Stop me if you’re heard this one before: A group of teenagers are heading to their jobs as counsellors at a supposedly cursed summer camp. Soon enough they find that the owners are missing, there’s no way out, and a killer is stalking them from the woods. Welcome to Last Friday, a board game designed by Antonio Ferrara and Sebastiano Fiorillo, that proudly wears the influence of the Friday The 13th franchise and attempts to use the hidden movement mechanics from games like Scotland Yard to recreate the feel of the camp slasher film. Does Last Friday make the final cut or is it destined for the bargain DVD bin?
Last Friday is a semi-cooperative game played with two sides, one player donning the machete of the undead camp killer while one to five players take the roles of the five teenage camp counsellors out of the fifteen available (three in each colour).
Both sides take turns moving over the paths marked on the camp board, but while the teens move openly and use the small dots as spaces, the maniac moves secretly, using the large numbered dots to record his position on the board behind a screen.
The game is played over four aptly named “Chapters”, each consisting a fifteen turns with different goals for both sides. If a player loses his teen in any chapter, they can start again in the next Chapter with one of their remaining teens fresh off the bus.
In Chapter 1 the players are hunting for keys to unlock the safety of their cabins while the killer stalks them. If the killer crosses the path of a teen, that teen becomes a corpse, an impassible obstacle.
In Chapter 2 the tables are turned as the kids chase down the hidden killer to exact revenge. If any of the kids cross the killer’s path, the killer is killed. The teen that succeeds (or was closest to the killer at the end of the chapter) becomes the ‘pre-destined’ for the next Chapter.
Chapter 3 has the killer back in charge, however, this time the killer wins the game if they eliminate the pre-destined player. Meanwhile, the other counsellors can delay the killer by crossing paths with them, moving their piece away to an adjacent space, or can be killed if the killer crosses paths with them.
And the “Final” 4th Chapter where the pre-destined must finish the killer off once and for all while the other teens act as barricades, the killer being unable to pass through them. While the killer remains mostly hidden at regular intervals, marked on the board and the screen, they have to either reveal their current position (in Chapters 2 and 4) or their position from three turns earlier (in Chapters 1 and 3) giving the players a hint as to where the killer is hiding as well as adding a clue token on the board near the killer’s location.
Along with stealth, the killer is equipped with a set of powers: obscuring their current position when they appear, choosing to not appear at all, moving supernaturally quickly, and taking one extra turn after the Chapter is supposed to have ended, just like a horror movie villain should. The killer can even claim the unlocked cabins for themselves with the axe, potentially creating a useful secret passage across the camp. These powers can be regained after they are used by creating more corpses, so the killer has additional incentive to hunt the kids down.
The teens aren’t utterly helpless though. They each have a unique ability on their card and one power out of a set of 5: a bear trap to slow the killer down, a shovel to remove corpses, keen hearing to see if the killer is nearby, sneakers to run faster, and a lantern that can be used to reveal the killer’s position. New powers can be picked up from the clue tokens that are added when the killer appears at the risk of moving closer to him.
Last Friday’s commitment to the slasher film theme is one of its strongest assets. The characters are all based on horror movie stock, and the setup is very well handled. The hidden movement mechanic really suits the horror movie and campground theme perfectly, with no one quite sure who will be the next victim. Also excellent is the game-play variety between the four chapters, changing just enough to keep the game fresh throughout the play session without getting overly complicated. Being able to choose to play by playing all four Chapters back to back or playing a single gives you options for shorter play sessions.
If there’s anything that’s really wrong with Last Friday, it’s the occasional dud chapters depending on where everyone starts based on their positions at the end of the previous chapter. In most of our sessions, Chapter 3 ended up being a somewhat comical 15 turn chase around the lake with nothing really happening. A more defined teen objective similar to unlocking the cabins in Chapter 1 could help that issue substantially as that was the most entertaining of the 4 Chapters. Weighing the risk vs. reward of grabbing keys and getting to cabins was tense and satisfying which should have been the feeling throughout the game.
The components are generally excellent. The pawns are large and colourful with the larger killer pawn looming over them. The board is quite detailed and of good quality. I was particularly fond of little horror movie details like the tightly spaced cemetery in one corner (with a nice nod to the source material on one open grave). While the paths are clearly marked there are some that can appear to be connected when a token is placed nearby which led to some invalid movements on both sides of the board.
We also noticed a few artistic board elements that don’t make thematic sense. Why are there campers sitting around a fire near the lake? The camp isn’t open yet, and a killer is running around. Why are the cars in the parking lot seemingly operational with their headlights on? The kids are supposed to be dropped off via a bus, and there’s not supposed to be a way out. These are minor nitpicks but they came up in most sessions of the game.
The artwork on the character cards ranges from fine to ugly, though that may have been on purpose, and I can’t help but feel that there is a lack of diversity among the cast, though most of these horror movies feature white kids so that may be on purpose too. The rulebook is well written, and we rarely had to hunt down specific rules after our first pass through but suffers from some occasional needless wordiness, like when it describes which side of the one sided board to place face up in great detail.
The killer screen is by far the standout component. Not only does the paper slot fit a folded 8″ x 10″ piece of paper so that it can be used up to 4 times, but it also includes a map of the camp and cabins, a summary of the game mechanics. It even has a slot to peek through to make it harder to tell where the killer is by their eye movement. I really think it was a missed opportunity to have the graphic on the screen be some kind of mask though.
Ultimately Last Friday succeeds at both being a breath of fresh air to the hidden movement style of game by adding variety to the gameplay and a strong dedication to the camp horror movie theme, making it a killer combination. If you’re a fan of slasher films, games like Scotland Yard or you just need something fresh to hit your gaming table then I highly recommend you take a stab at Last Friday.
- Great variety of gameplay and tactics
- Strong adherence to theme
- No long term player elimination
- Well thought out killer screen
- Some game segments aren’t as fun as others
- Occasionally confusing board layout