Paranormal Investigators enter the Manchac Swamp looking for evidence of the Butcher. Its said that every 10 years the shadowy figure appears and claims a victim. The investigators are here to prove that the Butcher is real. The local legends say that the butcher haunt the old saw mill. Can they find enough evidence in the old sawmill before the butcher comes out of the dark and claims its next victim? The Stifling Dark is the first game from Sophisticated Cerberus designed by Jeremy Geenen, Ethan Janssen, Matt Rayford with art by Cory Freeman.
The Stifling Dark completed a successful Kickstarter Late in 2022 and is currently offering pre-order copies of the game on BackerKit. The Stifling dark is a one against many (up to 4 players) game that has hidden movement for the adversary player who is stalking the other players trying to stop them from finding the evidence. The investigators are working their way through a mostly dark situation with flashlights that they will use to find clues, objects and the antagonist player in the dark. Players have to manage being able to see on the board with running out of batteries as they search for the evidence they need. Players win by completing the scenario objectives like collecting evidence and leaving. The adversary player is typically trying to stop the other players by stopping them from collecting what they need or simply by killing them.
The setup of the Stifling Dark is scenario based and for our review we played through The Butcher of Manchac Swamp. The game pits one player against 1-4 players. The player who is the adversary sets up behind a screen and has their character card, a small version of the map board and supporting tokens and cards. The other player have their character player boards and supporting tokens and cards. During setup depending on the scenario the adversary will place evidence tokens on the mini board behind the screen.
Players will move through the board using the move action or the sprint action. Players taking the sprint action risk taking a wound but they can get there a bunch faster. Players may also interact with the environment by picking up or dropping off items, opening and closing doors, using items, trading, or using interactive spaces on the board. The most exciting action players can take is placing the flashlight token. A player will place the translucent template on the board and all the spaces that a line passes through without passing through an obstacle, then the adversary must reveal any tokens. I really enjoyed this mechanism of play when we play tested it added to the tension of the game. The flashlight made the players feel as if they were right there in a horror film especially when you turn it on to find the adversary standing right in front of you. Its the closest to a jump scare in a board game that I have experenced.
The flashlight made the players feel as if they were right there in a horror film especially when you turn it on to find the adversary standing right in front of you. Its the closest I to a jump scare in a board game that I have experienced.
As the players explore and search for evidence they have to manage resources of stamina and flashlight energy. Each turn a player doesn't use the flashlight or sprint they gain back some respectively. Players will accumulate wounds and conditions along the way and also have to manage those aspects. To add to the horror occultish vibe there are items and cursed items that player can pickup along the way. The cursed items have some very interesting effects on the players.
The most fun was the Stalk action that the Adversary has. The Adversary can give the players in line of sight a Spine Chill condition that lasts a turn.
The Adversary player sets up behind the DM like screen setting traps and hiding the evidence on the tiny version of the board. Much like the players the Adversary is moving around the board and taking actions. A revealed adversary can disappear provided that they are in one of the many dim or pitch black spots on the board. The most fun was the Stalk action that the Adversary has. The Adversary can give the players in line of sight a Spine Chill condition that lasts a turn. The Stalk action however gives the other players your location on the board at the time you preformed the action. Finally there is the storm deck which alters the conditions of the board throughout the game, players race to resolve the scenario before the weather gets bad!
Stifling Dark is a fun horror themed game that will have players at the edge of their seat as they try to gather evidence and get out of the horror scenario. The way the Adversary player can move around secretly pop out cause trouble and slink back into the shadows is an awesome game mechanic that really fits the theme of this game. Stifiling Dark is available for pre-order if you missed the crowdfunding campaign. Its defiantly a good value starting at $50USD for the base game.
Year Published: 2023
Recommended Ages: 14+
Time to Play: 90 minutes
A pre-production copy of The Stifling Dark was provided to Bert's Tabletop Games for review purposes by Sophisticated Cerberus Games, LLC. The final product may vary from what we have presented here.