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Monica Valentinelli

Gloom Review

Posted on November 19, 2005 by Monica Valentinelli


Available at Noble Knight Games

The Card Game of Inauspicious Incidents & Grave Consequences

Printed by Atlas Games

Let me introduce you to Angel, the Starry-eyed Serial Killer. She was cursed by the queen, and grew old without grace. In her old age, she was pushed down the stairs. May our dearly departed Angel rest in peace. I was immediately drawn to Gloom for two reasons. The first is artwork, produced in the etching style of Edward Gorey by Scott Reeves, that sets the mood of the game. The second, is the unique game design concept created by Keith Baker. The result? One of the best card games I’ve ever played.

Printed on clear, see-through plastic, the cards are fun to read and attractive. Red text is there for gothic flavor, white text is for gameplay specifics. The little circles you see on the card stack to add or subtract points. A major bonus to this card game is that you do not need tons of table space to lie out the cards because they are stacked one on top of each other. In this case the object of the game is to make your own “family” miserable, the more negative points you have for a character the better off you are. Four families give a distinct flavor to the game; Castle Slogar, Hemlock Hall, Blackwater Watch, and Dark’s Den of Deformity. Each of the families as a unique twist, Dark’s Den of Deformity has a creepy, carnival feel. Mr. Giggles “always has a smile for the children.”

I’ve played this game now several times, with two to four players. The first time you play you’ll catch on quick enough, the instructions are very easy to read. If I didn’t understand something it’s because I didn’t open my eyes to read the text on the page. There are a few parts to your turn; use your actions wisely for that’s all you get until you play again. I’ve played quite a few games where you have plenty of options to be aggressive or team up against other players. In Gloom out of your turn you can only react with specific “Event” cards, and believe me those cards may not come into your hand as easily as you might think. There are rules for game balance, one that comes to my mind is the rule that you may not play an “Untimely Death” card (i.e. kill off a character) for the second part of your turn. If you are a min/max type of player, you’ll hate this rule because it will prevent you from taking over the game once you get your characters sad, depressed, and miserable enough.

Playing the game the second time allowed me to strategize quite a bit. Instead of hoarding certain negative cards (called “Modifiers”), I played them on other players to try to block their triple negative scores. My thinking was negative fifteen was better than negative fifty. Sacrificing a turn or the rest of my hand was worth it to use cards that had a total of negative 45 points on one character. The key to Gloom is that once one player’s entire family is in the graveyard, then judgment begins. All players add up their points only for their deceased family members. Translation? Even if someone has killed off their family, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve won. Adding up the cards is easy enough, the points are color-coded and clearly show what’s positive and what’s negative. Sometimes, some “Untimely Death” cards may add an additional negative 10 points depending upon what story icon your character has. Icons range from the mundane lucre (money) or ominous beast. The cards are self-explanatory, if you get a good group together you’ll have a lot of fun playing this card game with a dark twist. Gameplay for us lasted anywhere from a half an hour to an hour, regardless of the number of players.

The game is a little pricier than most at $21.95, but you are paying for something that is as artistic as it is functional. If you have questions, the publishers are readily available on the Atlas Games site and will respond quickly. I’m looking forward to playing this with the expansion pack that just came out. “Unhappy Homes” was just released. More cards equates to longer game play and more unique combinations. Overall, playing Gloom was loads of fun and kid-friendly. I couldn’t have asked for a better card game.

Reviewer: Monica Valentinelli

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