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Midnight Party (aka Ghost Party)

A fantastic children's game that also works for adults

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Midnight Party

Midnight Party

Photo © Erik Arneson
There have been a lot of editions of this game -- in English alone it's had two different names (Midnight Party and Ghost Party). I think my favorite is Spöktimmen... I have no idea what language that is but it looks like Hugo (the ghost in the game) formed a Icelandic heavy metal band.

Two Guys Hiking in the Woods...

But that's not really the point here, is it? We're talking about the gaming equivalent of the old joke about the two guys hiking in the woods.

See, there's these two guys who are hiking in the woods when they come upon a big grizzly bear. The bear lunges toward them and they begin running, leaping over fallen trees and dodging saplings as they go.

They can hear the bear behind them, crashing through the underbrush... but they're running fast enough to put a bit of distance between them and the bear. Suddenly, one of the guys stops and pulls a pair of running shoes out of his bag and begins to lace them on -- even as they can hear the bear moving closer.

The other guys asks him: "What are you doing? You can't outrun the bear!"

To which, the running shoe guy replies: "I don't have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you."

Thank you, thank you... I'll be here all week. Don't forget to tip your waitress.

Since my career in stand-up comedy is DOA, let's get back to talking about the game, shall we? I told you the joke because that's really the heart of Midnight Party, except in this case it's a ghost chasing you because he wanted to play hide and seek at his birthday party and when you get caught, you just lose points, not various parts of your anatomy.

Playing Hide and Seek with a Ghost

Depending on the number of players (and this game really does work with 2 to 8 players, though I like it best with 5 or more), each person controls two or more party-goers who are placed around the central hallway of Hugo's mansion.

In turn, each player rolls the die and either moves one of their figures (4 of the sides have numbers on them) or moves Hugo (2 of the sides have Hugo's mug shot plastered across it). Hugo is a nimble little fellow so he gets to move 3 spaces each time his picture pops up.

When Hugo reaches the top of the stairs (he starts in the center of the board in the basement), players have permission to begin hiding in the rooms around the hallway. There's a few twists to this, of course:

  • Not all of the rooms are open. For example, you can't hide in the bathroom where someone is taking a bath. (The artwork on the board is very cute and full of detail.)

  • Only one figure can hide in each room.

  • There are two rooms that have Hugo's ghost buddies in them that cost the player 1 point to use -- but that often beats the alternative.

  • There are two other rooms that are worth +3 points to hide in... but you have to reach those rooms by exact count.

Stay Away from Hugo

If Hugo manages to pass or catch a figure, they're sent to the basement until the game is over. The first figure(s) take a -10 penalty, the second -9, and so on. (The whole "ghost buddy" rooms thing makes more sense now, eh?!) As more than one figure can be on a hallway space at one time, those who are caught together suffer the same penalty.

But it's not time to refresh your beverage when your figures are done moving (by being caught or hiding). You still roll the dice to see if Hugo moves! This, by the way, is one of the highlights of the game, as those players who are finished are rooting for Hugo to kick it into overdrive and chase down the remaining players before they can dart to safety.

So, when everyone is either caught or safely hidden in a room, the round ends and you score up. The game is made to play multiple rounds -- we usually play three. So, each person who hid in a room is moved outside their room to start the next round and then the figures who were caught choose their starting places in the order they were caught.

As I describe the game, it doesn't sound like much. But there is a whole lot of fun packed into this simple game -- I've never seen it fall flat. It works with groups of kids (as young as age 5), with gamers as a late night closer, with families... The combination of easy rules and fun gameplay that can accommodate eight players comfortably make it a real winner in my book.

Details

Midnight Party is for 2 to 8 players, ages 8 and up. It was designed by Wolfgang Kramer and published by Ravensburger.

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