Bringing Board Games News, Reviews, and Goodness to the Interwebs.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Review: Gloom - A Merry Game of Macabre Delights


Last week I reviewed a card game I absolutely hated.  This week, I thought I'd change it back to an enjoyable game.  Thus, my review of Gloom.  The typical card game in this competitive genre finds you trying to kill off your opponents characters while trying to make your own better or stronger.  Gloom turns this idea on its head.  Instead, you're trying to make your characters as sad as possible and then kill them, while simultaneously trying to bring joy to your opponents.  Gloom promises a great game of morbid, but light-hearted fun for any group.  Full review after the jump:

The Basics. In Gloom, each player has a weirdo 'family' of five cards.  There's the mad inventor and his family, the swamp dwelling dam and her family, the noble family with possessed children, and the demented circus of Darius Dark.  Your goal is to make the most depressing things happen to your characters.  Each card has a number of sad points or happy points on it.  If your character is shunned by society, for example, they would get a whopping -45.  Negative points indicate sadness and are good.

Part of the fun of Gloom, however, is that you can't just play cards.  Instead, you have to tell a story.  In order to play the "shunned by society" card, you have to give a little background.  Tell the other players what your character did that was so heinous as to be shunned by society.  As more and more cards are played, the story grows and grows.  It may seem a little daunting at first, but the names of the cards really help you to build off of where the last story went.

But, as you make your characters sad, your opponents try to bring happiness back to your characters' lives.  For example, your character, after being shunned by society, might take a trip down to the local pond.  There, despite his sadness, he found joy in watching the momma duck feed her children.  Thus, he is, "delighted by ducklings."  "Argh!" comes the scream from the other end of the table.  "How could you do that to me? Why would you have him be delighted by ducklings!?"  Yes, this is the game where when your characters find success and happiness in life, you only feel the need to redouble your efforts at making them sad and miserable.

One of the interesting aspects of this game is the mechanics of the cards.  When playing a card on a character, you simply lay it on top.  Each card is clear so you can see right through to the other cards.  Thus, in the case of a character who was shunned, then delighted, his top card would look like the card at the right.  His sadness would be reduced to a measly five points.  Hardly even worth killing off.

Once your character is sufficiently sad, it's time to do the deed.  There are a number of different death cards in the game.  Interestingly, the death cards all have a pair that rhyme.  When I first bought the game, they were in rhyming order and I enjoyed going through and reading the pairs one after the other.  Again, the story continues and you describe how and why they "died of despair" or how they came to be "slain by an heir."

Components 2.5 of 5:  Ordinarily, I would have scored these cards a little lower, but the clear cards are very cool.  I really like that component.  Unfortunately, the cellophane allows the ink to rub off a little easier than I'd like.  Even after as few as a dozen plays, I started to notice smudges and smears from the shuffling.  It's not so bad as to be unreadable, but it does mar the cards. 

Strategy/Luck Balance 4 of 5: Like most card games, there is a big luck factor that depends heavily on what you draw.  But, there are not many (with one notable exception) lucky combinations that allow you to rain terror down on your opponents.  For the most part, everyone is on an equal playing field and it comes down to what cards you play and when. 

Mechanics 5 of 5: The rules are very straightforward.  Hand size 5.  Draw up to that limit at the end of your turn. Play two cards per turn.  You can only play a death card as the first card.  Some other cards change these up a bit, but how they change it is printed right on the card.  And, the rule requiring a death card to be played first is a smart one.  That way, you can't make a character sad and immediately kill it.  Instead, you have to make him sad and hope he doesn't find some happiness from an opponent before your next turn when you can kill him. 

Replayability 3.5 of 5: The general premise of the game is funny, but by itself would get old after a few plays.  What makes this game imminently replayable is the story-telling aspect. Each time, the characters are getting into different troubles - or the same tribulations for different reasons.  And the story tellers usually have the families interact in their tales.  It makes for a lively and fun time. 

Spite 4 of 5:  Spite is a large part of this game.  You are encouraged to make your opponents' characters happy.  There are far more sad cards than happy ones, so spite isn't guaranteed in every turn (unlike, Munchkin), but over the course of the game you should expect to see a good deal spite flung your way - and be prepared to fling back.

Overall 3.5 of 5:  This game is an enjoyable interlude when you're looking for something a little less than serious.  The comedic aspect can lead to some big laughs among friends.  I recommend playing with friends who can laugh at the comedically dire situations in this grame.  And since it's priced very reasonably, I definitely think it should be found in any gamer's collection. 

If you want to grab it from Boards and Bits, you can click here

You can also try FunAgain games here.

1 comment:

  1. Stunning design for Clear Cards that inspire me a lot....