Players: 2 – 6
Time: 30 – 120 minutes
Times Played: 4
With today being Friday the 13th, here is the second horror-themed game up for review today!
Last Friday* is a hidden movement game in the same realm as Letters from Whitechapel, Scotland Yard, and Fury of Dracula. The difference here is that Last Friday embraces the teenage camper/slasher trope ala the horror film series Jason.
*Before going any further, Last Friday is also called The Last Friday. I don’t know why the difference exists.
We own and have played Letters from Whitechapel and Fury of Dracula over twenty times, with Whitechapel being our clear preference (but it’s really 1A and 1B) and when we saw that a slasher themed version of one of our favorite mechanics in games was being released, we were ecstatic. I honestly think this was a day one buy for us (although it remained hidden until someones birthday).
I want to get this out of the way early: we did not enjoy The Last Friday. It breaks our hearts too. Of all the hidden movement games that we played and enjoyed, we thought this one would have the most life.
The board and artwork is colorful and alive and while the characters are all cliches and callbacks to the genre, it works! Plus, with the amount of horror material available we thought we would be seeing expansions with new abilities coming along for years to come. But alas…it felt like an absolute chore to play.
The characters are just thick pawns, which is incredibly uninspiring. The maniac is an even thicker pawn.
The Last Friday is split into four acts that can be played individually or back to back to back to back in a campaign style.
Like other games of this genre, the board is littered with numbered circles and dots that signal the movements of the characters. The campers follow the dots, where they can move two dots per turn and the maniac (the slasher) will move along the circles, tracking their movement behind a hidden screen each round.
The game includes special abilities and items that do benefit the actions of the players, such as the campers utilizing the boat to cross the lake and the maniac being able to swim underwater once per round. Cabins include secret passageways and there are tools, such as shovels, sneakers, and acute hearing that can make life a little easier for the campers. The maniac has their own tools, such as invisibility and supernatural speed.
Each Act is fifteen rounds or less and on every third round, the maniac has to reveal some details regarding their location. These details may differ depending on which Act you are completing. The Acts are as follows:
Act I: Arriving at the Camp. The premise is that the maniac is stalking the new campers as they try to find the keys to their cabins. Campers try to reach the cabin before the maniac crosses over them, which results in a campers death.
Act II: The Chase. The tables have turned and the campers are stalking the maniac now, where if they cross over the maniacs path, he dies. If the maniac is killed, the camper that did the deed becomes “the predestined,” which is relevant in Act III and IV. If the maniac is not killed, the closest camper is now “the predestined.”
Act III: The Massacre. The maniac is back on their killing streak as they try to end “the predestined.” The major change is that campers are used as shields to “the predestined” because when they’re killed, the maniac’s location is revealed.
Act IV: The Final Chapter. “The predestined” has to hunt down and kill the maniac.
The Last Friday is a game but at the same time…it isn’t. It’s like a book where there’s only one of three ways the story can go. We never truly felt in control of the characters we were playing and after several playthroughs, everything felt the same. No decision stood out as more meaningful than another. No trait was going to make me a better camper or killer.
In slaying a camper or killing the maniac, I never really felt rewarded in my action. It wasn’t a great blow to the character as I knew they would just come back next turn.
In looking at the Acts, there are a few reoccurring issues.
Act I feels like a tutorial to the rest of the game. It works fine in the campaign version of the game but as a standalone, it feels terribly dry and unbalanced. The maniac does not have the speed to kill more than one camper (unless there are some terrible moves on the campers part) and since there are multiple campers (and they regenerate at the beginning of the next round) losing one or two does not really impact gameplay. But, since the maniac can realistically only reach one camper, the smart move near the end of the round is to run away, since the roles are reversed in Act II. This seems like the opposite of what a possessed manic killer should do.
Act II doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. If the campers succeed in killing the maniac, he just comes back next turn minus one item to make him deadlier. Plus, if the maniac started running away at the end of Act I, there is little to no chance that the campers could catch him.
Act III is back to the maniac hunting the campers. Well, only one camper actually. I think this suffers from the same faults of the first Act as the maniac is just not fast enough to kill anyone. I don’t know if an increased turn limit would help or what, but for a game about killing campers (who die in droves in movies) there is a distinct lack of death in this game.
That being said, Act III is the best act and where the most fun is had. As campers, it’s not terribly difficult to stay away as the reveal will key you in on the maniacs position.
Act IV is the same old song and dance that I’ve already mentioned.
I do want to mention the final victory condition for the game though. If the campers failed to kill the maniac in the final Act, the maniac wins. Which, I guess makes sense as the maniac survived and gets to hunt campers in the near future but it’s a blow to the chest for the players playing the campers, as you just spent an hour dipping and dodging this killer and you survived but in theory lost the game.
We prefer these types of games at two players as it is much more cat and mouse but The Last Friday just feels empty at that count. We tried with three and four players as well and it felt like the energy was sucked from the room. We were just moving pieces to move them. The novelty of the fun theme and characters wore off quickly.
Which leads to a huge issue: the game needs to be played campaign style to have any legs of enjoyment. One Act out of place is bland and disappointing. Not that playing campaign style really improves the game as characters don’t grow over time, but it helps with the starting positions and immersion.
I wish this game had gone a step further and maybe added some combat or something to the characters. Let the campers whittle down the maniac, which in turn makes him faster but less deadly or something.
This game isn’t terrible. I’ve definitely played worse games but I don’t think we’ll ever touch this one again. Maybe our expectations were too high for this game. There are plenty of things that I like about this game. The art and color is one, the switching of the hunter/hunted is novel and thematic and the campaign-style play is a welcome addition. But even with what I liked, the issues with them overshadowed any goodwill.