At almost 50 year old, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a movie that has inspired decades of horror films. This iconic film is unsettling and still horrifying to watch. Even with remakes and reimagining the story, nothing holds up to the original.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Board Game is the first licensed IP game from Trick or Treat Studios. This cooperative horror game does an excellent job connecting to the original film. I hear Leatherface starting his chainsaw, so let’s jump into this review.
Terror Wears a Mask
Up to 4 players choose from the extended cast of traveling teens from the original movie. Players can choose to play as the iconic “final girl” Sally, her brother Franklin, and even Big Ed, the truck driver that is present for 30 seconds of the movie. The 7 playable characters all have a unique ability that can be an asset during the game.
Your van has run out of gas across the street from the home of the Slaughter family. Together, you must find keys and enough gas to get away from Leatherface, who is in constant pursuit as you explore the property.
Leatherface starts the game in the Killing Room, which is located in the corner of the house. Just far enough away to feel safe, for the moment.
The main mechanic of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Board Game revolves around a press-your-luck mechanic using the Horrid Bag. At the start of the game, the bag is seeded with bone tokens (meaningless tokens), action tokens (give players more actions to spend), and Leatherface tokens (advances Leatherface as he pursues the group).
On a players turn, you’ll move 2 spaces, gathering tokens that you move through. Tokens won’t activate until they are physically drawn from the bag on future turns. Somewhere among the 50+ tokens across the board is a set of keys and multiple gas cans that are needed to escape.
The Horrid Bag
After moving 2 spaces, players draw tokens from the Horrid Bag. This stitched flesh bag with red lining is such a fun and grotesque component. Players can pull a token at a time until they feel like stopping, OR pull 3 of the same token types. Ultimately, players want to pull action tokens which allow players to move, pick up revealed tokens, search locations, push enemies, and trade with adjacent players.
Family tokens that are drawn will unlock members of the Slaughter family on the board. Leatherface tokens will make Leatherface move closer and attack players when he reaches them. Leatherface can become enraged when 3 of these tokens are pulled on a turn. This essentially powers up your chainsaw wielding attacker.
New tokens that are found on the board are added to the Horrid Bag at the end of the players turn. The token options continue to build as the game unfolds. Finding Leatherface and family tokens early on will increase the difficulty while finding action tokens early on give players more agency.
Meet the Family
After the first two family tokens are drawn, grandpa is unlocked and added to the dining room on the map. If you move into the same space as grandpa, he immediately hits you for 2 damage. The cook will be unlocked next. He is added to the Diner and is moved clockwise to another named location on the board each time a family token is drawn in future turns.
Finally, the hitchhiker is release on the van. As long as he is on this space, the players cannot escape even with the keys and required gas. All 3 of these family members are avoidable but add another slight wrinkle to the game. While grandpa is stationary and very avoidable, if the cook lands on your space, it’s probably a death sentence as he transports you to this old geezer.
The players who are able to escape by reaching the van with the required items win the game. Can you leave some players behind? Yes. Should you? Depends on if you want to continue to be friends. If a player dies, they are added to 1 of the 3 meat hooks in the Killing Room. Fill 3 meat hooks and the players all lose.
Even if a player dies, they aren’t eliminated from the game. They can grab a new character and jump right back into the action, starting at the van.
Setting the Tone
From the box art, to the board layout and each game component, this game is faithful to the original film. Terry Wolffinger did a phenomenal job capturing the grungy, sepia-toned look of this 1970’s classic. Each character is easily recognizable against the original movie cast.
Most of your exploration of the map takes place outside the house, which is true to the film. About 70% of the tokens exist outside the Slaughter family home. This can lead to games where you may not need to interact with the indoor spaces. This is a little bit of a bummer since I love the details included throughout the house.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Board Game gives players 3 health that they need to manage. Once they receive 3 blood tokens, the player cannot take the 2 free movement at the start of their turn. Receiving one more hit will lead to the players character being added to the meat hook.
Exploring the Property
We’ve had a blast with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Board Game and it’s meant even more to me as a fan of this movie. With half a dozen games under our belt, we’ve had a mix of experiences. At two players, the board feels sprawling and a little overwhelming. So many spaces to explore!
At four players, it’s possible that some of the routes on the board become bare, leaving some players with less to explore. Since the game relies on a press-your-luck mechanic, experiences drawing from the Horrid Bag can take big swings. We’ve had games where Leatherface didn’t touch us until halfway through the game. On the other hand, we recently played a game where Leatherface barreled toward us each and every turn as we pulled his tokens. We had only picked up around 7 tokens before a player was injured.
Leatherface is always the biggest threat on the board, as he should be. The Slaughter family rarely feels like a threat as players plan out how to avoid the movement of the cook. In the incredibly rare situation where a gas can token is sitting in the dining room along with grandpa, there is a solution for that. Just use the push action and shove grandpa out the window! Now the dining room is accessible.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Board Game has a couple areas on the board that players have to puzzle their way through. The brambles along the edge of the road deal a damage when you end your movement on these spaces. The big rig moving down the highway can block one of the three important access points leading back to the van. Even entering the house can be rough because a broken door or window will deal damage to a character that passes through it.
I really love the game that designer Scott Rogers has created. After your first play, turns are snappy and players are able to collaborate on what they plan to contribute. Because I’ve played the game a handful of times, I’ve seen the effects of how the randomized token distribution can affect the game.
The game is fantastic when Leatherface is on your heels and you’re struggling to find 1 last gas can. There’s tension and suspense. Players are sacrificing to put themselves in the way to have another player escape. This is what I expected from a TCM game!
But, be aware that it’s possible to find the resources you need and stroll back to the van without the cook even entering the board. In these moments, you’re left feeling like you missed the full experience. With the advance rule set, characters are given objectives that must be completed before getting back to the van. This is how we play with friends and family that have already played the game once before.
Overall, I’ve been very impressed with how Trick or Treat Studios and Scott Rogers handled the source material. I think that people who have an affinity for the original film will feel a connection to this game. I’m excited to see what stories come from future game nights as we try to outrun Leatherface, even if one of our friends needs to be left behind.
This game was provided to us by the publisher for review. Read more about our review policies at One Board Family.
- Gameplay and press-your-luck mechanics are easy to teach
- Characters are straight from the film with unique player abilities
- Art and tone of the game is fantastic
- Advanced rules are a must after getting comfortable with the game
- Uneven game experiences are very possible based on player count and setup
- MSRP is a little higher than expected