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Review: Gloom

Review: Gloom


The Game of Inauspicious Incidents & Grave Consequences

Title: Gloom
Designer: Keith Baker
Publisher: Atlas Games
Players: 2 – 4 [7 with expansion packs]
Play Time: >60 minutes
Setup Time: <5 minutes
Difficulty Rating: 4

“The world of Gloom is a sad and benighted place. The sky is gray, the tea is cold, and a new tragedy lies around every corner. Debt, disease, heartache, and packs of rabid flesh-eating mice—just when it seems like things can’t get any worse, they do. But some say that one’s reward in the afterlife is based on the misery endured in life. If so, there may yet be hope—if not in this world, then in the peace that lies beyond.”

Gloom was first released in 2005 by Atlas Games, the original pack comes with two decks of 55 transparent cards and the rulebook! Since 2005 it has spawned three expansion packs with a fourth on it’s way, each pack includes an additional ‘family’ and 55 more cards, this doesn’t just offer more scenarios and situations but allows the addition of another player to the game. Gloom is the combination of a card games, Tim Burton and transparent cards with Johnny Depp reciting Edgar Allan Poe in the background… oh that’s not counting the special Cthullu version of the game which can be played on it’s own or added into the deck of cards as an expansion.

Each card features fantastic ‘gothic’ artwork printed on transparent cards, they are divided into: family cards, modifier cards, event cards and death cards [expansions add some new ones too]. Each modifier will either add or decrease the family’s value. The transparency allows you to keep track of each family members current value and each feature short but witty descriptions.

The objective of the game is pretty simple – you take on the management of a ‘family, five members of an eccentric household that you must ‘take care of’, now I use that term in the same sense the Godfather would use it… your job is to make sure these people suffer a fate worse than death… then you put them out of their misery.
The game can be played two ways, you and the other players can simply take turns placing cards down on their families and other players, drawing new cards and reaping the benefits, curses from the cards before finally placing a death card and wiping out each family member – to summarise: depress your family, improve the lives of your fellow players and then kill each member of your household! The game is over when a player kills each member off then all players tally up their scores by counting the numbers on the cards on top of each member of the house, the player with the lowest score or ‘Family Value’ wins!

That’s the basics of the game , it is the fastest way to play the game and requires some strategy on each players behalf! There is another way to play Gloom and it’s where the game really shines – storytelling!

You can choose to include the element of storytelling where each character comes to life at the hands of their controllers, each modifier card whether it’s being ‘Shunned by Society’, ‘Pierced by Porcupines’ or ‘Mauled by Manatees’. Each player must build the story of the event while also incorporating the stories of other players, each game becomes a unique experience, while drawing face down cards adds chance, telling new stories every time means no two games of Gloom are ever the same!Gloom allows you to throw your own experience and interpretation into every card, your imagination and the imaginations of your fellow players are the only limit!

It’s biggest strength is also it’s greatest weakness – if you choose to play the game without the storytelling limit, it loses a lot of it’s fun factor. If you do include the storytelling then you are relying on everyone to engage with the game and if you or your other players find it difficult to spin a yarn then you’re going to have suffer through their stories or pray each round that they spit out a once sentence experience!
Aside from the above, Gloom poses no real difficulty, you play negative modifiers to depress your household and positive modifiers to elate your enemies, then when the moment is ripe you bump your characters off!

My experience with Gloom has yet to be anything short of entertaining… well as entertaining as depressing and murdering fictional characters can be (seriously, crime novelists must be the most entertained people in the world, entertained and masochistic!). My adventures have brought my family members face to face with the ‘Queen of Letterkenny’, a marriage with the lady of the lake; wielder of Excalibur who happened to be a leprous vampiric sea witch before my resulting actions brought the wrath of the Manatee priests acting under the authority of the Catholic Church Wing of Manatees.
I’ve seen a dog shunned by society only to become the face of an anti-dog abuse campaign heralded in parliament only to lose all his earnings before being trapped on a train and a terrifying clown making inappropriate appearances at every local funeral where his ‘personal’ collection of profile pictures brought him nothing but hardship and disgrace.

Gloom can be picked up by anyone from seasoned card gamer players to those dipping their toe in the water for the first time, offering elements of strategy and storytelling that can be made advanced or simple according to the skill of players. The more players the better and with the addition of a new family with each expansion back, four becoming seven means only more adventures, more horrifying encounters and hilarious demises.
It may not appeal to those who are looking for a strategy heavy game but if you want something fun that requires only a moderate amount of thinking and will lead to laughs and shared stories, then Gloom is your game!

[easyreview cat1title=”The Arcade Verdict” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”8″]

If you want to pick up your own copy of Gloom or any of the expansions and sequels then the Arcade recommends you check out BoardGamer.ie