With High Stakes, it’s time to sharpen your fangs because your free meal pass has been revoked. The villagers have hired vampire hunters to protect them, while hungry werewolves compete with you for the title of the alpha predator.
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The Hunger: High Stakes forces you to rethink your dinner plans because now some of your food fights back. The addition of Hunters and Werewolves means the vampires have to take a more active role in their violence to defeat and consume them. Plus, Vampires now have the option to attack each other in a bloodthirsty food fight for dinner dominance.
High Stakes shifts the game to include a few more interactive elements between players, and plenty of variability with a new event system. You will have to be an even pickier eater than before, as new threats can wound you and cause you to lose extra blood at the end of the game. Fear not, eating humans causes you to regenerate. But take care when choking down those extra pounds because the sun is still your number one enemy.
|Gideon’s Bias||The Hunger: High Stakes Information|
|Review Copy Used: Yes||Publisher: Origames and Renegade Game Studios|
|Number of Plays: 7+||Designers: Richard Garfield|
|Player Counts Played: 2 & 4||Player Count: 2-6|
|Fan of Genre: Yes||Genre: Deck Building, Race|
|Fan of Weight: Yes||Weight: Medium|
|Gaming Groups Thoughts: Enjoyed It||Price: 30$|
An Eventful Night
Most of the additions that High Stakes brings are in the form of new cards, although it does add a handful of new mission tiles and some heart tokens to represent damage that you deal to threats.
High Stakes introduces event cards to The Hunger. The first one drawn always imparts an effect that lasts the entire game, while each one after has a one-time effect. The event cards add an interesting variable for players to adapt to and help make each game stand out a bit more.
Game-changing events can really impact your strategy. One allows you to skip your entire turn to digest all humans in your hand, for example. Simply having that option can make a big difference in how you play.
You also have to be prepared to tackle whatever the other event cards throw at you each round. Some add additional cards to the hunt track, while another event forces every vampire to move two spaces away from the castle. That could be devastating if you aren’t ready for it.
The event deck adds some welcome variability to each game, but the randomness can have a negative impact on the push-your-luck nature of The Hunger. Most of the time, The Hunger ends with players tightly clenching their buttocks as their narrow escape into the castle leaves their cheeks red with sunburn. The event curve balls are interesting most of the time, but can occasionally leave you feeling shorted by the whims of fate.
The event cards serve one other purpose, to spawn threats. The symbol at the bottom designates a spawn card, which is then placed alongside one of the rows of the hunt track with a new threat. Threats take the form of Vampire hunters and Werewolves. Whenever a vampire hunts a pile in a row that has a threat, it attacks them and enters their play area. Until a threat is defeated, it continues to attack every time that player has to reshuffle their deck.
When attacked, a player adds wounds to their deck equal to the threat’s attack number. Wounds are negative points at the end of the game, and you start hemorrhaging points if you end up with all 8 wounds in your deck. However, you can heal a wound by hunting a human when one is in your play area.
Threats are an additional layer to consider when eating out. They can be very detrimental to your score, but if you build a deck to deal with them, they can also be a boon.
Hunters are worth blood when defeated and usually grant a bonus token or mission. Werewolves actually consume any human that enters the final column of their row. If you defeat them, you gain blood from the Werewolf and one additional blood for every human they consumed. You also digest those humans, which can impact missions and end-of-game bonuses, there are also brand new missions that work with the new threat system.
Whenever a threat is spawned, the player in last place chooses which row it occupies. This adds a great new layer of interactivity as you can try to block off cards that you think the other players want, by forcing them to deal with a threat if they want those cards.
Fang and Claws
With the addition of threats, the vampires also woke up and chose violence. High Stakes replaces the starter decks of every vampire with new ones, and several new types of vampire powers are added to the hunt deck. These new cards might interact with threats, such as Vampiric Rage, which allows you to draw a card if one is present in your play area.
More commonly, however, these cards add attack power. You can use attack power to damage threats in your play area. However, you can also use it to attack other players if you land in their space.
You still get to push them like before, but they also discard cards from their deck equal to the amount you attacked them with. You gain two blood for each human they discard. Keep in mind, threats attack a player when they reshuffle, so you can get pretty devious with this tactic.
Finally, attack power can also be added alongside your speed for hunting purposes. This actually makes your turns a lot more flexible. If you have five speed and two attacks. You could spend all five speed moving and then still have two attack to spend on cards. The presence of threats may restrict your options, but attack power helps you expand them. It honestly feels like a great mechanism that offers you more choices.
You can use your attack to take down threats, beat up other players, or use it as a hunting buffer so you can use your speed to move further from the castle faster. That additional layer of decision-making definitely elevates the game in a great way.
High Stakes is a fantastic expansion that doesn’t simply add more stuff, but fundamentally shifts the flow of the game. This means that the expansion can be divisive, and not everyone will enjoy it. For me, the changes are great. Events add more variability, threats add a massive new facet of decision-making, and the entire expansion pushes for more player interaction. Those are all strong points in my favor.
The flexibility of the new attack power stat really made the game feel more open to me and allowed me to actually do more than I could in the base game, despite the vampire hunters and werewolves that stood in my way.
I will note, however, that while The Hunger had a pretty quick setup time, High Stakes does add a good amount of prep to it with the extra decks and setup steps.
If like me you felt that The Hunger’s bark was worse than its bite, adding High Stakes gives the game some real teeth with its combative elements and enhanced player interaction. For the right group, High Stakes will make their nightly human hunt all the more sanguine.
The cardholders I use in my reviews are courtesy of InfinitionsTabletop on Etsy
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Pick Up High Stakes from These Stores
- Renegade Game Studios Store
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- Miniature Market
- Events make each game feel different from the last
- The new threat system adds a new layer of depth to your planning
- The fact that you can hunt with attack power makes the game more flexible
- Plenty of new player interaction between the threat system and the ability to attack other players
- Increased set-up time
- The randomness of events may be offputting to some
- High Stakes shifts the flow of the game to be more adversarial, pacifistic players may not enjoy that