Some years back I found myself a young performer, on the road with a show in Europe. This was several years before social media was really a thing, I was on my first email address, and I was more likely to use the internet to find scripts than anything. Sufficed to say I was not as fluent in international holiday traditions as I am today. So imagine the mind-expanding moment when I first discovered the Alpine tradition of Krampus.
Even loving Krampus, every year somehow December 5, Krampusnacht, always seems to sneak up on me. So for my first holiday season in The Rat Hole, I thought I’d try to find a Krampus game to review. Surprisingly I didn’t find many. One that I found was Meltdown Games’ version of Krampus. Being a reasonably simple Mafia/Werewolf reskin, I decided to break one of my personal rules and review it as a free print-and-play.
If you have played any version of Werewolf, the mechanics are basically the same. In Krampus, one person is The Parent, who will run the game. Everyone else is a child, a “Christmas Spirit” disguised as a child, or a Krampus (also disguised as a child).
During the night phase, all the players close their eyes as the “children” go to sleep. The Parent then asks the players with specific Christmas Spirit roles in play to open their eyes and take their assigned action before going back to sleep. After that, they ask the Krampusz (Krampusz being the Hungarian plural of Krampus) to open their eyes and silently decide which tasty child they wish to stuff in their bag and carry off for their nightly feast.
Once all players have taken their actions, the day phase begins with The Parent waking up the children and telling them who among them was taken in the night. That player is out of the game and does NOT reveal who they are unless they are a Christmas Spirit whose ability requires it. The remaining children have an agreed upon amount of time (usually five minutes) to decide the single child they wish to nominate to be tattled on to The Parent. Nominated players have the opportunity to respond to this before voting happens. To vote, everyone closes their eyes (so that votes are made blind), raises their hand if they want to tattle on the nominated child, then everyone opens their eyes (so everyone’s vote is known). If a majority vote yes, the kids all tattle to The Parent that so-and-so is a Krampus and is responsible;e for their missing friends. That player is also out of the game and also does not reveal who they are unless they are a Christmas Spirit whose ability requires it.
The game ends when there are as many, or less, children left in play than Krampusz (including eliminated Krampusz), or when all the Krampusz have been tattled on and eliminated. Various Christmas Spirits in play may have a different win/lose condition on top of this.
This game is chalked full of amazing potential, and potentially fatal flaws. Designer Doug Levandowski did a ton of math to make this as fun and balanced as possible, and the Christmas Spirits are great! The various Spirits are all drawn from several (mostly American/British) Christmas sources, and having them mashed together is a wonderful thing.
My biggest problem, and really my only problem, is the rules sheet. The 2013 print-and-play version does seem to have been updated a little for the 2014 print-on-demand edition, but it still is missing some vital information. Specifically how many Krampus/Spirit/Child cards should be distributed to keep the game fun and flowing properly. If you are a seasoned Werewolf player this may not be even the slightest problem for you. I know more than a handful of people who know other versions of the game well enough to know that balance in their sleep (or maybe that should be in all the other player’s sleep). I am not one of those people, however, so this is a big problem for me.
As I mentioned here are two versions of this game. First is a bare bones print-and-play version released in 2013. It is a single PDF file which has one page of rules, one page of Krampus fun-facts, and 32 text-only roll cards with public domain art on the back.
In 2014 it was re-released as an affordable print-on-demand edition by thegamecrafter.com, with new artwork by Ruth Ducko. This version has some minor card edits, and a slightly updated rule sheet that you should download, even if you only want the free print-and-play edition.
I don’t play Werewolf often. Social deduction style games just aren’t my favorite. That being said, if this got a bit of work done on the rules, I would probably pick up at least one copy for myself, and likely more for gifts. If you are not a regular Werewolf player, this might not be the best entry into that type of game. But if you already know it well, this is definitely something to take a look at.
While they don’t seem to have been up to much lately, you can find Meltdown Games online at meltdowngames.com You can order the print-on-demand version of Krampus on thegamecrafter.com or start with the original print-and-play version (but seriously, download the print-on-demand rules as well)
I don’t have any Krampus music to play, so here’s Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox giving you some of their favorite things: