Cards & Dice & Tabletops: Gloom
For anyone venturing into the world of table top games, it can be a little daunting. Do you go for the strategy side of things that a game like Bioshock Infinite may offer or does the creativity of role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons appeal? What if you fancy a bit of both but do not have the time or money or enough people to play with? Well, I may have a solution. How about a card game where you control a family and the object is to torment and kill them off in the most creative and despicable way possible before anyone else does? You will also become a master in the art of alliteration. Sound good? Well then, allow me to introduce you to the world of Gloom.
Gloom is a card game for two to four players from Atlas Games that will bring out your dark side in no time. Each player takes control of an eccentric family of five who, apart from looking like they are distant relatives of the Addams family are rather content – for the time being. The object of the game is to then play modifier cards on each member of the family lowering their self-worth before ultimately sending them to meet their maker whilst at the same time trying to make your opponents family as happy and healthy as possible. The game ends when one player has successfully killed off all their family members. The self-worth points are added up and the player with the most points on dead family members then wins the game.
There are various cards used throughout Gloom to aid you in your morbid quest. Modifier cards contain the events that cause everyone to be either happy or miserable; Untimely deaths are the cards that shuffle your characters of this mortal coil and action cards allow you to play extra cards during your turn and generally mess with your opponent. The cards in Gloom are also very special in that, with the exception of the family members, they are all transparent. They are printed on clear plastic and only have a small piece of area that can’t be seen through. This enables you to place a modifier on top of your intended target and still be able to see any on-going effects or actions that may still be applicable from a previously played card.
The gameplay in Gloom is rather simple and fast paced with most games taking between thirty minutes to an hour. Gameplay consists of players laying out their family in front on them and receiving five cards for their hand. Every turn a player is then allowed to play two cards. Untimely death cards may only be played on your first play and may only be played on characters with a negative self-worth. Modifier cards can be played on any of your plays and may sometimes have special conditions attached. These may be along the lines of making you skip your next turn or discarding your entire hand of cards. After your second card has been played you draw cards to get back to your five card minimum, your turn ends and the next player may begin. Strategy can also play an important part; do you concentrate on killing your family as quickly as possible or do you mess with your opponent by killing off his family prematurely? Gloom is firmly seated in the new generation of card games where messing with your opponents is not only possible, it is highly encouraged! With cards that can bring your opponents family members back from the grave or steal their modifiers for yourself, Gloom rapidly descends into riotous fun.
Another aspect of Gloom’s gameplay that separates it from a normal card game is the story telling. This is an additional rule that states that when playing a modifier card on a character, you should also have some sort of narrative to go with it. This means that you may have to explain how Darius Dark found maggots in the meat or how it came about that Lord Slogar fell to his death. Although this is an optional rule, it is highly recommended by the makers of the game (and me) that you implement it. Should you implement it you will end up with a twisty hilarious narrative that follows the exploits of these poor families. As the game goes on you will also find more and more ambitious stories being made up to justify certain cards being played on characters. This tends to happen more often than not with Balthazar the hound. This poor dog has had more happen to him in one game than any other dog ever. In one game we played, we had Balthazar become clever at cards, meet and fall in love with one of the other characters, get widowed at the wedding and then tragically fall down a well and die! When you are having this amount of fun with the narrative it can be difficult to kill a character when you would rather hear what happens next.
The one danger with Gloom is that you may tire of the same families and telling the same stories about them after a while. Well, fear not my Machiavellian friend. Gloom currently has three expansion packs already available and a new one – Unquiet Dead – coming to the UK in October / November 2013. Each one comes with an additional family to torment as well as more stories, actions and new gameplay elements such as family homes and uninvited guests. The expansions are priced at roughly £12 each so for the price of a new release videogame you could have the ability to have a seven player game of gloomy Gloom giving you more gloom that you could shake an emo kid at. For a game that was added into the Glitch Free Gaming table top game day on a whim it has become a firm favourite with cries of “Can we play that game where you kill everyone?” being heard when discussing the next game.
Gloom is an excellent game for someone just venturing into the world of table top games. It can be played with a few or a lot of players, it’s easy to learn and eases player into the habit of being creative and making up worlds and stories for the characters you control. It is also perfect for more experienced gamers looking for a cool wee diversion. Either way Gloom should be on your radar of cards games to check out, especially if you have an evil side.