Today’s terrible tale is that of doom and despair. It is a story of strife and suffering, and perhaps a perilous plight or two.
Today’s review is about a glum game called Gloom.
Gloom by Atlas Games is a small little card game that’s got the dark yet quirky style of Lemony Snicket with a bit of Edward Gorey-esque art thrown in. If you, like me, are a fan of both these things, you are sure to find Gloom to be a terrific treat.
In Gloom, players choose one of four families for whom they are to devise a despairing death. Each family features a cast of creative characters each with a bit of flavour text to inspire your imagination. My personal favourite family is Dark’s Den of Deformity, a “family” formed from a group typical of an old school circus freak show.
After choosing a family, players then draw a hand of five cards. These cards come in three varieties: Modifiers, Events and Untimely Deaths. Modifiers come in two types, either worth negative or positive Self-Worth points, and in Gloom, you want to have a negative Self-Worth. Modifiers can be played on any character, whether it be your own or those belonging to an opponent. Events are not played on a character but simply played out, followed, then discarded. Untimely Deaths are the way of securing the fate of a character, and thus their Self-Worth at the end of their unfortunate lives. These can be played on any character, just like Modifiers, but have limitations. Untimely Deaths can only be played as the first of the two actions a player gets on their turn. They can also only be played on a character with a negative Self-Worth. Along with playing a card, players may also choose to discard their hand to draw a whole new hand as an action, or simply pass. The game ends once all members of a single player’s family have died. The Self-Worth points are then tallied up, counting only on deceased characters, and the player with the most negative Self-Worth score is the winner.
The rule sheet for Gloom encourages to include story telling as a component of the game, taking the actions set out on the Modifiers (always alliterative) and telling a story about the characters. While my husband isn’t much of a storyteller, my sister and I greatly enjoyed this aspect of play, and I thought it elevated the experience.
However, where Gloom gets tricky is the Effects on the Modifier cards. The rules explicitly state that when starting the game, it’s best to ignore these Effects to get a hold on the game’s core. I did play both with and without Effects, and I found that while I understand how the Effects can introduce a bit more strategy to the game, I think it played a lot smoother without them.
Gloom is set apart from the crowd by its unique design. The cards are all made from a thin (but not too thin) plastic and are clear with the artwork printed on top. This is part of the gameplay for Self-Worth points are only counted when they can be seen. However, when too many are piled on top, even though Self-Worth points should and do count, sometimes they do become obscured. The artwork of the cards and box is, as previously mentioned, reminiscent of Edward Gorey’s style, creepy and black and white. The box is nice and sturdy, but I find the cards tend to shift, so moving to a different storage method or securing the cards with an elastic or other means may be ideal.
Overall, I found Gloom to be unique and quirky, with good gameplay design. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to those who like things a little on the dark side.
Gloom is designed by Keith Baker. It plays 2-5 players and takes about 60 minutes.
Until next time, remember to play fair and have fun!