Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories – Rules, Strategy & Play Instructions


Ghost Stories is a cooperative board game where players work together as Taoist monks to protect a village from a horde of ghosts. The game was created by Antoine Bauza and released in 2008. It’s known for its tough difficulty and requires players to strategize and work as a team to win. The game is set in a small village that is laid out in a grid of tiles. Each monk has unique abilities, and players use these along with the village tiles to fight off ghosts and ultimately defeat the incarnation of Wu-Feng, the Lord of the Nine Hells.

The game has a strong theme and is visually striking, with artwork that draws on East Asian aesthetics. It’s been praised for its challenging gameplay and the way it encourages players to think and plan together. Since its release, Ghost Stories has become a favorite among board game enthusiasts who enjoy a tough cooperative experience.

Quick Tip for Ghost Stories

Always keep an eye on the ghost deck. Knowing what could come next helps you plan better!

Rules for playing Ghost Stories

Understanding the rules of Ghost Stories is key to enjoying the game. The game is played over a series of turns where players try to exorcise ghosts using dice rolls and abilities. Each turn has several phases:

  1. Yin Phase: Ghosts act, potentially haunting tiles or attacking monks.
  2. Yang Phase: The player’s turn to act, moving around the board, fighting ghosts, or using village tiles.

Players lose if all monks are dead, if three village tiles are haunted, or if the deck runs out of ghosts before defeating Wu-Feng. Players win by surviving until Wu-Feng appears and defeating him.

The game ends when the players successfully exorcise the final incarnation of Wu-Feng. However, three scenarios lead to the players’ defeat:

  1. Taoists’ Demise: If all Taoists run out of Qi tokens, they perish, leading to defeat.
  2. Village Haunting: If a third location in the village becomes haunted, it results in defeat.
  3. Exhaustion of Ghost Deck with Wu-Feng Incarnation: If the deck of ghosts empties while a Wu-Feng incarnation remains in play, the players face defeat. Even if the last incarnation is sent to hell, any curses it carries are still applied. The players only win if applying these curses doesn’t lead to their defeat.

You do have the option to score your games, which is detailed in the rulebook, offering a way to measure their performance in the game.

Equipment and Setup for Ghost Stories

To play Ghost Stories, you need the game box which includes a board, ghost cards, monk figures, dice, and various tokens. The board is made up of nine village tiles arranged in a 3×3 grid. Each side of the grid has a player board where a monk figure is placed. The game also includes a deck of ghost cards, which are drawn each turn and represent the ghosts attacking the village.

Setting up the game involves shuffling the ghost cards and placing the village tiles. Each player chooses a monk and places their figure on the board. The game can be customized with DIY elements like creating your own village tiles or monk figures for a personal touch.

For 1, 2, or 3 players, here’s the setup:


  • Arrange boards randomly without players; these become neutral boards, each starting with 3 Qi tokens.
  • Each player, excluding neutral boards, receives a power token along with Yin-Yang and Tao tokens.
  • Remove 5 random cards from the deck per missing player and add Wu-Feng incarnations as usual.
  • In a 2-player setup, players sit facing each other.
  • For solitaire play, the red board must display the Dance of the Spires power. The setup includes specific Tao tokens and power tokens. The Cemetery tile cannot provide aid, and the Pavilion of the Heavenly Wind action allows the player to move their own Taoist.

Neutral Boards

  • A neutral board’s turn is shorter: no step 3 (Arrival of a Ghost), and it lacks a Yang phase.
  • Ghost actions involve updating Haunting figures and applying Tormentor effects, with certain restrictions on the green Taoist’s power for Tormentor rolls.
  • If a board is overrun by ghosts, it loses Qi, but a neutral board cannot receive Qi. If at 0 Qi, a player must absorb the loss.
  • When a Taoist dies or a neutral board loses its last Qi, it becomes possessed and neutral, rendering its power inactive.

Power Token

  • A power token lets the active player use a neutral, unpossessed board’s active power during their Yang phase.
  • These tokens can’t be exchanged between players and are reclaimed by an active player ending their turn at the central village tile.

This setup defines the dynamics and rules for different player counts and the roles of neutral boards in the game.

How to Play Ghost Stories and Game Mechanics

The key game mechanics involve moving your monk, fighting ghosts, and using village tiles. Here’s a breakdown of gameplay phases:

  1. Yin Phase: Draw and place a ghost card on the board. If a ghost’s ability triggers, resolve it.
  2. Yang Phase: Move your monk, attempt to exorcise a ghost, and/or use a village tile’s ability.
  3. End of the Game: The game ends when Wu-Feng is defeated or if the players lose according to the loss conditions.

Players take turns in clockwise order, split into two phases—Yin and Yang. I’ll break them down into a little bit more detail, here:

Yin Phase (Ghosts)

  1. Ghosts’ Actions:
    • If a ghost has the Haunter ability, the associated Haunting figure is updated. It advances following certain rules. If the figure is on the card, it moves to the stone depicting a haunter. If it’s already on the board, it advances to the haunting stone. This movement can flip village tiles to their haunted side.
    • Ghosts with Tormentor ability (curse die) trigger effects based on the dice roll, potentially haunting tiles or affecting the player’s resources.
  2. Board Overrun:
    • If a player’s board has all 3 ghost spaces occupied, they lose a Qi token and end the Yin phase.
  3. Arrival of a Ghost:
    • If the board isn’t overrun, the player draws a ghost card and brings it into play according to specific rules.

Yang Phase (Taoist)

As the Taoist, you follow these steps:

  1. Move (optional): You can move your Taoist figure to an adjacent space.
  2. Request Help or Attempt Exorcism:
    • Request help from a villager or attempt to exorcise a ghost adjacent to your tile. Failing an exorcism has no effect.
    • Exorcising a ghost involves rolling Tao dice to match the ghost’s resistance. Tao tokens can cover any shortfall.
  3. Place a Buddha (optional):
    • If you obtained a Buddha previously, you can place it on an empty ghost space, immediately discarding the ghost.

The game involves strategic placement, resource management, and using special abilities to deal with the ghosts haunting the village.

How to Win at Ghost Stories

Winning at Ghost Stories requires good teamwork and strategy. Beginners should focus on learning the abilities of the monks and the village tiles. Intermediate players can start planning several turns ahead, while advanced players will need to optimize their actions and predict the ghost deck. Communication and flexibility are key to adapting to the changing game state.

Best Strategies for playing Ghost Stories game

The best strategies involve balancing the need to fight ghosts with the need to prepare for future threats. Players should aim to use their monk’s abilities effectively and support each other. Sneaky tactics might include intentionally letting a less important village tile become haunted to buy time or using powerful one-time abilities at the optimal moment.

One key strategy is the optimal use of each monk’s unique abilities, ensuring that their powers complement one another and are employed at the most impactful moments. It’s also crucial to maintain a balance between exorcising ghosts and preparing for the arrival of Wu-Feng, the game’s ultimate boss.

Efficient use of the village tiles’ special actions can turn the tide of the game, so players must communicate and plan how best to utilize these resources. Prioritizing threats is another vital aspect; players should focus on eliminating ghosts that have immediate or severe consequences if left unchecked.

Lastly, adaptability is paramount, as the game’s random elements require players to constantly reassess and adjust their strategies. By employing these tactics, players enhance their chances of surviving the haunting challenges of Ghost Stories.


Common scenarios include being overwhelmed by ghosts or facing multiple hauntings. To turn these to your advantage, prioritize which ghosts to exorcise and consider sacrificing a turn to use a powerful village tile ability. Sometimes, taking a calculated risk can pay off.

Frequently Asked Questions about playing Ghost Stories game

Here are some common questions and answers:

Q: Can I fight more than one ghost in a turn? A: No, you can only attempt to exorcise one ghost per turn.

Q: What happens when a monk dies? A: The monk is out of the game unless a specific village tile ability is used to bring them back.

Q: Can I move through ghosts? A: Yes, monks can move through ghosts but cannot end their movement on a ghost.

Additional Tips and Tricks

Here are some extra tips for playing Ghost Stories:

  • Don’t forget about your monk’s special ability; it can turn the tide of the game.
  • Communicate with your teammates to plan out your turns.
  • Keep track of which ghosts have been played to predict what’s coming next.

For more information on Ghost Stories, check out these links: