Posted on September 4, 2005 by Flames
Original Concept by Matt Forbeck
Produced by Humanhead Studios, Published by Green Ronin Publishing
Dracula’s Revenge is an adventure-style board game, the first in the Gothica line of games from Human Head Studios. Set in Victorian England, Dracula’s Revenge takes you into the heart of the conflict between vampire hunter and hunter.
Designed for two players, Dracula’s Revenge centers on Vampires (led by Dracula, himself) or Hunters (led by Van Helsing). You control the actions of a certain number of characters, determined by which scenario you plan to play out. Included scenarios like “Into the Breach” or “Cross the Catacombs” are extraordinarily different from one another, however the basic concept is always the same—hunters are invading the vampire’s lair. Players must meet an adventure’s objectives in order to win. Adventures are also related to how the game board’s tiles are laid out on the table, and how the pieces are positioned on those tiles. Once you are familiar with the rules you have a lot of flexibility to create your own strategic challenges.
Setting up the game is pretty straightforward because the instruction booklet has a lot of information, including game play examples. The hardest part at the onset was determining how and where all the pieces fit together. Besides the game board, you have characters with stands, die screens, doors with stands, and a deck of cards. Cards represent a character’s class, and have a list of stats. Order of character turns is determined by the placement of character cards. This placement is called the Action Timeline, and works similar to initiative in an RPG.
After you figure out your Action Timeline, players begin their turn by rolling a six-sided die to determine a pool called your Reaction Points. The more Reaction Points you have, the better chance you have of winning—if you spend them wisely. When you spend Reaction Points, they are used to enhance your character’s Action Points pool (typically hunters, 6/vampires, 9). Taking an action (or actions) requires spending points (equal to the maximum points in your Action Pool). Actions could include things like moving, opening a door, or attacking. In general, there are only close and ranged attacks, as well as a simple defense action. A swift roll of a six-sided die resolves these conflicts. Certain characters have special attacks depending on their class; some characters have the ability to “upgrade” a class. Each action could contain a modifier for your roll, depending on which character in action. The actions are very generic—because there is a roleplaying feel to this game you might find yourself wanting to take more specific actions than the game allows. The rules are a bit complicated at first but, after the first round, you forget about the mechanics and focus more on how you will beat your opponent.
Mechanically, the game is very well-balanced and the numbers enhance game play experience. There are also additional crunchy bits for players that like their games rules-heavy. Vampires act like vampires; stats are given for their unique powers (feeding, mesmerizing, changing form). Vampire hunters use the tools of their trade; crossbow, crucifix and stake. Hunters can save vampiric minions, and vampires can evolve after they feed. Interestingly enough, even the number of vampires in a certain class (i.e. nosferatu) are limited. There is no power gaming allowed in Dracula’s Revenge, it’s strictly based on luck and strategy.
The art and quality of the board game is better than average, the character pieces are somewhat awkward (small cards on plastic bases)—but they function very well in order for both players, both to see the character and to move them. Each scenario calls for a different number of characters. The cards are functional, the text is easy to read and works well. Game design is impressive—by utilizing the same board tile pieces you can play through different scenarios with little to no visual difficulty. We had a challenge trying to put all the pieces back together in the box, especially if you keep the characters and doors fully-assembled. Dracula’s Revenge retails for $29.95, which is pretty typical for games of this quality. The price looks more attractive when you realize that you’ll never need to buy “an expansion pack.” There are no tricky marketing gimmicks included with Dracula’s Revenge. Everything you’ll ever need is inside one box.
Overall, Dracula’s Revenge is not your ordinary roll-and-move-three-spaces board game. A lot of thought went into the mechanics for this two-player game, and there are no holes that we could find. Vampires are a bit more powerful than the hunters to play—we didn’t question it because the same would be true in reality. Hunters, however, can overcome the vampires provided they plan ahead and use their actions wisely. If you have more than two players who want to play this game, we suggest forming into “teams.”
Dracula’s Revenge can be played as a quick or extensive session, depending on the players choosing. If you’re looking for something other than your typical board game, Dracula’s Revenge is the game for you.
Reviewers: Jeff Jacobs and Monica Valentinelli