- For ages 15 and up (publisher suggests 17+)
- For 2 to 5 players
- Approximately 60 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Cooperative & Team Play
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Moderate
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Survive a psychopath, or take out those pesky kids!
- Gamer Geek approved!
- Parent Geek approved!
ChildYoung Adult Geek approved!
American author Alice Sebold wrote in her book The Lovely Bones, “Murderers are not monsters, they’re men. And that’s the most frightening thing about them.” In this game, one player will take on the role of such a monster. They will hunt and attempt to take out a small group of Campers who had the misfortune of choosing a seemingly abandoned camp as their party spot. The Campers are being stalked by a madman, but they can survive if they organize and fight back or attempt to be rescued. One thing is for sure, the line between hunter and hunted can quickly become blurred, and survival of the fittest often comes down to the right card at the right time.
Psychopath, designed by John J. Perry, Jr. and published by RealmsMasters Game Forge, is comprised of 60 Psycopath cards and 66 Camper cards. All the cards are as thick and durable as your standard playing card. Each card displays a photo that depicts the action, item, skill, or ally the card portrays. Most of these photos depict acts of violence with a comical amount of fake gore. This was enough to persuade many of our Parent Geeks to avoid putting this game in front of our youngest Child Geeks. The minimum playing age is noted as 17 by the publishers, most likely as a result of the graphic nature of the images. Nothing sexual, mind you, but oh my goodness—so much blood.
Think campy B-Horror movie stills. Over the top, full of violence, and eye-rollingly campy (deliberately exaggerated and theatrical in style). Humorous and yucky. Great stuff for a specific crowd.
Thankfully, our playing groups also contain a good number of teenagers who are down with horror movies, allowing us to play the game with enough people to give you a solid review.
Setting Up Camp
To set up the game, complete the following steps:
First, determine which player will be the Psychopath. All the other players will be Campers. This is a “one versus many” game, meaning the Campers will work together to outwit and outpower the Psychopath. The Psychopath’s only job is to take out the Campers for reasons…
Second, separate the deck of cards into a Psychopath deck and a Campers deck. The backs of the cards are all the same, but you can easily see which card belongs to which group by observing the image on the card’s face. Once the decks are separated, each of the groups will do a bit of deck preparation.
The Psychopath takes their deck of cards and sets aside a number of cards based on the number of Campers. Think of this as picking your starting equipment. The remaining cards are then shuffled through the deck. Then, depending on the number of players, the Psychopath will draw – without looking – the number of cards required per the number of Campers in the game. These are added to the cards the Psychopath previously set aside and contribute to the number of cards kept. Any cards not used are returned to the game box. The Psychopath then shuffles their deck placing it face-down in front of them.
Meanwhile, the Campers will look through their deck of cards, selecting two cards for each Camper they want to keep and setting them aside. Then, just like the Psychopath, they shuffle their remaining cards, deal out the necessary number to add to the cards they set aside, and place any undealt cards back into the game box. Finally, one Camper takes the Campers’ deck of cards, shuffles it, and places it in front of them face-down.
Third, each group now deals their starting hand. The Psychopath draws five, plus one additional card for each Camper. This number is the Psychopath’s hand limit for the duration of the game. At the same time, the Campers draw their cards, with each Camper getting several cards in their starting hand based on the number of Campers in the game. The Campers must not share the cards they drew. In typical Horror Movie fashion, the Campers are not all that organized and cannot openly share information about what they have or plan on doing. They’ll have to work to make that happen.
That’s it for the game setup. Let’s get to the slaughter!
Card Anatomy 101
The cards in Psychopath are identical in their layout, regardless of the player’s role. This makes it easy for everyone who learns how to play the game to be comfortable playing as the psychotic killer or hopeless teenager.
First, let’s get comfortable with the card layout.
A) Player Icon: This indicates in which deck the card belongs (the Psychopath of the Campers)
B) Card Title: Most of the time, this value is ignored, but there are a few cards that specifically name another card’s title
C) Location Icon: This icon depicts one of the four possible locations to hunt or hide
D) Card Type: There are four types of cards in the game which influence game outcomes during a Struggle. I’ll talk more about these in a moment.
E) Flavor Text: Worth the read as they provide a very entertaining and obvious wink or node to the B-Horror movies from which this game was heavily influenced.
F) Same Location Icon: This is the text read and resolved when a Camper is at the same location as the Psychopath.
G) Different Location Icon: This is the text read and resolved when the Camper is at a location without the Psychopath or when the Psychopath finds themselves all alone.
H) Wound and Defense Icons: Wound icons look like a slash, while the Defense icon looks like a hand. The number values are used during a Struggle. It is worth noting that not all the cards have these values.
Let’s go into more detail about the card types, as they play prominently in the game.
Action types allow the player to “do something.” Most of the time, this is an attack, a dodge, or running like hell.
Alley types are the unfortunate individuals who stumbled into the fray. They either benefit the Camper or the Psychopath, depending on who played the Ally. Allies will influence cards and can even engage in a Struggle. Unlike our Campers, they are easy to kill and are removed from play if they take one or more Wounds.
Item types represent all the physical things found around the area that can be used by the Campers to survive and escape or for the Psychopath to wield to finish off his prey.
Skill types are reasonably robust and are kept in play. They enhance the survivability of the Camper or improve the killer prowess of the Psychopath.
In addition to the four types, several traits further enhance and refine the type. These trait values are mentioned explicitly by other cards and determine if specific outcomes are possible. For example, for a Camper to escape, they must have a card in their hand with the trait value of “Signal.” Other traits include, but are not limited to, the following:
The Hunted and the Hunter
Psychopath is played in rounds with no set number of rounds per game. A single game round is summarized here.
Phase One: Select Starting Card
Each of the cards depicts a location. The lake, cabin, shed, and the surrounding woods, respectfully. These represent the Campers’ current location and where the Psychopath is hunting. The goal here depends on your role.
- The Psychopath should attempt to guess where they might find one or more Campers.
- The Campers should attempt to guess where they will avoid the Psychopath but encounter other Campers.
Which, you know, is totally about guessing since the Campers cannot communicate with each other and the voices in the Psychopath’s head aren’t much help. Once each player picks a card with the location, they place it face-down in front of them.
Phase Two: Reveal the Location
Once all the players have their cards face down, they are flipped over one-by-one first by the Campers in any order they like, announcing their location to everyone playing. Prepare for high-fives and “oh no” responses. After all the Campers reveal their location, the Psychopath reveals theirs, at which point they can either laugh like a madman or sulk because none of the Campers are nearby. Totally up to them. Empower yourself, Phsycophath, you crazy sonofabitch!
Phase Three: Resolve Location
Now we get to the fun part of the game. Resolving the locations!
To begin, each Camper in the same location without the Psychopath may now resolve the text displayed on their card in the “Different Location” section. This is read out loud and may be resolved in any order the Campers like. Once resolved, their turn ends unless they have a special “Keep In Play” card in front of them, which might also be resolved at this time.
Suppose none of the Campers are in the same location as the Psychopath. In that case, the Psychopath will also resolve their card’s “Different Location” section, but only after all the Campers have completed their turn. Similar to the Campers, their turn ends here unless they have a “Keep In Play” card in front of them that can be activated and resolved. Which, I must add, might allow the Psychopath to find a Camper to play with.
Phase Four: Struggle
If one or more Campers are at the same location as the Psycophath, the Psychopath gets to resolve the “Same Location” text on their card first. Then the Campers, located at the same location as the Psychopath, resolve their “Same Location” card text in any order they like.
And now the fighting begins…
The Psychopath goes first, followed by the Campers in any order. It is possible that all the Campers are struggling with the Psychopath, or some might be struggling with an Ally. In all cases, each is considered a separate struggle and is resolved separately. During the Struggle Phase, each player will take one of three actions regardless of their role. It should be noted that any player with a card with the trait “Response” may play that card out of turn at any time it makes sense.
A Struggle is often comprised of several turns. Until all the players decide to Pass, the Struggle continues!
Play One Card
Play one card from your hand, resolving its effect. Only the text “Same Location” is used since the Psychopath and Campers are in the same locations (ignore the Location icons during the Struggle). Cards with the “Assist” trait value may be used on other Campers or Allies. If the Campers have an Ally with them, the Psychopath may play cards against them. Playing cards with the “Response” trait value does not count as a player’s turn during the Struggle. If a “Keep In Play” card is played, it becomes available on the player’s next turn.
Once resolved, the player’s turn is over.
Use a “Keep In Play” Card
Instead of playing a card from their hand, the player may resolve the “Same Location” text from a “Keep In Play” card, but only if it was placed during a previous round or turn. Resolve as you would a played card.
The player decides to do nothing this turn. However, they can still be targeted by other players and play cards with the “Response” trait value. They can take another action on the next turn.
After all the players have passed, the results of the Struggle is resolved.
- Campers suffer any Wounds that were not blocked by Defense values. Allies die if they suffer one or more Wounds. A Camper’s Wounds are resolved by discarding a number of cards from their hand equal to the number of Wounds suffered. They are killed if the Camper suffers more Wounds than they can account for with their cards.
- Psychopath suffers any Wounds that were not blocked by Defense values, as well. Allies are killed if they suffer one or more unblocked Wounds. Unlike the Campers, the Psychopath discards a number of cards from their draw deck equal to the number of Wounds suffered. This sucks because at any time the Psychopath needs to draw cards and cannot, they are considered killed. If this happens, feel free to say cryptic last words like, “I’ll be back” or “Why does this always happen to me on Tuesdays?” which will leave the survivors questioning your final words for the rest of their lives.
Phase Five: Collaborate
After the Struggle is resolved, or if no Struggle took place, any surviving Campers located in the same location without the Psychopath may now collaborate. These players may do any of the following, and in any order they like.
- Reveal their hand to the other Campers at their same location.
- Give or trade multiple cards from their hand, including the “Keep In Play” cards in front of them if they are of the card type Alley or Item.
- Discuss strategy and how they should go about surviving. Which, I must point out, is the only time the Campers truly get to talk with each other in this game. So don’t waste the opportunity.
Phase Six: End of the Round
After completing the previous phases, the round comes to an end.
- All played cards, except those that are kept in play or can be returned to the player’s hand, are discarded to their respective discard piles.
- Any cards in the hands of killed Campers are discarded into the discard pile.
- Any cards in the hands of rescued Campers are returned to the game box and out of play for the duration of the game.
- Killed Allies are returned to the game box and are out of play for the game’s duration.
Phase Seven: Draw
Each Camper now draws one card, adding it to their hand. If there are no more cards to draw, shuffle the discard pile, and place it face-down to create a new draw deck.
The Psychopath draws the number of cards required to bring their hand back to their hand limit size. They must still draw one card if they are already at their hand size limit (which might force their death). Before drawing any cards, the Psychopath may discard one card plus one additional card for each Camper in the game (regardless if they are alive or dead) from his hand.
After drawing cards, the Psychopath must discard the number of cards required from their hand to bring the hand size to its limit.
The Campers win if they kill the Psychopath, or any party member can escape, presumably returning with help.
The Psychopath wins if they kill all the Campers, leaving no survivors.
Psychopath can be played in a single session or as a campaign. If playing as a campaign, decide how many games will be played. Throughout the campaign, players will remain as Campers or the Psychopath. Play as many games as determined to be entertaining. After the last game is played, the winner is the group who won the most games during the campaign.
If the Psychopath is killing it (see what I did there?), the game can be made more difficult for the Psychopath (and, as a result, easier for the Campers) by reducing the number of cards the Psychopath has to play with or their hand size limit.
There is an expansion for the game noted in the rule book that introduces a new Camper player, bringing up the camping members to a total of five (allowing for a six-player game). From the details provided, it would appear that the gameplay is the same except for new Situation cards that change the gameplay in favor of the Psychopath or the Campers. Unfortunately, we didn’t have access to this expansion, but we are mentioning it as it sounds awesome.
To learn more about Psychopath, visit the game’s webpage.
As mentioned, we didn’t have the typical number of Child Geeks at hand to play the game due to the graphic images on the cards. However, we did play with Child Geeks, who will tell you that they are not children but teenagers – or in rare cases – young adults. Either way, the group we played with is the same group that has no problem sitting through horror films and is used to video games with violent images and gameplay. This is to say, this group of Child Geeks did not find the game’s images disturbing. What they did find disturbing was how much work you had to put into the game to survive. This is not a game you can breeze through. Campers are targets, and easy ones at that. All agreed that the Psychopath had the advantage, but the Campers were the most fun to play. According to one Child – sorry – Young Adult Geek, “A fun game, easy rules, and a lot of fun to play with friends. Surviving the killer was hard, but it was hilarious when we all found ourselves in the same location as the Psychopath. We whooped his ass!” Another Young Adult Geek said, “I liked it. I enjoyed playing as the killer and camping guys but found it much more entertaining to be with a group trying to survive. I will play this again even if it isn’t around Halloween.” When the last Camper made it out alive, the Young Adult Geeks took a vote, and all approved Psychopath.
The Parent Geeks, especially those who enjoyed horror movies when they were Young Adult Geeks, had a great time with the game’s theme. All Parent Geeks found the gameplay to be a challenging cooperative if they were Campers and an entertaining game of cat-and-mouse if they were the Psychopath. They found the flavor text to be hilarious and spent a reasonable amount of time reminiscing about old horror films and their favorite plot holes that they contained. From time to time, they even spoke about the game. According to one Parent Geek, “I cannot say this game is good wholesome fun for the family, but hot damn, I enjoyed myself. This is a great game to play with my friends, have a beer, sit back and try to survive.” Another Parent Geek said, “Violent. Bloody. Dark humor. Excellent. The gameplay was easy to pick up, but I sometimes found it difficult to determine how best to manage my cards. You want to create combos, but when you can only talk with each other in secret alone, it makes it hard to communicate. Just like the movies!” When the Psychopath was finally put down, the Parent Geeks gasped for breath, and all agreed that the game was worth their time.
The Gamer Geeks enjoyed the game’s theme and premise. They found the gameplay a bit too easy but quickly understood that the game was not to be taken lightly. According to one Gamer Geek, “I went into this game thinking it was going to be silly and obvious. It was. The game was silly and gruesome. Unrelenting in its attacks and outcomes. It was also obvious what I had to do as the Psychopath, but only at first. The game made me think hard about my cards and how I wanted to set up for combos to take out those pesky campers. My first game was rubbish. My second was much better as I had a solid understanding of what I needed to start with to get the Campers as fast as possible. I enjoyed the game and would play it again.” Another Gamer Geek said, “Yes. Excellent. I recommend it—great game with a deep theme, a fun narrative, and a wicked sense of humor. I mostly played as the Camper, finding it much more entertaining to be a survivor than the killer. However, you can only survive if you are smart with your card combos and somewhat rely on the other Campers. A great game filler for the spooky season and anytime you want a killer game at the table.” When the last chop and slice was made, the Gamer Geeks looked at the results, and all agreed it was a bloody great game.
Psychopath was a lot of fun. Primarily because of the game’s theme. The gameplay was engaging. I enjoyed how you had to set up combos to get some unprecedented attacks and defense into the gameplay. Still, you’ll also have downtime when you don’t come into contact with the Psychopath due to the card locations. This is interesting because I purposely tried to hunt for the Psychopath a few times when I had what I thought to be a great combo. It took longer than expected to find the killer, which was quite deflating but entertaining.
If you encounter the Psychopath and you’re alone, you are pretty much screwed unless you can make a quick retreat. I’ve seen a Psychopath take out two Campers, which was pretty exciting to see resolved. But nothing compares to when all the Campers and the Psychopath meet at the same location. All hell breaks lose, my friends. Cards go flying, and this would seem like a great time to play everything you got, but don’t be hasty. The Psychopath is tough. Their life is equal to the deck of draw cards. A Camper’s life is based on the cards in their hand! This means the moment you play a card as a Camper; you are weaker for it. The Psychopath knows this and hopes you forget.
No, don’t go crazy when you meet the crazy killer. The best way to win the game is to stay away from the Psychopath and take potshots to dwindle the madman’s reserve. The game’s length is estimated to be anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes. The game’s length depends on how crafty the Psychopath is and how wreckless the Campers are. But, again, the game mechanic works brilliantly with the game’s theme. I lost track of time playing this game, which is an excellent sign.
The biggest fault I see in the game is the player’s elimination. If you die early, you are out for the duration of the game. Of course, the game ends as soon as any Camper escapes, but that could be a while. I am not now nor ever will be a fan of game designs that boot a player from the table.
I am most pleased with Psychopath. It’s a straightforward “take that” kind of game with a nice twist. The “one versus many” approach works well, keeping the game’s play well within its defined boundaries of the theme, and only serves to compliment it from start to finish. Other than the images that make the game visually off-limits to the younger and more sensitive crowd, it’s a solid game that makes it a point to teach players that to survive you have to stack the deck in your favor and wait for your opportunities. Try this game and see if it slays or bores you to death.
This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.