Rattle-rattle. Rattle-rattle. I can hear it now. Destiny is sitting somewhere beyond the mortal world determining our simple fates with a broken old cup and a pile of moldy D6s. Before I start terrifying myself with the thought that Destiny rolls a D6 to see how productive I am each day, let me tell you about this board game. A Touch of Evil is a cooperative OR competitive adventure board game that hearkens back to classic pulp-horror movies like Nosferatu and Frankenstein. Using a mock hand-drawn map for a game board, with stylized drawings and costumed photo-shoots of monsters and villains placed on reference cards and monster tokens, A Touch of Evil definitely impresses with its thematic follow-through. And these artistic choices and thematic designs are what will draw most players to this hybrid co-op competitive game. The components themselves are of such a high and lasting quality, with the art being supplemental in its attractiveness, that A Touch of Evil, like many Flying Frog games, will not disappoint players who appreciate the finer things in life. Like thick card stock and miniatures that don’t remind you of dollar store army men.
As previously mentioned, A Touch of Evil offers players two methods of play: Cooperative and Competitive, which my fellow guilt-free gamers, and myself, attempted to try on two separate occasions. I found the cooperative mode to be the most fun, accurately representing how heroes band together resources to take down a difficult challenge. There was a critical moment about an hour into the game, after many successive downpours of bats and other monsters, when we realized that we could take down the villain if we only tried. This was when I realized that A Touch of Evil is easier the longer you play it. To put it another way, A Touch of Evil is incredibly easy as long as you have plenty of time to kill. Your characters will never die, at least not forever; you simply lose money when you fall victim to the villain’s forces. In fact, the only real threat to winning the cooperative game is the game’s countdown-clock mechanic. A sort of apocalypse clock, thematically represented by the sun, when this clock reaches a certain point, the player’s simply lose the game. But it is incredibly easy to suppress the villain’s ability to do this, as player’s are constantly able to reset the clock, even as they are “knocked out” regularly. Winning is without difficulty, player’s merely amass an insurmountable amount of wealth and items before the villain has even an remote chance of standing up to them.
The competitive game, on the other hand, is a whole other beast. Can I say disaster? Ever play Munchkin? I felt A Touch of Evil, in its competitive mode, boiled down to a few of the same simple ideas shared by the power-leveling card game by Steve Jackson. Over the course of a competitive game, players gather cards in their hands that can either add a positive or negative result to a fight between a player and the villain. In a cooperative game, players use these cards to help one another and negatively affect the villain’s combat prestige, but in the competitive mode, players throw their hands of negative or positive benefits at one another. This lasts until players are out of cards, then whoever is left standing with a card or two in their hands simply fights the villain and wins unobstructed. Competitive game play boils down to a war of attrition and conservative card playing. This doesn’t mean it took any less time to finish a competitive game though. Whenever a player would try to win, as mentioned, a massive barrage of cards would fly out of people’s hands and pummel the lonely player’s near victory into the dust. The game is essentially reset as far as that player is concerned, due to his “unconsciousness” at the villain’s hands, and since the other players need to gather new cards as well, the game continues for quite some time. I suppose I should mention I was the player who died first. While the other players tried to restore their hand size, I, the poor recently abused and deceased player attempted to recover. But I found I never could; it was an impossible task to catch up after dying. I just ended up trying to ruin the other player’s victories out of spite. Made sense to me. In the end, the player who messed with me least – and my glorious battle with Dracula – ended up winning because he saved up more cards in his hands than anyone else. A wise tactical choice in the long run, though it’s possible I could have won myself if everyone had done the same thing as the winning player had and saved their cards for their own fights, as I fell victim to the Impaler by a measly modifier of 1, and this was in a battle where at least ten cards had hit the table.
You’re probably thinking at this point that A Touch of Evil sounds great and your ordering a copy from your FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) right now. That’s assuming you’re every other gamer in the world that isn’t me and loves Munchkin. But let me condescend for a minute or two and fill you in on how I feel about a few of the game’s critical flaws.
Drawn like a tattered piece of parchment, the map is a smear of yellow paper with tiny black writing. I’d say that one could accurately redraw the game board on a napkin, if only the napkin first had coffee spilled on it and was torn in a few places. The board isn’t ugly, but it is barely legible without squinting, and I found it a little boring, though attractive in its own quirky way.
Now let me ask you a critical question which will absolutely determine whether you will like A Touch of Evil or not. Do you like to roll dice? I mean, do you REALLY like to roll dice? How much of the dice-love are we talking here? Would you roll dice for a chocolaty ice-cream bar? Would you slap your Dad if he banned polyhedrons from the dinner table? Well, if so, order away because the majority of your play time with A Touch of Evil will not be spent trying to outwit your opponents, and definitely not trying to overcome the board’s challenges. Oh no, you need to get ready for carpal tunnel, your wrist is in for a dice-shaking 2-hour workout!
You’ll roll to move, stand still, fight, end the turn, sneak by enemies, use a skill, make money. Why, you’ll roll dice to do everything. Well, there are a few exceptions. Like when you accuse townsfolk of being evil, which is fun in it’s own sadistic way, but of course, costs money earned by rolling dice. You also won’t roll dice when you use cards, which you rolled dice to collect, and you won’t need dice when you come back to life after the villain knocks you out, which was determined by your dice rolls in combat.
A Touch of Evil has many of the same flawed mechanics that other Flying Frog Production games have. It uses dice to determine movement and it shines when players work together and seems to fall apart when players are at odds with one another. Which is why I recommend A Touch of Evil to fans of other Flying Frog products, or other games with similar competitive mechanics like Munchkin. Meanwhile, I suggest wary buyers demo a copy before they drop a Benjamin on this shelf hogger. Then again, it is the season to scare and torture your guests.