PAX Australia 2018 Focus – The Spirits of Carter Mansion

I’d seen pictures of The Spirits of Carter Mansion posted in the Tabletop Game Designers Australia Facebook group but was confused as to why.  Surely this was a video game? What is it doing here in a tabletop game designers group?

Thankfully I caught up with Keith Franks from Cutlass Boardgames at PAX Australia 2018 and he helped sweep away my confusion.

The Spirits of Carter Mansion is a micro game consisting of 18 cards and five tokens.  You could probably even whittle down the tokens if you’re looking to make the thing ultra, ultra portable, but Keith keeps a copy of the game in his pocket (with tokens) at all times so it can’t be that difficult to lug around.

The artwork that I’d seen so prominently around the place was designed and created on computer by Seth Rutledge who primarily works in virtual reality.  Because of this the artwork all has absolutely spot on lighting and shadows and is simply a pleasure to look at.

I’ve spoken previously about ‘simple to learn, hard to master’ games at PAX this year, and none were easier to learn than The Spirits of Carter Mansion.  You’ll have the rules down pat in record time, with the strategy (and the fun) coming in the form of persuasion and trickery.  If you’ve ever played ‘Cheat’ or ‘Bulls#@t’ using a standard deck of cards before then you’ll have some idea of what to expect here.

The story is simple; a child has accidentally kicked their soccer ball over the fence and through a window of the spooky house next door.  The spirits inside the house (our players) are divided, some wish to help the kid reclaim the soccer ball and flee the house safely, others want to see them dragged down into the basement and killed. Charming.

Trying to get a good photo of the cards under PAX lighting was difficult.

Of the 18 cards in the deck, 17 depict different rooms of the house, while the 18th is the soccer ball itself.  At the start of play each player will receive three cards and choose one to place face down in front of them as their alignment which is either good or evil.  Good players obviously want to help the child, evil players want the basement and death option.  A neat little token of a spirit is placed on top of the card just so you don’t accidentally pick it up later thinking it’s part of your hand.

Whatever card you choose as your alignment is now semi-removed from the game (there are some cards that will change your alignment), but unless it’s a Corridor (which has no special ability) you’re already having an impact on the game based on that decision, as a card with a power is no longer in play.

One player starts as the ‘Spirit Guide’ and the other players pick a card from their hand, placing them face down on the table, and try to convince the Spirit Guide to pick (or not pick) their card and why.  You can tell the truth, you can lie, you can do something in between.  Heck you can even just slide the card out and say nothing, or talk about what you had for dinner last night.  It’s entirely up to you and how comfortable you are about bluffing, being honest or diversion.

Once all the players have made their ‘Pitch’ the Spirit Guide picks one card which is flipped face up and resolved while the others are shuffled back into the deck face down.  Players then have their hand topped back up to two cards.  The soccer ball is the only card that can be placed on the table by a player face up (for good or ill) and once that card is chosen the ball is now in play and left on the table face up.  Evil players will have an opportunity to shuffle the ball back into the deck through the use of other cards such as The Kitchen or The Attic.

The Spirit Guide token is then moved to the player on their left and it’s their turn to get pitched.

Play continues in this fashion until you reveal either The Basement card (and the soccer ball isn’t in play) or The Grand Entrance (with the soccer ball in play).  It’s really simple to learn and play, the only caveat is that more experienced players are going to know all the rooms off by heart and what they do, allowing them to bluff a little easier.  Keith is looking to include a ‘cheat sheet’ of sorts that lists all the cards so players can glance at it during play.

In testimony of just how addictive, and how much fun The Spirits of Carter Mansion is to play, we ended up playing it for hours at the ATGN Tabletop After-Party with other party goers.  With a few drinks on the table as well it quickly became the loudest table in the downstairs bar and the centre of attention.

The Spirits of Carter Mansion will be arriving on Kickstarter in March 2019 with the idea being fulfilment in time for Halloween 2019.

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Myself (Toby), Dan, Barnet and Keith at the PAX Tabletop After-Party playing The Spirits of Carter Mansion.

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