So after the rules laden buffet of the previous games I’ve written about recently that were digested with gusto and on one occasion resulted in a silent but deadly passing of wind. We take a trip into one of those games in which you’re given the framework and boundaries in which you play, and it’s up to you to craft your own experience. You can look on Greenville 1989 as a game that falls into the same kind of genre as Mysterium or Dixit which is about interpretation of imagery, but with artwork that would sit nicely on the cover of a 80’s Horror VHS cassette box. This is unsettling horror with things that are strange without the obvious IP borrowing.
Greenville is a base salad, with leaves intending to inspire you as you play to relay the wildest tales of where you find yourself and try to explain why you’re in a forest or a classroom or swimming pool, instead of meeting at the intended bowling night. In each of the rounds you’ll try to explain where you are and what your intentions might be going forward based on a card that you are playing with.
The first card is randomly dealt with while future cards are assigned to you by the Mysterious Guide that changes every round as the game progresses. It allows everyone a go at trying to perceive the players intended actions, and also allows the players to let loose with their own tales. Once the players have given their interpretations then the guide will play cards and try to guess what places the players might want to venture into next. A group discussion either cements or confuses decisions, the Guide guesses are revealed and those players who guessed where they thought the guide thought they were going gain the card to add to their collection. Those who didn’t guess correctly are forced to elaborate on their current card again and move a space along the Passages to the Other World and get closer to losing the game.
Defeat in a round can give you the advantage of collecting a object Totem, which grants an effect to help you make decisions, or choices or even prevent you from moving further down the Passage to the other world. However once all players have four cards in front of them, then they have managed to successfully meet with their peers and escape the horrors of Greenville.
As I said above Greenville is very much the base of a game, with the extra delights added on by the players themselves. Unlike Mysterium where the artwork can be random and obtuse to the point of being abstract, the artwork in Greenville follows the tone of the game completely, and leaves a lot of material there for the players to interpret how they want. It helps to avoid that situation where on multiple plays everyone know that a certain card must have a set meaning again and direction, which was the downfall of similar games in the past. Greenville gets around this as well by having a huge selection of cards to play through. I’m actually in a bit of awe of the effort that David Sitbon went to in order to create all of the various scenes and it means that two games are rarely the same.
This is a game that needs interested parties that are willing to roleplay a bit in order to get the best out of what is can potentially offer. The players really need to communicate well what they are not only seeing but what their thoughts, feeling and intentions are in order to allow the Guide to assign them the next card that will match up their own story. With everyone getting a chance to play as the guide, you don’t end up with the unintended GM situation, where someone ends up being partly responsible for everyone else’s fun for that game. This also means that you can get vastly different results even if the cards played are the same, depending on how the Guide changes from round to round.
Greenville 1989 will work very well with a group who is maybe wanting to put their Axes down and swap the tavern for a different view. For those who are wanting to take a break from their usual roleplaying haunts, this will work a treat. It’s potentially going to struggle for those who are used to following the rules to have fun since Greenville is so free form. It works very well as a narrative experience without being bogged down with the weight of a heavy ruleset to govern everyone’s actions. For those who love Mysterium, this shares the same flavours but with a different recipe and I can see it becoming a game that easily sits alongside it as a group favourite. The eerie artwork and 80s throwbacks will push a lot of buttons for those who are currently binging on a certain series on Netflix. For everyone else it’s different, easy to learn and gives you the excuse to act up to your hearts content. A potential jump scare of fun..
You can find out more about Greenville 1989 by visiting https://www.sorryweare.fr/en/page/nos-jeux
Game Design – Florian Fay
Art Design – David Sitbon
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This review is based on the final retail version of the game provided to us by games distributor Hachette Games. We were not paid for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.