H.P. Lovecraft may have created cosmic horrors and eldritch tomes, but he also enjoyed the backwoods, inbred families hidden deep withinm the woods, developing far away from civilization. This latter element is the subject of The Hills Rise Wild! , a game from Pagan Publishing where players try to snatch the Necronomicon and and summon their evil god -- or destroy their opponents in the process.

Each player controls six members of an evil faction: the Marsh clan, the Whateley Clan, the DeGhoule Clan, or the Cult of Ezekiel . The characters are represented with small cardboard counters, and players have sheets with each character's stats (attack and defensive bonuses, life, movement, sometimes ammo), abilities, and special abilities that can be used once per game.

All factions are after the Necronomicon, left behind when Old Wizard Whateley died. The board, made up of individual tiles, has 12 shacks, the Whateley Mansion (with four rooms), and assorted trees and terrain. Each shack and room of the Whateley Mansion has a mystery card: Some are items, some are events, and they can help or hurt the characters. When a player finds and picks up Thuh Great Whateley Seal from a shack, they can unlock the Whateley Mansion (for all players). When a player inside the Mansion finds the card Ah Found Thuh Necronomicon, that player can bring it back to their home tile and try and summon their god, thus winning the game.

That's the theory, anyway. In practice, combat often determines the winner. Each turn after a player moves their characters they can attack -- and they will! After calculating such factors as range, facing, attack and defense bonuses, and if a character is stunned, slammed, or unconscious, the attacker rolls a 20-sided die, to see if they hit and, if they do, for damage. While players can take several hits before dying, it's not uncommon for a vulnerable character to get ganged up on; and the Brutal Damage Table is very aptly named.

The Hills Rise Wild! may seem atypical for a work based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, but it's actually in keeping with Lovecraft's mythos. There is plenty of humor in this game, which is plenty dark (such as the tokens showing the characters that got killed) and good for quite a few laughs. Gameplay works very well: The combat system is easy to follow, the factions are all unique but well balanced, and while sometimes The Hills Rise Wild! can degenerate into a slugfest, wise players can use strategy to have one character make a mad dash to their home tile while the other characters run interference.
The front cover of The Hills Rise Wild! describes it as "a frenzied fury of hillbilly horror!" and that summarizes this silly, gory, and extremely fun game very well. Sadly, the expansion The Re-Animated never got released -- but that's my only complaint with The Hills Rise Wild! If you want a great combat game that also captures a lighter side of H.P. Lovecraft, find a copy of The Hills Rise Wild!
Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch

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