Mixtape Massacre Is The Horror Movie Battle Royale You've Always Wanted

(Welcome to Cardboard Cinema, an ongoing series where we look at the board games inspired by or connected to our favorite media. In this edition: we step into the shoes of our favorite slashers with "Mixtape Massacre: Director's Cut," a new horror game where you and your friends hunt teenagers for sport.)

Have you ever dreamed of a horror movie battle royale, where players could take on the role of Freddy Krueger, Jason, or Pinhead and fight to the death across a single map? Well, you're probably never going to get that because the rights to those franchises are a legendary mess. So may I introduce you to the next best thing: "Mixtape Massacre: Director's Cut," a re-release of Bright Light Media's cult board game that puts you in the shoes of copyright-friendly versions of your favorite horror icons.

In "Mixtape Massacre," you and your fellow killers descend on the city of Tall Oaks. Each turn, you will travel between landmarks on the board and roll dice to face your enemies or the board itself. Once at a new location, you can flip over a "Killer Scenes, Dude" card and try to match the dice icons on the character it reveals. If you win, you collect a piece of your victim: the souvenirs, which double as the game's victory points. You also get to search the room for supplies and ignite a Killing Spree, allowing you to immediately take another turn — and another, and another — until you fail to claim a prize from your victims.

At the start of each game of "Mixtape Massacre," you and your opponents will pick a character and their unique, once-per-game ability. There's Nightmare, who stalks opponents in their dreams by turning their good outcomes into damage. There's the oh-so familiar Dr. Ravenous, the cannibal psychiatrist who can permanently maim one other player on the board. And there's Thorne — my personal favorite — who visits a world of pain on other characters by permanently burning down one of the game's buildings.

Travel Tall Oaks

But powerful as you may be, you are not alone. Somewhere in the town of Tall Oaks is a Hero and a Survivor, each ready to face you and save the residents of the town. Make too much noise through scenes and supplies, and you will spawn a Hero in your location, instantly starting a fight. With two paths to victory available to you — collect at least 10 souvenirs or be the last killer standing — there is just enough risk-reward calculus in "Mixtape Massacre" to keep your on your toes. Nobody wants to face the Hero without weapons or while low on hit points.

The heart of the game is the Killer Scenes, Dude deck. Each time you search a location, you will flip a card and learn whether the person on the other side cowers or fights back. These cards give the game its theme and its aesthetic; the art style seems to draw heavily on both pop comic artist Roy Lichtenstein and classic issues of "Tales From the Crypt," giving "Mixtape Massacre" a unique look and feel even among horror board games. And much like the killers themselves, the Killer Scenes, Dude scenarios draw heavily on classic horror tropes, offering you dozens of classic kills to enjoy as a group. As with anything rooted in the excessive tastes of '80s horror, some of the jokes might've been better left on the cutting room floor, but a quick pass through the deck should allow you to customize your gameplay experience.

Of course, with any indie developer, you should go in expecting a few loose ends. Even for a second edition of the game, there are elements of "Mixtape Massacre" in need of refinement. The rulebook is missing a few elements we now take for granted; organizing the rule sections into turn phases would have helped the table settle into a faster cadence of gameplay. And as someone who always begins each session with a brief summary of the narrative–– why the players should care about the mechanics and who wins — the game desperately needs some explainer text to bring this interesting world to life.

Kill everyone you meet

And as the killers move around the board, the number of scenes will slowly disappear, causing a slight lull in the midgame experience. 10 trophies may not seem like a lot, but if the dice are not going your way — or if you're (cough) foolish enough to halve your dice by dragging that damn sledgehammer everywhere — then you may struggle to win on points alone. But rather than chase down every scene, our group quickly adjusted, turning our sights on the other killers in our area. What began as the tabletop equivalent of a PVE (Players Versus Environment) game quickly turned to PVP, as each player near-simultaneously decided to change course and turn Tall Oaks into a supernatural bloodbath.

Twice in our game, a player with one health faced off against another killer, only to roll triples and send their opponent packing (in that finest of board game traditions, the player who sat on the ropes for most of the game eventually came back to win). And in what proved to be the final turn of the game, his opponent flipped over the probable winning scene card, only to find the Survivor ready to murder her. Game-changing swings may be frustrating for some, but to listen to the shouts of ecstasy and agony around the table, you would think we were facing off against the killer ourselves.

Perhaps the best parallel for "Mixtape Massacre" is "Last Night on Earth," the 2007 game where one player takes on the role of a zombie horde and the rest of the group play the survivors. Like that game, "Mixtape Massacre" is more scattered in its trajectory, foregoing a linear rise-and-fall storyline in favor of more chaotic gameplay. But this kind of group-friendly gameplay is a feature of "Mixtape Massacre," not a flaw. If you want to spend more time playing with your friends and less time explaining the rules to them, then this is a game that can hit the table quickly in any group.

And that's what makes "Mixtape Massacre" fun. There are games in my collection that are more rewarding to play, but the truth is, this one will probably hit the table far more often than those titles. With a simple rulebook, a goofy horror vibe, and enough dice-throwing and card-turning for the casual gamer to get behind, "Mixtape Massacre" is the kind of theme-heavy horror title that could easily elbow a handful of games out of your collection. And if you disagree ... well, it looks like I haven't used my special ability yet. I might just have to burn your house down.