After I discussed the films I was scared of as a kid, something else popped into my head, something so utterly terrifying I refused to even enter the room when it was playing, and would hide behind the door in morbid fascination. My brothers were by no means even allowed to let me glimpse the TV, but a few times they would yank me into the room against my will and position me directly in front of the dreaded Gatekeeper.
Then the day came when I was old enough, brave enough, to face down this most terrifying of experiences and…well, dear friends, as a slightly older, little bit wiser child, I found two things to be true. The game AtmosFear was delightful and hilarious, with, by then, very outdated graphics and a man in a croaky sometimes-Welsh accent pointing and jabbing at the camera, acting as if he could really see you through the screen.
For those unaware, AtmosFear was originally a VHS board game, in which you would play one of a number of characters; Countess Elizabeth Bathory (The Vampire), Baron Samedi (The Zombie), Gevaudan (The Werewolf), Khufu (The Mummy), Hellin (The Poltergeist), and Anne De Chantraine (The Witch). These are the Harbringers, and it seemed the intention was to have expansion packs based on all of them. We had one of the VHS ones, but unfortunately by the time I played it half of it, including the video, was missing.
Lucky for me, another version was released of the original game, this one with new features, new functions, and the ability to experience a different version of the game every time you played. Yes, AtmosFear had entered a new generation as a DVD board game! And this one even got an expansion in the form of Khufu! Now imagine my surprise AND delight when I was looking up the information for this post and found that there is YET ANOTHER version now out in the world, released in 2019. No, not a blu-ray board game, but one you play with an (drum roll please)…
The rules of the game are simple – you write your worst fear on a slip of paper or, in the original name, on the provided boards and put them in the middle. The aim is to gather keys, race towards the middle, and pick out a fear. I cannot remember if you’re supposed to get yours or someone else’s, but either way, the whole point is to beat your fellow players and the Gatekeeper. But sometimes, in order to beat the Gatekeeper, you have to take a chance and almost work together – especially when the clock starts running out!
Honestly, when I actually did play it – and every time I’ve played it since – I have been absolutely amazed. How was I scared? The Gatekeeper is hilarious, with over the top efforts to be ‘scary’ in a way suitable for young ‘uns, but also in a way older people can enjoy too. The VHS version especially had these terrible graphics meant to show Gatekeeper getting consumed by, I assume, the fires of hell, representing time running out. The cards will give indications of what you should do, sometimes at particular times, so games are often broken by a player screaming in an effort to make other players jump.
This game is so much fun!
It’s cheesy and a little over the top but honestly, it’s really enjoyable, suitable for a wide range of ages, and guaranteed you’ll jump at some point, even if it’s from a fellow player. And I will, at some point, make sure to get my hands on the updated version.