The sleepy town of Wutberg isn’t all it seems. As you’ve awoken from your travels, you can see that a horror has taken hold of Wutberg in the night, leaving the place abandoned – all except for the curse hanging over you, and the threat of monsters lurking. Can you survive the next three days and nights and leave in one piece? Or will you become Deranged and tied to the town forever?
Deranged is a semi-cooperative survival adventure game for 3-6 players. We should probably get the obvious potential parallels and comparisons to Betrayal At House On The Hill doe up front. I do think there are similarities, with modular board/tile setup each time, an obvious horror theme, similar player counts and so on. Where I’d say they deviate quite a bit is that Betrayal will always resort to a one vs many game at some point, whereas Deranged fluctuates between that, but ultimately, with some sound gameplay, everyone can potentially win.
As seems to be the need for games like this, there are a raft of components, and a fairly substantial rulebook that go along with it. There’s over 150 cards, 11 minis, 30 reference, monster or scenario sheets and over 130 tokens. So you’re getting a lot of stuff for your money at least.
The rules feel like wading through treacle sometimes – partly because a few key bits of information are just in a non-descript paragraph which makes a quick reference less straightforward. But let’s get to it…
The good thing right from the off is that Deranged offers an introductory scenario where you’ll play through one day and one night (as opposed to the standard three of each) just so you can get to grips with movement, combat, general mechanisms and turn structure, and managing the transition from day to night. The only downside of that is that the setup is almost as comprehensive as a standard game so if you’re relatively experienced at games of this kind of size, you might feel OK jumping straight in.
Put the uniquely shaped modular board together and get everyone to choose a player colour, reference sheet, damage dial, mini and base snap – you’ll likely be swapping your mini for a Deranged one at some point. Each player gets two starting curses and a deck of seven cards.
There’s a time tracker which you’ll use to monitor how far through each day and night you are, and this scales up depending on your player count. You’ll create a ‘house deck’ for searching some areas of the board, and three different decks for the shops of Wutberg, where you might strike it lucky and find some decent helping items. For everything other than the introductory scenario, each player gets a “night deck” which are cards you’ll reveal as day turns into night throughout the game.
The rest of the setup largely depends on the scenario you’re playing (and has 10 very well explain steps in the rulebook) so I won’t cover it further here. Put all the other bits to one side and grab them when you need them.
Wut On Earth Is Happening?
A good question indeed. Your ultimate goal is to survive through three days and nights, rid yourself of all curses and any Deranged tokens, and be stood on the Enchanted Gate space before the end of night three. That’s easier said than done mind you…
On your turn, you’ll play one of your seven cards, and use it for one of the three main actions listed – movement, attack, search. There are also shields for defence, but that’s a reactionary ability and doesn’t form part of a standard turn. Some cards have a timer symbol on them and each one of those you play moves the overall time-tracker on a step. Unsurprisingly, these cards are the best, so you’ll want to balance how often you play them so you don’t lose control of the scenario against actually getting good stuff done.
Assuming you’re playing a scenario, each day and night chapter sheet give you some specific setup to add, and one or more goals to complete. We definitely found that you could slow-play this a little to get further ahead in the daytime, though the following night’s setup did also account for that to some degree.
Movement lets you move around the board. Most of the time this is easily done – simply pass from one space connected to another with a double headed white arrow. There are also short cuts, marked with one way red, green or blue arrows, but for these you need to have played a movement card that matches that colour. Searching works in a similar way in that playing your card to search a building can only be done if the symbol corresponds to the quarter of the board you’re in.
And that’s pretty much how a turn works. Play a card for an action, who’s next? You can, however, spend a sanity from your damage dial to take an additional action from the same card you played. So I could play one card to move four spaces, then spend a sanity to search using the symbol on that same card (assuming I’m in the right part of the board of course).
During the day, this isn’t too bad and all feels fairly manageable. At night, the game really comes for you. Firstly monsters appear and they are not at all pleased to see you in Wutberg so they will come after you and they will try and kill you. Secondly, every action costs a sanity at night – harsh, but presumably fair as you desperately try and outrun some Hungry Ghosts. So that move and search that cost you an easy single sanity before the sun went down, now costs twice as much and oh dear you’ve nearly lost all your sanity already…
Fortunately there’s one more option available to you which is resting. You can forgo lpaying a card and taking an action to rest, boosting your sanity by two points if you’re just wandering the streets, or three points if you’re (relatively) safe inside a building.
Well This Is Horrifying
Well quite. It can get on top of you pretty quickly, so remembering that the heart of this is cooperation is pretty key. What you also need to remember is your secret night card deck. Each time you transition from day to night, each player reveals the top card of their deck. This is either going to be a mini quest (go here and do this thing or take a curse) or immediately turn you into a Deranged!
Being a Deranged only really affects you at night. You swap your character mini for a Deranged one, refill your health and turn your hand of cards upside down. The bottom of each card has Deranged values for movement, attacking and defending. On your turn as a Deranged you’ll move (typically further than characters) and attack if you can. You don’t need to spend sanity to do any of this either, so you’re at an advantage in that sense. Obviously still quite disadvantaged in being Deranged because you can’t win in your current state.
Being Deranged is basically all about blood lust now – you’re trying to kill any other place to remove this fate and transform back into your human self. Helpfully (for your companions), death is temporary, as you’re resurrected on your next turn in the graveyard, but now carrying an extra curse around with you like an even more horrific than usual to-do list.
If you’ve killed someone – terrific – swap you mini back over, flip your cards again and crack on trying to de-curse yourself. If not, then when day comes around, you get some brief respite. You’ll transform back to human form, but keep a Deranged token in front of you ready for the next night.
Again, cooperation is key and you can kinda just maybe agree that one of you will be a sacrifice to rid another player of their Deranged state, as long as you all know you’ve got time to still do what you need to do to win. I suppose that depends a little on how mean or benevolent you decide to be as a group.
When Will It End?
Good question – though “after the third night” should have been your guess by this point. Revealing the final night’s chapter card is typically a final summit you need to climb, assuming you’ve al shifted your curses, killed any nearby monsters and shaken off your Deranged state…
If you’ve managed all those things, it’s a hopefully clear path to the finish, getting to the Enchanted Gate and far away from Wutberg before the sun comes up and presumably traps you here for eternity. At this point, some or all of you will be the victors. If you’ve all become Deranged at the same time, you’ve already lost I’m afraid.
I don’t know how much it comes across, but this game is quite… chaotic. And not all in a bad way. There are loads of pieces and a lot of rules to keep on top of. I’m fairly sure we missed a few things the first time we played through. And while we all missed them consistently until we remembered, there’s a lot to keep on top of, even in the introductory scenario.
I’ve not talked at all about the art, but wow is this a good-looking game. There’s a real gothic, graphic novel feel to both the images themselves and the colour palette used throughout. It really is stunning throughout so if the visual aspect is important to you, you’ve got a winner here.
I really like multi-use cards depending on whether you’re human or Deranged, and the scenario chapter cards do a nice job of telling a story and moving the game setup and conditions along as you play. Doing the basics well shouldn’t be overlooked.
You can nitpick a few things though – the modular board seems to come apart when you’re moving around it, and you need to keep a lot of cards near certain spaces on the board, which isn’t easily done unless you have loads of room.
I like the replayability here too – I think for any scenario driven game like this, that’s something to look out for. The dual-sided boards mean you can play each of the six-chapter scenarios on a multitude of board setups for a different experience, and when you’ve played through all of them, the rules encourage you to combine different day and night cards from the totality of what you’ve got to create your own Open World adventure.
There are some mainstay games that people involved in this hobby will always mentioned when Halloween rolls around, and oddly Deranged isn’t one of them. My own view is because I think Betrayal (particularly with its third edition) is most people’s first choice for unpredictable horror storytelling.
Deranged can feel slow at some points, and if the rulebook and summary cards were a bit clearer, I think your early experiences of it would feel more intuitive. But I think this is somewhat of a dark horse that should really be worthy of you consideration. It looks stunning, it’s replayable, it has a lot of twists and turns to throw at you, and it's unpredictable and those are all good qualities in a game like this.