by Kevin "ekricket" Ricketson
(Bartlesville, OK, USA)
Ghoulash – The Last Game on Earth
Number of players:
2 (Although we experimented with 3)
I have to admit I cringed a bit when I got Ghoulash to review. I am older now, and prefer more social games, but since it came my way I decided to give it a fair shot. It's a fun activity when you need to pass some time.
The game and gameplay
Game Pieces – one sheet of paper with the two grids (scenarios) drawn on it, at least one pencil, and about 20 minutes to kill. That's it.
Players take turn being the player and the planner (dungeon master?). The first step is to separate the two maps, with the player being given just a copy of the map. The planner then takes the other map and list of monsters and "hides" Ghouls and other objects, like health packs and holes, on his map.
The planner must also select a "weak spot" on each Ghoul. Each Ghoul is divided into six area and each area has a number on it. The planner simply circles the weak spot of his choosing for each monster.
During play, if that number is selected by the player, then the Ghoul is killed. The planner should be careful not to let the player see the marked up map.
The game itself is simple enough. The player has to start in the center and accomplish a goal, outlined in the scenario description, before getting killed. The scenarios we played consisted of having to rescue a victim and return to the starting square.
The player moves by announcing which direction he is going, and he moves until he hits a wall or other obstacle, like a hole or a Ghoul. The planner plots the course that the player chooses on his master map: it is recommended that the player keep track of his path on his copy of the map, especially when non-removable obstacles, like holes, are encountered.
When a Ghoul is encountered, a battle ensues. The battle consists of selecting a number between one and six, and if the Ghoul's weak spot is "hit" then the Ghoul is killed. If the weak spot is missed, then the player inflicts one damage point.
The player continues "battling" (calling out numbers) until the Ghoul is killed. If the player accumulates fifteen hits then he is dead and the planner wins the game. There are health packs hidden around also, so you can regain all of you health if you run across one of these.
This is a game where you have to get into the planner's head and figure out how sneaky they were when they laid out the obstacles. This is kind of like Battleship and Stratego rolled into one game.
The planner could be tricky, hiding all of the health packs on one corner of the map and all of the Ghouls on another corner, protecting the objective, or he could be fairer and scatter things randomly. As you play, look for patterns that may indicate how things were laid out. Keep track of your route so you don't hit holes twice.
Pros and cons
Ghoulash has an easy to grasp concept, is easy to play and very good for places where you are trapped for long periods of time with nothing else to do. Like a car trip, camping, or jail. For us, planning the board was as much fun as playing the board.
It is cheap, you can modify the scenarios easily enough (we let the player accumulate his stuff from one map to the next and we even played with one planner and two players, seeing who could rescue the victim first, or in fewest moves).
If there is anything else to do, most people would do it instead. Even watch reruns of Golden Girls or pull weeds in the garden. Seriously, there are not too many cons: it is just in this day and age, it is hard to get somebody excited about something this low tech.
I would recommend keeping a Ghoulash pack in your glove box or backpack, just in case you and some friends are stranded somewhere and want to plot some strategy. It's a great buy for five bucks.