Pop Fiction Games – The Shivers [Overview Review]

Welcome to Fogmoor Manor

Location:  at home

Date Played: February 2023

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 30-60 minutes per episode, plus some extra prep time for the Storyteller

Price: $75 for the core game; $40 for two optional expansion packs

REA Reaction

I first came across The Shivers way back in 2019 at PAX Unplugged. Always on the lookout for something puzzley and new, I was immediately drawn in by the pop-up room held in the creator’s hand. The Kickstarter campaign promised a “one-of-a-kind pop-up 3D haunted house adventure.” I’m happy to say that when it finally arrived in early 2023, it delivered on those promises.

From the moment I first unboxed it to look at the components and read the rulebook, I knew I had something special for the table. The components were high quality, and I was very impressed by the main event – the pop-up rooms. They were elegant, highly detailed, and dynamic. They even stuck together with magnets! The six playable characters felt unique and we got a strong impression about who they were and how they would act. The two Kickstarter exclusive characters, a dog and a cat, were adorable and fun additions, even if they weren’t the most helpful characters to play as.

The main downside to The Shivers was the lopsided amount of prep work that one player should do before playing. This was an asymmetric game where one player acted as the Storyteller, analogous to being a Dungeon Master running a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. To make the game go smoothly, the Storyteller should familiarize themselves with the ins and outs of the episode (what the designers call each playable module) before gathering the rest of the players. The players only need to choose a stock character before playing, assuming they know the general rules of the game. This isn’t a game you’re likely to just pull off the shelf and start playing immediately.

Pop up of a victorian parlor with pop up furniture and characters investigating.

Our first adventure was the tutorial episode, Flight of the Bumblebee. For the Storyteller, it provided a very detailed step-by-step path to stay organized and help the other players stay on track. Helpfully, this included a tiered hint system with questions to ask players when they got stuck. For the players, the tutorial was a standard experience with an easy level of difficulty. Players unfamiliar with the mechanics quickly learned how to interact with objects, how to use their character sheet, and – most importantly – how to gain access to additional rooms in the manor to explore.

We’re looking forward to diving deeper into what The Shivers has to offer. There are more episodes to play, more rooms to discover, and more secrets to find. And with another Kickstarter coming soon to fund more expansions, we’ll be spending a lot more time exploring the town of Fogmoor Cove and its mysterious manor.

Series Installments

  • The Core Game is the only version currently available for sale. It comes with everything you need to play. A full list of the components is available on the Pop Fiction website.
  • The Deluxe Game, which was primarily a Kickstarter exclusive, came with everything in the base game plus the first two expansion sets and some extra accessories.
"The Shivers" box art features an illustration of a family approaching an old mansion.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Miniature and diorama fans
  • Tabletop roleplayers
  • Fans of cooperative games
  • Any experience level to play, but it’s better if the Storyteller has some experience with games like Dungeons & Dragons

Why play?

  • Amazing and unique board setup
  • Endearing characters
  • Multiple playable episodes and the ability to create your own stories


Each episode had a different story, but they all took place in Fogmoor Manor, an old spooky house in the town of Fogmoor Cove. In the tutorial game, Flight of the Bumblebee, the player characters were recruited by a mysterious woman to rescue her from being locked in the manor’s laboratory.

3 characters cards, a magnifying glass, a dry erase marker, and 3 different colored dice.

Setup & Gameplay

As the Storyteller, running the Flight of the Bumblebee tutorial campaign required a not insignificant amount of preparation before the other players sat down at the table; first time players should plan for at least 20 to 30 minutes, though that number can decrease if the Storyteller is familiar with similar roles in tabletop RPGs. To run the game seamlessly, I familiarized myself with the Storyteller rules, learned the specifics of the episode, and gathered all of the game components that we needed – many of which were held in secret, to be revealed as the game was played. It’s fair to make a comparison to playing a tabletop roleplaying game like Dungeons & Dragons: as the Storyteller I took care of the prep work ahead of time and needed to be able to react properly to the players’ actions. The other players prepared for the game much more quickly, choosing a character and learning about the actions they were able to take.

The initial board state began with a single room of Fogmoor Manor available to the players. The Core Game came with six rooms and not every room was used for the tutorial (but these would be used in other episodes). There was an episode-specific insert that slid into the room that added visual elements to the front that players could see and notes in the back that the Storyteller could see. The episode guide provided introductory text to be read aloud to the players, and then they were allowed to explore and interact with the initial room.

The players took turns examining the objects in the room, collecting items, and making connections much in the way they would in a real world escape room. As the players solved puzzles and completed tasks, additional rooms opened up to them, each with its own insert providing further set dressing and important episode information. On the Storyteller side, the notes provided for each episode covered most of what the players were able to interact with, and the step-by-step guide for the Storyteller’s eyes only kept everyone on track right to the very end of the mission. Flight of the Bumblebee ended in a dramatic confrontation that allowed the players some agency in how it was resolved.

A real black cat sniffing a paper character stand of a black cat character.


➕ The pop-up rooms were the star of the show. They were attractive, intricate, and they packed a lot of information for both the players and the Storyteller into a small package.

➕ The length of the tutorial episode was perfect. It was long enough to feel comfortable with the mechanics, but short enough to provide a satisfying ending without dragging on.

➖ To run a smooth game, the Storyteller needed to do a good amount of prep before sitting down to play. This can make it difficult to take off the shelf and just start playing.

➕ The six playable characters (eight if you have the deluxe edition) were fun: bios were diverse, personalities were clear, and their unique catchphrases were a nice touch.

➖ The notes for the storyteller were far-ranging but didn’t account for every single item the players could find. This made us unsure if an item would be mentioned as important later or if it was unimportant and could be up to the Storyteller’s discretion.

➕ The components fit perfectly into the box. We’ve played a lot of board games that are finicky when it comes to cleanup so we deeply appreciated the attention to detail here.

➖ The included magnifying glasses had oddly sharp rims that will benefit from some sandpapering.

➕ Each episode included a content warning. There’s nothing particularly shocking or salacious but it was a helpful inclusion. Combined with thoughtful storytelling, this can help adapt the game to a wider audience.

➕/➖ Players unfamiliar with the open-ended nature of what their characters can do in a game like this may find the freedom daunting but may also find their stride once they’ve played.

3 character stands atop 3 different booklets with lore, and instructions.

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: A large table for the pop-up boards, player space, and a separate space across the table for the Storyteller.
  • Required Gear: Everything you need comes in the box, but depending on your setup a flashlight can help with seeing all the details.

Buy your copy of Pop Fiction’s The Shivers, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: