Kickstarter can be horror on my budget, but it’s brought some really neat games to my house we wouldn’t have played otherwise. Sanitarium is one of those games.
From its description on the Asmadi Games website:
You awaken in a cold, creepy, dark building. Unnerving sounds and sights are all around you, and a draft whistles through the clattering windows. Others are here. Will you help them escape?
You have no idea how you got here, you just want to get out…
The game is made for 1 to 4 players (that’s right, there’s a solitary mode in case your friends are too scared to play!) For mult-player games, you can work together to get out of the asylum… or you can leave your friends behind to be eaten by the shadows, as long as you get out.
You place cards as you go, creating the layout of the sanitarium with each turn. Each card has a dark hallway or a room on one side, and an item or event on the other. There’s a bit of Memory to the game: you need to flip over the hallway cards to find your Safe Things and other helpful items in order to escape. If you’re playing with others, it’s helpful to keep in mind where that Candle or Skeleton Key is hiding.
Of course, it’s never as simple as grabbing your stuff and making for the exits.
While you’re hunting about in the dark for your sneakers, or an incantation, or that syringe full of something that can help you forget, the shadows are gathering. And they’re coming for you. With each round, they seek out players who are alone in the hallways.
If they catch you, you make a horror check. If dice hate you as much as they hate me and you fail the check, you gain an hallucination: demonic mists, ghostly children, things moving out of the corners of your eye.
In order to disbelieve your hallucinations, you discard Safe Things. Possibly someone else’s. Possibly things you stole from them.
There doesn’t have to be a storytelling element to the game, but the Safe Things, Hallucinations, and Event Cards could certainly lend themselves to it, if your group were so inclined. What’s in the lockbox? What did you see when you gazed into that Seer Stone? How does it make your character feel safer, or how did it feel to have it stolen away? Does the Ghostly Child speak? What sorts of things are flashing past at the corners of your eyes? Plenty of creepy story fodder lurking about in those dark hallways and abandoned rooms.
Sanitarium’s a quick game, 30-45 minutes from start to finish once you get the hang of it, and a lot of fun. It’s good for multiple sessions in one night, or for a bit of a palate cleanser between movies in your next horror marathon.