Sunday, 27 March 2016

Review: Macabre card game Gloom

Today I would like to feature a card game suitable for goths and other darkly inclined. The game is called Gloom and it is designed by Keith Baker.
This game of "inauspicious incidents and grave consequences" is hilarious and twisted. Each player has a family they play as and the goal is to make one's own family members as miserable as possible and eventually cause their untimely deaths.

Here are my three favorite characters from two different families The murderous matriarch Old Dam, Cousin Mordecai ("Inbreeding is the least of his problems"), and Professor Helena Slogar, who "enjoys gardening, long walks in the moonlight, and reanimating the dead". I love the sinister humor of this game! As you can observe, the cards are transparent plastic. The family is placed in front of the player and cards are played on them.
During the game players can play life events (called Modifier cards), which can be either good or bad, on the characters. Then there are of course the "Untimely Death" cards which are played on characters too. The third playable card is called "Event" which is a card that is happening on the meta level of the game: it is not played on a character but for example with it the player can remove all Modifier cards from a chosen character or to stop another player from playing an Untimely Death.

The game ends when somebody's family is completely wiped out. Then the "Self-Worth Points" of all dead characters are counted and who ever has the most points wins. Here are some Modifiers with various Self-Worth points:
Half the fun is to tell a story as one plays the Modifiers on characters. In this following scenario on the character of Professor Helena Slogar is played a Modifier "Was mauled by a manatee" and then "Was swindled by salesmen". It will be much more fun if one tells these misfortunes in a form of a short story:
"Professor Helena Slogar was starting a new research project with aquatic mammals. She had started to test if she could infect a manatee with rabies. The tests showed positive outcomes and Professor Helena was very excited. So excited, that she became careless and while feeding the rabies ridden manatee she fell into its tank! Alas, she was mauled by the manatee."
"Bloody and torn she finally managed to climb out of the water tank and away from the raging manatee. She heard the doorbell ring and since the servant had a day off, Professor was forced to answer the door herself. On the doorsteps were two smirking salesmen, who were selling dictionaries with ridiculous prices. Suffering from severe loss of blood poor Professor ended up buying useless and old dictionaries, and was thus swindled by salesmen!"
In the end of this little story Professor Helena Slogar's Self-Worth Score is now -30. On the bottom there are instructions that effect the player whose character the modifier is played on. One can play Modifiers and Untimely Deaths to any character, whether they are her own or somebody else's.

I have the second edition of this game. In the original game all playable cards (Modifiers, Untimely Deaths and Events) looked like the Modifiers, meaning they did not have those symbols in the middle. But in my cards you can see that the Modifiers can be distinguished from the other cards easily:
The pictures in the middle were added to Events and Untimely Deaths because there are expansion packs (like Chtulhu version) in which the design changed and in Untimely Deaths there started to be pictures in the center. They are there in order to make it easier to spot which characters are dead of course. In the original, one had to take the character card and flip it when it died. These center pictures are suppose to make the game easier but I do not like this new design for one reason:

If the lights are correct (and they often are) one can spot what cards other players are holding. Since the cards are translucent one can easily see if the picture on the other side is of an Untimely Death or an Event.
On left is an Event and on the far right is an Untimely Death. You can see the "ghost of a crow" on the other side of the card. In the middle is a Modifier backwards, you should not be seeing that -20 points. :D Otherwise this would not matter but there are Event cards that allow one to take a card from an opponents hand and in that situation it is significant if one can spot which card is an Untimely Death.

Otherwise this is a fabulous game and I warmly recommend it! The idea of the game is funny, the characters and awful misfortunes they can encounter are imaginative, and there is also a tactical side to this game.