Art by Shawn Surface

The original version of GHOULASH was created in 1982, when designer Mike Suchcicki set out to create a Dungeons & Dragons-type RPG for only two players, with each player being the other’s dungeon master. What eventually sprang to life was a two-player paper game that was downloaded and played around the world, and was even translated into six different languages.

Today, the exciting world created in 1982, overrun by deadly, giant, green monsters known as GHOULS, is the setting for TWO great games collectively known as The Games of GHOULASH.

The original two-player paper game, originally known as GHOULASH: The Last Game on Earth, is now known as GHOULASH: The Game of Pen & Paper Peril.

In the paper game, each player takes one of the Game Charts from the Game Book, and hides the Ghouls, Holes, Debris, and First-Aid Kits on one of the two grids. That’s the Obstacle Grid. They take turns describing their journey through the other grid, the Movement Grid. As a player moves, the opponent follows along on their Obstacle Grid and announces what items or obstacles have been encountered.

The spinoff game, GHOULASH: The Game of Card Calamity, recreates the Ghoul-hunting thrills of the original GHOULASH in a fast-paced, action-packed card game for two to four players. Players track the vicious creatures through an obstacle-filled building and destroy them before they shred innocent victims. Battle Cards are used to fight the Ghouls, with the goal to beat the Ghoul’s strength in a point-to-point match. Opponents can challenge the battle by boosting the Ghoul’s strength with their cards. Successful battles earn Victory Points; the first player to 10 points wins the game.


Mike with the 1982 version of GHOULASH

In 1982, creator Mike Suchcicki, attempted to create a dungeon-crawl-type RPG for two players. Originally it was going to have a post-apocalyptic setting, with the players battling zombies, packs of vicious dogs and bands of ruthless scavengers. In his notes for the game, Suchcicki had written the word “ghoulish.” When he looked back at his notes later, he read the word as “ghoulash,” a pun that inspired him to change the monsters of the game from zombies to Ghouls — large, green, soulless monsters — and to give the game a new name. The original version was played using a variety of charts, printed on letter-size paper; no dice, spinners or playing pieces of any kind were required. Each player used two City Charts — a grid representing an urban landscape with several buildings — and a Tally Chart, used to keep track of supplies, ammunition, wounds and Ghouls killed. The game was self-published, as a packet of pre-printed charts packaged in a simple white envelope with the logo and description printed in black ink.

The game was marketed through adventure gaming magazines of the day and through local game stores. A favorable review appeared in the now-defunct Adventure Gaming magazine.

After selling only about a dozen copies, including some to a game enthusiast in Australia, Suchcicki put Ghoulash aside, hoping one day to refine the game into a version that was both faster to play and also would allow for a more practical marketing plan. In the late ’90s, he returned to the game, working on more streamlined designs of the grids and quicker game mechanics. In his redesign, he made two significant changes to the game: One, he fit two player grids, Ghoul battle graphics, wound meters and instructions all on one page; two, he designed the game in a series of scenarios, each with its own grid and victory conditions. For instance, in the scenario “Gun Shy,” the players begin the game without a weapon, and must find it as they travel the grid. In “Immunity,” players can use talismans to avoid obstacles.

To test the viability of the game, Suchcicki decided to give away his early scenarios for free. In 2001 he launched Ghoulash.com, a site from which players, after registering, could download free PDFs of the dozen or so scenarios available. Players were asked to indicate their countries of origin. Based on the registration records, within months hundreds of players from all over the world had downloaded the scenarios. Fans of the game eventually translated Ghoulash into six different languages: French, Italian, Russian, Hungarian, Spanish and Catalan.

In 2007, Mike and his son Joe, who had joined the Ghoulash Games enterprise, published their first set of Scenario Packs, which were marketed in the U.S. and Europe. At one point Joe pitched the idea for a Ghoulash board game. At first Mike resisted, but relented after seeing Joe’s prototype. The duo developed the game, but alas the Kickstarter campaign to bring it to market was unsuccessful. In an attempt to make the board game version more portable and economically feasible, Mike modified it into an elaborate card game, with a central deck of Encounter Cards replacing the game board. While the new card game sold well at local conventions, Mike still wasn’t satisfied; he wanted to modify the card game yet again, with the goal of creating a single-deck game.

Finally, by replicating the grid of the original paper game, Mike cracked the code and, with Joe’s help, developed the single-deck version on sale today.

In the meantime, Mike also made a significant change to the paper game. Rather than individual scenarios, each with its own victory condition, the game now had but one goal: To be the first player to destroy all eight Ghouls (or to be the last player alive).

In 2019, Mike gathered the two versions of Ghoulash under one brand, The Games of GHOULASH. The paper game now was called GHOULASH: The Game of Pen & Paper Peril and the card game became GHOULASH: The Game of Card Calamity.