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PAX 2012: A Touch Of Evil

by Sam Kemmis

OK, we'll admit it: We've got a big crush on the Seattle-based board game company Flying Frog Productions. Last year at PAX, Jason wrote an effusive love-letter to Flying Frog's epic Fortune and Glory. Then we heaped praise on Invasion From Outer Space, another rad tabletop offering.

I was drawn to Flying Frog's PAX booth, therefore, like a moth drawn to a moth of the opposite sex during moth-breeding season. I got to play a quick round of the spectral/spooky/silly game A Touch Of Evil, and TL;DR: It Rocked.

The game is set in the early-19th century hamlet of Shadowbrook, where a supernatural evil villain is threatening to overrun the town unless a small group of heroes can stop it. The H.P. Lovecraft influences are clear, and indeed the gameplay is pretty darn similar to Fantasy Flight Game’s Cthulu-based Arkham Horror. But while A Touch of Evil can be played cooperatively, the normal game is a cutthroat Players vs. Players vs. Evil format. Plus, the rules are a little simpler and the game plays much faster than Arkham Horror.

I took on the role of the questionably-coiffed Inspector Cooke, while my random-PAX-attendee playing-mate was Benjamin-Franklin-wannabe Harlow Morgan. And here’s the best part: Harlow Morgan was running our game (muttonchops and all)! I even got an autographed photo, because sometimes life is wonderful:

We set off running through the eldritch streets of Shadowbrook, collecting clues, fighting flying mermaids, and purchasing an army’s worth of weaponry (I believe I ended the game with a wooden stake, a crossbow, a sword, and an attack corgi). The climactic final battle took place in the lighthouse, where, after trying and failing to blind the she-villain with the lighthouse beacon, I thrashed her doughtily. I was knocked unconscious, but the town was saved. Huzzay and huzzah!

We played the base game with both the Something Wicked and upcoming The Coast expansion packs, plus the two Hero Pack expansions. It was huge, with 3 boards, 17 possible villains, and 24 heroes. But here’s what really sets Flying Frog games apart: The art.

Flying Frog's art design is shamelessly, wonderfully campy. Game elements are adorned with over-the-top photographs of grown adults in silly costumes, and it’s simply delicious once you give yourself over to it. I talked to Flying Frog’s art director Scott Hill, and he said that they strove to make every image in the game look like a still from a film. And they totally do, albeit stills from a heartwarmingly sincere horror movie made by a bunch of friends. The game even comes with a CD of original music to blast while you play, further evidence of Flying Frog’s awesomely home-spun, grassroots, indie-turned-commercial creative approach. I mean, c’mon:

All right, I’m in danger of unbridled enthusiasm, so I’ll stop myself before Flying Frog files a restraining order. But in closing I’ll just say that I’ve never had such a legitimately good time playing a game with strangers. Plus, they gave me a free copy of A Touch Of Evil – who wants to play sometime?