A couple weeks ago my fiancee had sent me a text message with a picture attachment from Sedona, AZ. She said she had picked up a little card game for me from one of the shops there. I kinda smiled seeing the title “Ocho Vampires”. It was definitely not the title I was expecting to hear from a card game souvenir, but was a title that peeked my interest.
Last night, I went over to the usual gaming household with the deck in pocket, hoping to give the game a spin. Having read over the rules a bit earlier, it appeared to be pretty simple. But despite its simplicity, and the fact I was able to teach the game in 1 turn, it ended up lasting us a good portion of the evening with lots of moments of laughter and screaming in fun.
The premise of the game is based on a south-western urban legend about a heart broken man, whose wife left him on their wedding night, paying a stranger $500 to smuggle him out of Mexico to Arizona and California in search of women “easier to love”. He is then smuggled in one of eight coffins in the back of a truck, the man saying Border Patrol “never checks coffins.” He and the other coffin-dwellers then wake up to discover they have been tricked and turned into vampiros. These eight vampires now travel the quiet dark streets of southwest cities, sneaking into unlocked buildings and searching for victims to satisfy their “Masculine Hunger.” To be honest, the entire legend is written on one of the 3 cards explaining the rules of the game, and was about the extent of the “Southwest Flair” but it worked for the design of the game. The cards themselves are more abstract and dark, but very fitting for a Vampire motif.
The goal of Ocho Vampiros is to be the first player to reach 100 points. Players take turns playing location cards, and when a player plays a Vampiro card they gain all of the location cards in play and keep those as points. The interesting thing is that all players start with a hand of 5 cards, and every card played makes them draw a card from the deck. The catch is that all cards in a hand are laid out in plain sight. You can see what cards your
opponents have at any given time. The twist to the game is that all cards are double sided; it begins play with the
dark side facing up. This represents city street locations. If a player plays a Door card, ALL cards flip over including the draw pile. The (barely) lighter sides are interior locations.
What makes this really fun is that the deck consists of numerous repeats of locations, but with different combinations of interior and city street locales on a card. So it’s common to get a couple cards of the same locale, but they don’t keep the same locations on the opposite side. Also, players are not allowed to look at the opposite sides of their cards unless the door flip occurs. This is where the strategy element for the game comes in, as players will often use doors to flip locations in an attempt to thwart rivals from playing Vampiros and collecting points. In addition, players will be forced to having to memorize which cards had what locations on the opposite sides. There were a couple times throughout the night I would hit myself realizing I played a location card that had a Vampiro on the opposite side.
I should probably mention that in the basic game, City Streets are only allowed to “connect” (or be played) with certain streets. For example, 3rd street can only be played along with 2nd, another 3rd, or 4th street. There are also City Park cards that can be played with any city location, as well as Door cards (and of course, Vampiros.) Interior locations, interestingly enough, can be played with any cards. So we had a couple laughs going straight from the basement to the attic a couple times. However, there are variant rules that come with the game that suggest things like Closets and City Parks are safe from Vampiros, and that 1st and 7th streets are “dead ends”.
When the draw pile is emptied, players continue playing until nobody can play connecting cards anymore. In that case, the points are tallied up, the deck is reshuffled, and the game continues until 100 (or more) points are achieved. An interesting note is that if a player can score a Perfect game, and acquire ALL of the cards, they automatically win the entire game.
The artwork of the cards are pretty simple. As I said earlier, they’re fairly abstract images. The city street locations are a tad dissappointing, being only nightime shades of blue, big font letters and lens flare. But for mood I suppose it works and gives off the ambiance of a street dark, empty, with only a faint light from the lamp post up ahead. The interior side artwork, though, I felt was nice. Very subtle tones, and images that at a passing glance don’t really mean anything but then when you stop to pay attention, you notice in the details something wrong. Blood stained carpet in the Hallway, blood trickling from a cracked egg in the kitchen, that sort of thing. The interior Doors looked awesome in my book, all of them giving some creepy feel to some degree. Really, the most memorable of the artwork belongs where it should: The stars of the game, the Ocho Vampiros. I do want to note that the cards are of a decent stock, have a nice slick glossy feel to them and should have a lasting quality to them.
Elbow Room for More Fun
The basic game really is a hoot and a hollar. But the real gem of this title is the way the simplistic nature of the cards and the rules allow for all sorts of variation and alternate rules. Aside from the “safe” location rules, there’s variants involving team play and using multiple decks for added difficulty. On their website, they even keep a page devoted to variant rules discussion. One version is “Vampire Thief” where players have the option to use Doors to steal another player’s vampiro card. Another suggestion was that similar location cards couldn’t connect with eachother. It’s all very simple twists and add-ons to a very simple game, but it does offer a lot of possibilities and variety that should also spark the creativity of different gaming circles.
Ocho Vampiros is definitely a card game I’d recommend for any gaming group, especially horror and vampire obsessed ones, to use as either a warmup before a gaming session or an excuse to play something during the midweek waiting for the next tabletop night. Easy to learn, easy to pickup, and really fun to play. You really can’t argue with that. The rules and the design of the cards, while simplistic, are fun by themselves but also offer a lot of room for variations and house games to be made. The artwork over all isn’t anything exciting, with the exception of a few of the interior cards and the Vampiros cards, but it doesn’t take away from the value of the game and keeps with the mood and feel. In a lot of ways, it almost plays like a variation of Uno with some novel twists.