Solo Survivor Horror Board Game FINAL GIRL Puts You Front And Center

She's an army of one.

By Sean O’Leary · @SeanOlearyNJ · October 24, 2023, 4:01 PM EDT

The trope of the Final Girl, familiar to Fango readers, of course, has taken myriad forms over the decades in some of the genre's most iconic films. She's the last one standing, driven to the brink of survival by a combination of remorseless killer and a gaggle of friends and acquaintances that just won't follow her (sometimes goodie-goodie) example and end up on the meathook… or at the end of a pitchfork… or machete… or speargun. You get the idea. If only more people would just lock the doors and windows, stay inside, and do their homework or watch the kids… or hell, don't even open the space hatch! The Final Girl is the one who would have robbed us, the moviegoers, of a good time had everyone just listened to her and did the responsible thing. We hear you and understand your frustration, Final Girl, even though we love the result.

Final Girl (2021) is also a tabletop experience from Van Ryder Games, designed by A.J. Porfirio and Evan Derrick, in which you take on the role of the titular heroine in an attempt to defeat a bloodthirsty maniac and save as many victims as possible while getting away with your own life.


To do so, you'll play action cards to accomplish things like walking (or running) around the location to guide those innocent potential victims (you know, the ones who didn't take you seriously at first) to safety, searching for weapons (knives, guns, bows and arrows) or other useful items (flashlight, fireworks, even a bear trap!) When you're ready, you can launch a variety of attacks on the killer, from a "Weak Attack" to (if you're up to it) a "Critical Blow." Once the killer gets in a few swipes, you'll no doubt need to dip into the healing cards.

Each of these cards uses a certain amount of time, which acts as the currency in the game and is tracked on the Player Board in front of you. You'll start each round with at least six time units to spend on your actions. That certainly doesn't sound like a lot, but you'll start the game with six basic action cards in hand ("Walk," "Rest," "Weak Attack") that have a zero time cost… great! As you spend them, they'll go into your discard pile, and once you decide you're finished with any actions you'd like to take that round, you can purchase new action cards for your new hand to use in the upcoming round. Time, of course, is what you'll use to pay for them. Meaning players can now use any time not used in the previous round on playing action cards to buy potentially more powerful cards (with a greater time cost) for the next round. Only then do the cards you just used in the previous round go back into the "market" of action cards, so you can't simply use those same few cheap, zero-cost cards from round to round. You'll have to be more clever than that.

But that's what the Final Girl is, right? Clever… and tough… and resourceful. You'll have to be all that and more. When you play them, those action cards require a roll of the dice to see how successful the attempted action was. The number of dice you'll roll, up to three, is determined by another track on your Player Board, the Horror Level. Before things really heat up and the body count starts to soar, things aren't so "horrific," and you'll have a greater chance of success with three dice available. A result of 5 or 6 is considered a success, and each action card will tell you how many successes you'll need to get the best result. A 3 or 4 is just okay and will yield some good results, but might end up costing you more time, at best. At worst, you could be injured by a not-so-stunning attempt at an attack or even end your action phase altogether. Do I even need to tell you what can happen with a result of 1 or 2? Yeah, it's not good.

As the Horror Level increases, your chance of success decreases as your dice pool is reduced. Once it reaches the highest level, you'll be down to a single die and, well… let's just say I hope you have your affairs in order.

We haven't even gotten to the Killer Phase yet! Once you've done all you can for the round and planned for the next, it's the killer's turn. They'll start with their "Killer Action," printed on their "Finale Card," which starts off mild, relatively speaking, but can get much worse if the other side is revealed during the game. Basically, there will be a list of action icons, which you'll perform in order, most often identifying a target (either you or one of the other victims), moving toward them, and attacking. Then you'll draw a Terror Card and resolve its effects, which all have wonderfully thematic titles like "He's Just… Standing There!", "You Can't Save Us… No One Can!", and my personal favorite, "Taking Souvenirs" (we're not talking about a snow globe). The effects are all pretty terrible for you (and the other victims). The killer will move around the location, attack you or other victims, increase the Horror Level, or sometimes increase another level on another track that's as bad for you as it sounds: The Bloodlust Track.

Each time one of those innocent victims dies, the killer's bloodlust increases. As the level goes up, so does the killer's strength and speed. Movement will be swifter, attacks will be deadlier, and once it reaches a certain point, it will reveal a Dark Power card that starts facedown on the Killer Board. The Dark Power gives the killer additional abilities or amplifies the effects of attacks or any number of other things that are terrifically thematic, but terrible for you.

Until now, I've been using fairly generic terms like "the killer" or "the location," but these things are generic in the game. Designers Derrick and Porfirio have created a modular system that allows you to build the challenge you want and to change it up with a stunning variety of options. You'll need a Core Box to play Final Girl, which contains all of the general, commonly used components, trackers, and cards. You'll combine that Core Box with any available Feature Film Box, containing a unique killer and location. My first experience was at Camp Happy Trails, doing my best (which wasn't good enough) against the pig-headed, axe-wielding maniac known as Hans the Butcher.


Other Feature Film Boxes offer different killer/location combinations, like the dream killer in "Frightmare on Maple Lane" or a restless spirit that needs a little guidance to the other side in "The Haunting of Creech Manor." If evil puppets are your thing, check out "Carnage at the Carnival" or explore an African religious horror in "Slaughter in the Groves." Each box contains additional, killer and location-specific components that enhance the storyline and keep everything thematically on target. Also included in each Feature Film Box are two unique Final Girls with their own special abilities that provide additional actions and other bonuses as victims are saved.


Final Girl is also a solo game. It's designed for only one player, which couldn't be more thematically appropriate. According to designer A.J. Porfirio, that was the vision from the very beginning.

"We didn't really ever consider multiplayer. We have an affinity for solo games and a very strong fan base of solo players," says Porfirio. "We were making a one-player game from the very beginning, and I strongly believe that keeping to our vision is one of the reasons why the game has received the accolades and market success that it has."

Indeed, the success of the original collection of Core Box and five Feature Film Boxes led to a second, even more wildly successful Kickstarter for an additional five Feature Film Boxes. "Series 2" saw our Final Girls matched against several different kinds of aliens (one on a doomed ship, another on a doomed arctic research station), unwanted visitors to your party at Wingard Cottage, a psychotic nurse at a very unwelcoming asylum, and even a Big Bad Wolf!


The graphic design and art direction are all very well done, with Evan Derrick taking the reins on Creative Direction. Several artists (Tyler Johnson, Roland MacDonald, Heather Vaughan, and Tumo Mere, to name a few from Series 1) lend their talents to the various Feature Film Boxes, and the boxes themselves are integrated very cleverly into the gameplay. The Feature Film Boxes are all double-sided, with the front and back covers held in place with magnets. Once you pluck them off, you'll see that they act as the Killer Board and Location Board.

The theme, as I said, just feels so perfect for a single-player game. But Final Girl was based on an earlier solo game called Hostage Negotiator, designed by A.J. Porfirio. It wasn't just a re-theme, however.

"One day, Evan came and said he thought we should make a horror-themed solo game," explains Porfirio. "We decided early on to use the Hostage Negotiator system of mechanics but to evolve it to fit the new game. So, it was more of an evolution than a transformation. The games share some mechanisms, but they are each their own game, and one isn't really interchangeable for the other."

The devotion to the theme is obvious when playing any of the killer/location combinations, and you can tell Derrick and Porfirio have obviously spent their time well in the genre.

"Of course, we draw inspiration from our love of horror movies," says Porfirio. "I guess if you want to call watching horror movies 'research' (I know I do!), then we do a lot of it! We love horror movies. If we didn't, the fans would have seen right through us at the end of the first bland and uninspired game they played!


The fans have definitely responded. A Series 3, adding another five Feature Film Boxes for a total of fifteen (!) is currently on Kickstarter until October 13th (A Friday, appropriately). Once completed and delivered (and also available through retail), fans of Final Girl will have over 200 killer/location combinations to challenge them!

That's a lot of bloodletting! And, like the Final Girl, it's all up to you!

Final Girl is available from Van Ryder Games and wherever hobby board games are sold.