Hanging out at The Old Hellfire Club

The Old Hellfire Club
Plays: 2-6
Time: 45- 60mins
Age: 14+
Created by Jamie Frew
What did you do this weekend? I hung out at the Old Hellfire Club with some old braggarts I know. We quaffed gin and they tried to impress me with their tales of derring do. They’re a bunch of penniless reprobates who aren’t to be trusted, constantly interrupting one another with increasingly implausible claims. Honestly, nothing much impresses me anymore… not since that time I cheated death and still made it home in time for tea…
So begins the Old Hellfire Club. A card game with a fun, original twist. Players assume the character of a penniless Victorian sot making outrageous claims using the cards in their hand. When you strip it back the mechanic is simple: –
  • play cards of the same suit as an opponent but with a lower value to prevent them from scoring bonuses
  • play cards valued 7 or more to score bonus pennies if, that is no-one challenges you
  • you can also play patrons to get bonuses or force others to discard cards
  • collect or steal benefactors if you play the highest value of a suit
  • collect the most cards of a suit to be awarded further bonuses
  • The player with the most pennies wins.
But enough about mechanics, top up your gin and draw closer. I intend to tell you about the time I cheated death but still got back in time for tea. I had been suffering from l’ennui for some time so decided to treat myself to some new clothing to lift my spirits. Alas it turned out that the clothing I had purchased was both flammable and poisonous – a near miss with a gas lamp had left me singed and vengeful. I had acquired my dapper suit from non other than David Livingstone – lately back from a sojourn abroad (he did tell me where he’d been but I forget now – he does prattle at length). I resolved to seek my revenge so I took the seditious writings Karl Marx had lent to me and I planted them in Livingstone’s offices along with the near fatal outfit, put in an anonymous call to the metropolitan scuffers and streaked home in time for tea.
Even if you are not a fan of acting or story telling this is still a great game where you can employ strategies and tactics to outwit your opponents. However, I would urge you to give the story telling a try. Assuming characters and telling stories as good as these is a joy – the prompts are all there on the cards to help you. And if you’re looking for inspiration you can play along @oldhellfire over on the Twitter.
One of the things that first drew me to the game was the creator’s twitter feed. I have backed games with entertaining descriptions and well crafted pitches before and been let down by a lack of flavour text so I was so pleased when the cards and rules surpassed my expectations. The game is saturated in its theme and that is both the beauty and genius of it. If your motive is whimsy for instance you are ‘driven by playfulness, fancy or foolish caprice. Like a cat to geography.’
The artwork on the game is fabulous too. A mixture of chocolate box art and period paintings that match the theme perfectly. Often belying the text underneath they add to the humour of the game. Flammable clothing for instance shows children warming themselves by the fire, a wholesome scene if you ignore the text!
The patrons are a fair mix of males and females – all suitably austere portraits. Apart from one of the women who looks quite playful – it must be the massive hat she is wearing that has put her in such a mood! With the notable exception of Mary Seacole I was disappointed that there are no people of colour represented on the cards. I am always a fan of diversity in games even if it is at the cost of historical accuracy.
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The game comes to Kickstarter on the 9th April. One of the stretch goals will be metal coins to keep count of your victorious brags and early backers will receive a monocle. They have also worked closely with Meeple Like Us to create an accessible deck which is really good to see.
The combinations of perils, motives, crimes, places, weapons, people and objects are endlessly entertaining and varied. Added to that the suggested list of 21 possible story threads and the varying order in which cards will be played and you have hours of entertainment here in this one little pack of cards. There are no limits to the tales you can weave and embellish. Pop this velveteen pouch of delights in your bag, set your imagination free and prove yourself the most daring member of this infamous club.
In the meantime come and see us at one of out events and you can try it out.
Check out their Twitter or Facebook

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