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Ghost Bastion

Ghost Stories is one of the games seated in my personal pantheon (or should I say, hell pit) of unbeatable games. I just cannot win, even though I've tried innumerable times. My sessions typically begin humbly, the first game as a warm-up to refresh the rules and tactics. The second and third go a bit better. Then I manage to reach Wu-Feng and die.

The release of the epic fantasy reskin of Ghost Stories, Last Bastion, rekindled my interest in the original. Even though the game has the word 'stories' in the title, I wouldn't say it generates much narrative. The central tile grid doesn't really feel like a village. Bastion is a more fitting term, probably, as the ghosts relentlessly attack from all sides.

The main draw here is the artwork and the mechanism. Pierô has done a wonderful job with the illustration of the ghosts, they all look different but equally nasty. The game demands that you be focused the whole time. Mistakes are dearly paid. You neglect to unhaunt the haunted tiles: soon a third one is flipped, and it's all over. You spend your Qi frivolously: your monk is soon lying at the cemetery. You rely too much on the colored dice: you immediately realize this doesn't work.

I always play with all four monks, never pure solo. I enjoy moving all of them around more than just controlling one. After repeated losses, I give up and return the box to the shelf. I do like the game, though, even if I'm not good at it. I have even avoided buying the White Moon expansion because people say it makes the game easier. I don't want to make it easier. I know that it eventually rewards the patient and persistent player. It was first released in 2008 but doesn't feel dated. I would say it is by now a solo and co-op classic.

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