Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Tabletop Tuesday! Gloom, a card game of death and despair...



Welcome back to another Tabletop Tuesday! Sorry for the delay, but it's been dark and rainy here, making it especially hard to photograph the cards for this week's game... which is actually quite appropriate, since this is the perfect game to play on a dark and stormy night...

This week we played Gloom, a card game by Keith Baker and Atlas Games.  We first learned about this game at San Diego Comic Con in 2014, when we received a bonus card at Geek & Sundry in a free Loot Crate. Shortly after, we found the game for sale in the exhibit hall and bought a set!

Gloom can be played by 2-4 players, each representing, "an eccentric family of misfits," such as the families of Castle Slogar and Hemlock Hall, the Blackwater Watch clan, and the circus freak troupe known as Dark's Den of Deformity.  Each family has five members, and the objective is to plague your characters with horrible events until they suffer a tragic death.



Sounds pretty morbid right? But the humor of the mishaps (Plagued by Poodles! Sickened by Salmon! Beaten by Beggars!) and the storytelling aspects of this game make it a lot of fun.

Read on to learn more about Gloom, the Game of Inauspicious Incidents and Grave Consequences!

Gloom is a competitive card game for 2-4 players that incorporates storytelling elements. The goal is to weave together a narrative for each of your characters consisting of tragic events until each family member meets their demise. Each tragic event is worth a negative amount of Pathos Points, and players attempt to get a low score on each character before killing them off. New Modifier Cards can cover up previously played cards, canceling their effects and changing the Pathos Point value of a character.



The winner of the game is decided once one player's family has been completely eliminated. But the player to eliminate their family first doesn't necessarily win... the winner of the game is determined by the number of visible Pathos Points. Only dead characters count towards the total score, and the player with the lowest score wins the game.



The rules of Gloom are simple, and this game is quick and easy to learn, making it a very accessible game for new players. The basic game costs about $25, though it can be cheaper on Amazon.

Gloom is played in turns, with the first turn going to the player who has had the worst day. Each turn is played in three phases: First Play, Second Play, and Draw Phase. On each of the First and Second Play phases the player can draw or discard one card. Untimely Death Cards can only be played as the First Play, so it's pretty much impossible to add a modifier and a death card to a single character on one turn. During the Draw Phase, the player draws enough cards to return their hand to the standard number of five cards. This number can change depending on card text and special effects.

There are four types of cards in play:

Character Cards - These are the members of the family, each with a unique identity and description. The goal of the game is to torment these characters until they suffer an untimely death. Each family has five characters, and this number can be decreased to 3 or 4 for a quicker game.



Modifier Cards - These cards are used to change the Pathos Point value of a character, negatively and positively! These can be played on any character, belonging to any player, and some of the cards have effects influencing how many cards are drawn or played. Some cards have Storytelling Icons, indicating what type of tragedy has befallen the character and possibly earning the player fewer Pathos Points.



Event Cards - These cards are played for an immediate effect, and can be played as one of a player's two cards on their turn, or at any moment during the game to cancel another card (such as an Untimely Death card). These cards move modifiers, cancel other cards, and allow players to draw additional cards or an entirely new hand. These cards are valuable to the strategy of the game and can completely change the outcome.



Untimely Death Cards - Each character must meet its fate, and this is done by playing an Untimely Death Card. These cards can only be played as the first card of the player's turn, and only on characters with a negative Pathos Point value. Additional negative Pathos Points can be earned if the Untimely Death Card text indicates a Storytelling Icon in its card text. These Icons can be found on the Modifier Cards.



I love the cards used for this game. Because modifiers are stacked on top of character cards, the cards are all made of clear plastic, making it possible to see Pathos Points, character names, and other information through the top card. Only visible Pathos Points and Story Icons count towards the final score. I also really like the aesthetic - the artwork reminds me of the Masterpiece Mystery! intro on PBS.

The storytelling component of the game is not completely necessary - but it does make it more fun to play! Referring to the tragic events that befall a character, trying to choose cards that not only have strategic value, but narrative value as well, adds humor to the game. For example, poor dear sweet Angel of the Blackwater Clan was Disgraced at the Dance when her glass slippers shattered, cutting her feet. The smell of the blood as she staggered home attracted a band of rabid poodles, who Pursued her along the shore of a lake! Soon after, she fell in the water and was Mauled by Manatees. Ultimately, she was dragged into the boggy end of the lake, where she Drowned... and was worth -40 Pathos Points. May she rest in peace.



Even though the poodle attack was worth -15 Pathos Points, they were covered up
by the manatee and did not count to the final tally

There are a few versions and expansions of this game, including a Cthulu themed deck. These additional decks can be found for $15-$25 on Amazon and at hobby shops. We have not purchased or played any expansions, so I cannot comment on how well they integrate with the basic game pack.

Conclusions
If you aren't put off by the morbid goal of killing off all your characters, then I really recommend this game. Gloom is a lot of fun to play, very easy to learn, and has a high replay value due to the storytelling elements and the variety of cards. The price, $25 for the basic deck, is about on par with other card games. Because it is recommended for 2-4 players, we don't need to modify any rules to play just us two.

Thanks for reading! As always, please leave any questions or comments you might have! And until next time, GAME ON!

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