Gloom by Atlas Games, is a terribly wonderful card game, where players will use their hand management and story telling to ability to make themselves as miserable as possible. Unlike most games the objective of Gloom is to have the lowest score possible.
To set up Gloom players will each select one of the four families, which are Castle Slogar, Hemlock Hall, Dark’s Den of Deformity, and Blackwater Watch. Then they will layout each member of their family in front of them on the table and draw a hand of five cards.
There are four types of cards in Gloom. The first are the character cards, which are the players family cards that sit in front of them on the table. The other three types of cards that can be pulled from the draw deck are Modifier cards, event cards, and untimely death cards. The modifier cards have icons on the left and/or right side of the card that will effect the character card that it is played on. Usually the modifier cards will give a negative point score on the card, but some will give a positive point score, or one of the eight story modifier icons. Event cards are single use cards that will be played from a players hand, they are used to perform a variety of functions, e.g. switch a modifier card, or cancel another card. The final card type is the untimely death cards, these cards are needed in order to kill off your family members and lock in their score. But, they can only be played on your first play of each turn and only on a character that has a self-worth of less than zero. Untimely death cards can also be played on your opponents characters.
During a players turn they can play or discard up to two cards, then they will draw back up to their hand limit of five cards. The turn is broken up into three phases; first play, second play, and draw phase. During the first play players are able to play a card of any type, discard a card or choose to pass. On the second play players are not able to play untimely death cards, but all other actions can still be taken. Then players will enter their draw phase of their turn and as stated above they will draw back up to their hand limit, which is usually five cards unless altered by another card to be more or less.
The game ends when the entire family of one player is dead. Then the scoring phase begins. Each player will tally the points of all of their dead characters, living character don’t count either negatively or positively toward the end score. After tallying up everyone’s score the person with the lowest score wins.
Atlas Games did a wonderful job in making this almost tongue and check style game, where the objective is to be as gloomy and sad as possible. My favorite feature of the game is the stack-able see through cards. The see through cards do an excellent job of letting the players alter their character cards easily, while keeping the playing area fairly clean and tidy. The card also look very nice. One bitter sweet part about the game is the strong use of storytelling to build the back ground of each players character cards and what has happened in their lives that made them so sad. , before they meet their sad end. If players do not enjoy digging deep to create a narrative they wont have very much fun. The game can be played without the storytelling portion, but it loses something when you play like this.
Ages: 13 and up
Playtime: 45-60 Minutes
Players: 2-4 Players
If you would like more information on Gloom, please check out their website.