There’s Something In The Dark Woods
Beyond the grounds of Franken State University, there is a place that no one dares enter. Past the scattered trees, to where the woods become dense and dark, you can find things that are truly terrifying. Everyone knows what’s out there. Everyone knows what the woods are really inhabited by…
The abandoned thesis projects of the university’s science department are alive out there– sad creatures, crawling in the dark. When the sun falls below the horizon, you can hear them, growling and grunting, fighting each other to survive. And if you listen really closely, you can sometimes hear them speak…
“Shiny… Tummy… Kitty…”
However, these creatures are not the true danger. There is something far more sinister lurking in those woods. Long ago, it was left to fend for itself– the first failed experiment. It has been said, that the other creatures have tried to destroy it, to fight against the beast, but none have been successful. Perhaps, if the creatures could stop fighting amongst themselves, they could defeat the Abomination once and for all…
- 3-7 Players
- 20-30 Minutes
- Age 7+
Stitches, by Norwester Games, is a semi-cooperative game, where players take on the role of abandoned thesis projects, trying to survive in the woods. The goal of the game, is to upgrade your body parts, enough to be able to team up with the other creatures, to take down the Abomination. Players can gain new parts by scavenging the forest floor, or by attacking the others and stealing their targeted body parts. In the game, attacking uses a simple Rock, Paper, Scissors mechanic for combat. Whenever a player attacks another player, both the attacker, and the player being attacked, will learn a new word. These words will be the only form of communication that you have, besides grunting and growling. This adds to the challenge of trying to coordinate a strategy with other players. If a player chooses to attack the Abomination on their turn, anyone who shares a word with that player must also attack (there are ways to get out of attacking, but it is costly). The Abomination is not easy to kill, and will require players to have strong upgraded parts and plenty of allies to defeat it. However, there is a limited amount of time for you and your fellow creatures to defeat the Abomination. If there are no more cards left in the Parts Deck, the Abomination has won.
Stitching Things Together
The first part of setup is to distribute a starting set of human body parts to each player. Everyone will receive one head, one torso, two arms, and a set of legs. Players also have the option of choosing between the type of head and torso they want to start with. Players will take their body pieces and set them up so that all the parts connect to make a creature (example to the right). The arms are also interchangeable, so you can have them up or down. Each player will also receive a quick reference card.
Next, each player will receive two Stitch Tokens. These are the currency for the game, and will be used to buy parts when scavenging. Then, place twice as many Stitch Tokens as there are players in the center of the table and this will be the pot for the game. Once you have the Stitch Tokens distributed, shuffle the non-human, non-torso cards together and that will make up the Parts Deck. Place it in the center of the table next to the Stitch Tokens.
The Abomination will have its own set of starter parts. From these cards, randomly choose one Abomination Head and one Abomination Torso and place them face down on the table where you have room. As the game goes on, more parts will be added. Then deal one card from the Word Deck to each player. Lastly, shuffle the Abomination Deck, and set it next to the Abomination, where there is room.
The player who most felt like a monster when they woke up that morning will receive the First Player Token.
You Grunt, I Growl
How To Play
The game is comprised of several rounds, which are separated into two phases: Market Setup and Player Action.
During the Market Setup, take the top card of the Parts Deck and add it to an empty spot on the Abomination. This will not happen every round, only in the first. Every Market Setup that follows, draw one card from the Abomination Deck, to determine the action of the Abomination for that round. The Abomination will do one of the following:
- It Grows: Draw a card from the top of the Parts Deck and place it face up next to an open spot on the Abomination. If there are no empty space, do not draw a card.
- It Attacks: The Abomination attacks the targeted player’s lowest value part. The targeted player will either be the person with the First Player Token, or the second player, which is the person to the left of the first player. The value of a part is determined by the stitch cost (a starter part has no cost, therefore it is the lowest). If multiple parts tie for the same value, the Abomination will start at the head and work its way around clockwise, until it finds a piece to defeat.
- It Rampages: The Abomination attacks the lowest value you piece of all players. Ties will resolve as above.
- It’s Behind You: Move the First Player Token forward two players– this is two players left of where it began.
Once you have resolved the Abomination Card, draw 3 cards from the Parts Deck and lay them out face up in a row. This will act as the Market for Scavenging.
Once this is complete, the Player Action phase begins. The beginning of this phase starts with open discussion, using known words, grunts, and growls to communicate. This will go on until a player as put their arms in the air to motion that they are ready for everyone to decide what they are doing that round: Scavenging or Attacking. Once that player is seconded by another player, everyone will close their eyes and the player who made the motion will growl three times. At the end of the third growl everyone will open their eyes, and indicate what action they are going to take– arms up for Attacking, arms down for Scavenging (if you want to avoid the grunting, growling , and arm bit, your reference cards can be used to show your action).
All players that choose to Scavenge will first divide the Stitch Pot evenly; any leftovers will be part of the pot for the next round. Then, starting with the first player, everyone will perform their action.
If you chose to Scavenge, draw one card off the top of the Parts Deck (each scavenging player will do this on their turn), and add it to the Market. You now can spend any amount of Stitches you want, for however many parts you want, providing you can pay their stitch costs (indicated on a corner of the card). Once you have purchased what you want, your turn is over and player on your left will take their turn.
If you are choosing to Attack, you must first announce if you are attacking another play or the Abomination.
When attacking another player:
- Choose a part on another player’s creature. All of your combined Rock, Paper, Scissor symbols must beat all of the symbols on that particular part. Ex. If Bobby’s head has 2 paper and 1 scissor, you must have at least 2 scissors and 1 rock somewhere on your body to defeat it.
- Once you have defeated a part you may take it and add it to your body, to either an open matching space, or use it as an upgrade to an existing part. Any parts being changed out for an upgrade, will be put into the Discard Pile.
- If you don’t wish to take a body part, you can just attack a player, by taking half of their Stitches rounded up.
- Either way, once an attack has finished, both players involved will receive a new word card. If it is a card they already have, put it at the bottom of the deck and draw a new one.
When attacking the Abomination:
- If this is the first attack on the Abomination, reveal the head and torso cards. Unlike the standard torso, Abomination torsos will often add a symbol or have some other ability.
- If there are any empty body slots on the Abomination, shuffle the Discard Pile and fill in the empty spots using discarded parts.
- Attacking the Abomination is a team effort. Any players that share words with the player attacking the Abomination will be rallied to fight. Starting with the initiating player everyone will take turns attacking or retreating from the Abomination. The initiating player must attack at least once.
- If you are the first on the team to retreat, you will lose the word you shared with the initiating player.
- The attacks on the Abomination follow the same rules for attacking a part on another player. However, you do not add the part you defeat to your body until the entire encounter is over.
- The Abomination will counterattack once a player’s attack is successful. The Abomination will target the highest value part on the attacking player. Following normal combat rules, if it can defeat it, that part is removed and put into the Discard Pile. If it cannot defeat it, it will start at the head and move clockwise until it can defeat something. If there is nothing it can defeat, all of your parts are safe. A counterattack will happen after every attack.
- After the counterattack, the next player in the party will take their turn attacking or retreat. Once everyone has retreated, the encounter is over.
- If all of the parts on the Abomination are defeated, you and your monster pals have won the game. If not, play will continue as normal, and the next attack on the Abomination will cause it to refill its parts from the Discard Pile (it only refills for separate attack parties, not during every attack from players within a party).
Once everyone has performed their action, the Market is cleared and put into the Discard Pile. Then a new round will start, beginning with the Market Phase (unless the Abomination has been defeated, in which case, the game is over). If the Market cannot be filled, because there are no cards left in the Parts Deck, then the game is over and the Abomination has won.
More Than Just An Abandoned Thesis Project
I am normally not a fan of cooperative games– they always seem lacking to me. However, Stitches does a great job combining a “take that” element with a cooperative goal. This is the strongest aspect of the game, I feel. I never walk away upset that I was attacked by other players, as the attacking of my creature ultimately benefited the group in some way. Deciding what other players to attack is a surprisingly meaningful decision. Sometimes, it is beneficial to attack another player just to exchange a similar part, because it helps you and that person to gain a word. What makes it challenging too, is trying to communicate only using the word cards you know and grunts. Let me tell you, it is really hard to convey a plan of attack, but it’s totally worth it if you can pull it off.
This game also benefits from the ridiculousness it puts the players through. The first time I played this, was probably the most hilarious thing ever (obvious exaggeration, but still super funny). Just picture a bunch of grown adults repeating, “Shiny, kitty, cookie,” in animated monster voices. We were dying of laughter. This is another great strength of the game. Even if you don’t manage to kill the Abomination, you are still having a great laugh while failing. Of course, this will only work with people who are willing to act a little silly. Yes, you can play using the reference cards to indicate things, or just saying your known words normally– but where is the fun in that? I think this aspect will do well with kids, and adults willing to be a little silly. Frowny Faces need not apply.
There’s also a lot of good value in this game. I didn’t mention it above, but there will also be a torso variant available, where if you manage to get three parts from a single type (i.e. 3 polar bear parts), you gain a matching torso. I actually prefer to play the game with the torso bit, as it adds some individual strategy to the game. I also find that the game works best in larger numbers– five to seven players works great.
The only real issue I have with the game, is that after a few plays (especially with the same group), it begins to feel a little solved. Once you can figure out a solid strategy, you can usually apply it to every game, which takes a little bit of the initial challenge of the game away. However, there is enough randomness to balance that, as every game will essentially be different, based on what parts become available, and what cards are drawn from the Abomination Deck. Honestly, even if you manage to perfect your gameplay, this will still be a really fun, light game to bring out for a good laugh.
Overall, I really enjoyed this game. It’s got really fun art, a good balance between cooperative and “take that,” and it has the potential for a lot of laughs. If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, the game will be hitting Kickstarter October 12, 2016.
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