Legends of Sleepy Hollow Review

29 August 2022
Gothic Americana ready to haunt your kitchen table

Legends of Sleepy Hollow comes in a large box. Dauntingly large, some might say, but unlike other shelf-space dominating titles – it's not so crammed that it needs a “how to fit the lid back on” section in the manual.

That size is explained by the inclusion of large, colourful playboards, custom dice, a bucket-load of detailed miniatures and… cards. Lots and lots of cards. Maybe not as many a behemoth like 7th Continent, but far more than most games, all split into multiple intriguing decks – each emblazoned with warnings not to sneak a peek, for fear of engendering “the Curse of Sleepy Hollow”.

Legends of Sleepy Hollow is a campaign game based on the classic American story by Irving Washington, a gothic tale of headless horsemen at Halloween. The campaign element means that your decisions and progress carry along through an arc of ten story chapters. It has legacy elements, in that there are sealed boxes and previously unseen packs of cards revealed along the way, but unlike draw-on-the-board-and-mount-it-over-your-fireplace Pandemic Legacy, you can reset to zero at the end, and repeat the journey without having to replace anything.

Those decisions you make? They have weight. Without spoiling the story, the Legends – the characters controlled by players – gain items, outfits, skills and relics that alter the mechanics of future play. At points you have the option of selecting a life path for each character, which further defines current and future options for you. Some linear games can offer insubstantial choices; but the decisions in Legends of Sleepy Hollow have a real tactical and thematic impact on the game; my gaming groups found they added a very satisfying conversation at the end of a chapter, reflecting and remedying the strengths & weaknesses of our group play.

The action economy in Legends of Sleepy Hollow involves basic activities and more advanced options added through skill cards. Each needs an action token to activate, but some events and attacks add ‘fear’ tokens to your pool. These can be used to activate some actions, but they also delay how long it is until you can refresh and use your best skills again. Plus, reach ten fear and your Legend runs away, losing the chapter for everyone. The balance of courting fear but also delaying your most powerful skills is part of the rich tactical dilemma.

The production quality is reasonable, although maybe not as high as you’d hope at this price point. One of our scenario setups was made significantly harder by a cutting error on the play boards, meaning we weren’t sure where room boundaries lay, and missed a useful staircase. The boards are a touch too dark too, even if the aesthetics are absolutely on point for the gothic Americana of the theme. Some of the art is beautiful; one chapter has an area with wooden boards dappled with sunlight which instantly evoked in me memories of a hot, humid, US summer trip many years ago.

One aspect I loved was the personalised character dashboards. Each character has one, with indented sections for items or upgrades, and for holding action tokens during play. They are lovely, adding theme and aiding the mechanics of the game and setup.

My main other quibble is the life dials on models. Each Legend and monster has a numbered cardboard disc incorporated into the base. Fundamentally a great idea – tracking hit points on 10 identical models can be a nightmare in other games – but the dials are too loose. They fall apart when packed away, and you have to be super careful when moving models as dials bounce around. I fixed mine with a little nub of Blu Tack to gum each one up, but ideally you shouldn’t need to employ such a hack out of the box.

Overall, the crescendo of complexity is close to perfect in Legends of Sleepy Hollow. Ten chapters is the perfect amount for a committed play group to blast through in a few weeks. Later episodes are punishingly difficult, but the game has revealed itself as a tight tactical puzzle at that point, requiring players to flex every tiny advantage on their Player’s dashboard in order for the Legends to win out.

Chris Lowry


Try this if you liked Level 7: Escape

That spooky sci-fi dungeon crawler also uses oodles of story, and builds fear into the heart of its game mechanics. Level 7 strikes a slightly simpler arcade style, but still provides a seven scenario campaign for those wanting to plumb its depths.

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Read the full review here

Designer: Ben Pinchback, Matt Riddle

Publisher: Dice Hate Me Games

Time: 30-120 minutes

Players: 1-4

Ages: 12+

Price: £99

What’s in the box?

  • 4 Legend playmats
  • 40 miniatures
  • 16 cardboard map sections
  • 7 dice
  • 20 wooden action tokens
  • 30 wooden fear tokens
  • 108 cardboard tokens
  • 300 cards


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