drawn randomly from a face down tile pile. This insures that no two Transylvanias are ever the same from game to game.

Transylvania board tile

Where do I go, what do I do?

As an Adventurer you have 3 main phases to gather the Knowledge you need…

I. Actions – There are several actions you may take as you adventure through Transylvania. They can be performed in any order until you run out of movement or meet a grizzly end!

  • Move: You may traverse Transylvania on the path indicated by the footprints and one Footprint icon counts as one space. You may travel up to a number of spaces equal to the value of the Movement trait listed on your Adventurer card. You can move, stop and smell the roses (or the zombies), roll for a Quest card, encounter an Event, attack a monster, etc, then carry on moving. You must move at least one space per turn; compelled by the curse to press ever onward.
  • Transylvania quest tokens

  • Collect Quest Cards: The main way to gather Quest cards is to stop on a Quest Token, flip it over and roll equal to or greater than the number listed using the skill type depicted. (For example, the Quest token pictured requires a roll of 4 or higher using your Spirit trait.) You can also take Quest cards from other players by challenging them directly, (arguing that you found that Skeleton key first!) The challenging player chooses a trait, both players roll a number of dice equal to their traits value, and whoever rolls higher gets to take a Quest card from the other adventurer. You can also pilfer the corpses of fallen adventurers… gruesome.
  • Resolve Events: Cross over a small “E” icon on the board and draw an Event card, then brace yourself. Simple (or perhaps deadly) as that.
  • Activate a Quest card: You can activate (play) one card from your hand per turn. After which the card’s game play effects are…well… in effect. You can only have four Quest cards in front of you at any time so you may bump cards back to your hand during your turn as well.
  • Discard one Quest card or one Event card: Sometimes nasty, silly things attach themselves to your activated cards. Other times you may just want to trade one useful card for a more useful card. This is where you get to do it – but only once per turn.
  • Attack Monsters: They are coming for you! If you want you can take the initiative and land on a space with a monster and attack first. Roll a number of dice equal to the modified value of your Attack trait. The monster does the same. The higher roll does the difference of the two rolls in damage to the other. With monsters having 10 attack dice – it can smart.

II. Determination – After you gallivant all over the place, unlocking gates and encountering object or monsters and having horrid events happening to you, you may try to increase a trait of your choice. Only if you tried but were unsuccessful in gaining a Quest card in the turn, you may name a trait and roll a number of dice equal to that traits value. If the roll is two or less, you may take a +1 Trait token and add it to your Adventurer card… forever (or until you die).

Transylvania trait tokens

III. Cleanup – If you have more than four Quest cards in your hand at the end of your turn you must discard down to four (Shhh…some Cards increase your hand size though).

Transformation (or “I like being a Werewolf”)

Transformation cards must stay in your hand. They not only clog your hand of valuable resources but most importantly, if you collect a certain number – you transform into a monster! Each monster type (Zombie, Vampire and Werewolf) have their own specific requirements in causing the transformation. For example, to become a Werewolf, one Werewolf Transformation card and one Full Moon Event card will do the trick.

Transylvania transformation cards

When you draw the cards necessary to transform, and you transform on your own turn, you have a choice. You can choose to not tell anyone you have transformed, and continue to play as an adventurer. Up until the time you attack another Adventurer! Ah! Zombie attack! When you do choose to transform, you have to discard all your stuff, remove your player pawn and Adventurer card and replace it with the Monster pawn and the appropriate Monster card. Now you must hunt down half the other remaining players and… moo ha ha ha!

Transylvania monsters

It Lives… Again!

Did you meet a grizzly end? No prob Bob. When you die, you may regenerate on your next turn. If you aren’t holding any cards that would transform you into a Monster, discard all your activated cards, set your hand aside, choose a new Adventurer card place the pawn on any space on the Church tile. You draw two Quest cards and you may play one immediately. Then continue as if nothing happened.

BUT (and that’s a big but) If you die while holding one or more cards that would transform you into a Monster, you regenerate as that specific Monster. Egad! Discard all your stuff and place the Monster pawn on the very spot where the death occurred.

Each subsequent turn, as you play as a Monster, you move and attack anyone and everyone that gets in your way.


Continue to play until one of the victory conditions is met. Either an Adventurer has returned to the Church with five knowledge cards, a Monster (one of your former friends) eats half the remaining Adventurers, or one of you brave souls actually defeats one of Transylvania’s monstrosities. You either save the town, or get eaten. Best of luck!

Learning Curve

Low. Two turns into the game, you know what’s expected of you and you can get right to it. The text on the cards provides most the information for what happens in the game. It’s straight forward and easy to digest. Like a hapless adventurer!

Who would enjoy this game?

Family Gamer {maybe}
This choice rests with the parents. There is an ample amount of reading and the “monster movie” violence is ever-present with terms like “kill” and “blood splatter tokens” and so forth. So it depends on your children’s exposure to this sort of B movie violence in choosing this game for a family game night. If so, keep it over age 12.

Social Gamer {maybe}
Not a Party game by the true sense of the word but, on a specific night in October, there could be a pretty thematic party experience with this game. And no player elimination means no one sits and watches.

Strategy Gamer {no}
There is a low amount of strategic choice in the game (using your characters abilities to their best ability, hand management and so forth), but these choices become very tactical as you draw random cards and have random Events happen to you. All this chaos and unpredictability make the game extremely reactionary and not strategic.

Casual Gamer {yes}
Simple to play, games take under an hour to play in most cases and there’s a recognizable theme with streamlined mechanics. Casual players can dive in headfirst and have a ball (a Monster ball!). And again, no payer elimination means no grumpy payers twiddling their thumbs who just wanted to have a fun game night.

Avid Gamer {yes}
Any Avid gamer who likes the horror genre, and enjoys the “move, draw a card and see what happens” mechanic will enjoy this game. It has great replay value and unpredictable endings. And, first and foremost, it allows you to recount a story of victory or defeat after the game is done.

Power Gamer {no}
This is not a game for serious gamers who need control over every move. Transylvania gives you just the opposite, a wild roller-coaster of fear, tension and unpredictability. Not a Power gamer’s preferred experience. Drive a stake into this one.

First Impressions

Theme theme theme! The game is just dripping with it. It smells of it, you can taste it. It’s an experience more than a game. It’s like strapping yourself into a haunted house ride and watching the operator throw the switch. Your car lurches forward, you travel out of the sunlight under a black rubber slotted curtain. Eerie music begins, simulated lightning flashes. Your trolley squeaks around the first corner and….

This is the main attraction of Transylvania. Its main appealing quality is the feeling of dread that the timing mechanism in the game produces. What would a horror themed game be without dread and tension? This one serves it up like a good Steven King Novel, rather than a bad Ed Wood film.

One player will become a Monster – its inevitable. Transformation cards may be drawn, held, and no one around you knows who may have been bitten by a Vampire, scratched by a Werewolf or exposed to a Biological agent. You must find the Knowledge to break the curse but each card draw could mean transformation. This makes every card draw tension filled. This critical event timing mechanism is so unique. Like the outbreak mechanic in Pandemic but hidden in your hand. Creepy!

Transylvania monster reference

In addition, turning over each game board tile as you explore the land creates a feeling of anticipation. Seeing the next unexplored location flip up and finding out whether you happened to walk into a Crypt or a Castle courtyard is just pure fun.

Now, the old school mechanic of roll (or just move), flip a card and see what happens (ala Talisman or Tales of the Arabian Nights) is not for everyone. It’s chaotic, unpredictable and can be frustrating. But that’s just the set of emotional responses Jamie and Loren Cunningham want you to feel, and they did an excellent job of trimming out any extra stuff that might make this game feel mechanical.

The art work, as you can see, is perfect for this genre. Artist Kristel Raymundo has combined Horror with Steampunk with Pulp Fiction and made a dangerously glamorous game.

Best of all, this game has a quality that makes it most appealing: it gives you the chance to walk away and have a true tale to tell of your exploits and experiences as a player. It typifies the reason why most folks play games in the first place: to have an experience outside of themselves, in another world or fictional environment. Transylvania delivers. It creates a positive play experience by making it personal. A game that can involve you so emotionally usually ends up being brought to the table more often.

Almost Final Thoughts

Back it! This should be a game everyone can buy and enjoy. It beckons to be played, it tempts you to defeat it, and turns players against one another. It makes you nibble your fingernails. It creeps you out. Dim the lights, light a candle or two, play your favorite eerie soundtrack and dive right in.

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{Backing ends May 31st, 10:59pm MST}
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Comments (5)

Gamer Avatar
Mask of Agamemnon
The Gold Heart
Cooperative Game Explorer

Game seems cool, reminiscent in style to A Touch of Evil.

Gamer Avatar
The Gold Heart
Plaid Hat Games fan
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
Bronze Supporter

@ Paladin

The Cunninghams are play testing unique abilities for each of the adventurers this very weekend. So I believe there will be some implementation of this down the road. Stay tuned! Love this game!

Gamer Avatar
Veteran Grader

@Paladin, I agree with that sentiment. Perhaps we’ll see an expansion potential there or if nothing else, an opportunity to house rule something fun in the interim.

Gamer Avatar
Intermediate Reviewer
Mask of Agamemnon
Novice Advisor

Really digging the game’s concept, and backed since day 1, but I’d really like to see a unique element or ability for each character other than stats, which reflects his character type. i.e. Why am I playing an inventor, when I don’t really get to invent anything?

Gamer Avatar
Veteran Grader

I adore this theme and the game mechanics that I’ve seen. This definitely has the making of another gateway game that will bring more people into the hobby. With nice artwork and random infection elements, the replayability will keep me from quickly tiring of it. I love the alternate ending conditions it presents for players and the lack of player elimination. I can’t wait for this one to come to my table.

I’ve met the Cunninghams in person and seen how attentive they are to their supporters. That attitude will keep fans loyal and bring in more business. Win-win!

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