2-4 players. Ages 13+. Approx 60 mins.
Gloom, the fun filled family game of disaster, distress and er, death. I know, this doesn’t seem too family friendly, but this game is great and can be enjoyed by kids of all ages (OK maybe not the really, really young). When I first opened the box and read the rules I could only think it’s a little like Happy Families: The Addams Family version. In this game you’ll be subjecting your chosen family to a barrage of vicious, strange, unfortunate and really rather amusing events.
So, the eternal question! What’s in the box? Thankfully, Brad Pitt can sleep soundly as there are no severed heads, at least I haven’t come across one yet. What you do get is massive stack of wonderfully macabre, plastic playing cards (16 family cards, the rest are modifiers, events and untimely death cards… Yep, I wasn’t joking about the death part) and a set of instructions. Rather like Adventure Time Love Letter that I reviewed last week, this is a small, simple yet complex game.
Game play begins with everyone picking a family that they’re going to subject to various misfortunes and also grabbing 5 cards from the draw pile to form a hand of cards. In a nice themed touch whoever has had the worst day gets to start (I love a themed ‘who goes first’ rule), they then choose two cards to play or discard, and then draw back up to five. You place your modifier, untimely death or event cards on top of any family member (even your opponents families if you want to), as these are opaque in the middle you can see who it is and what their current score is. The score is your family member’s self worth and can be found in the circles down the side, which differ from card to card, and can be cancelled out by new cards laid on top. There is no limit to how many cards can be laid on top, however if you play an Untimely Death card, you must turn over the bottom, family card (the one with the picture on it) so you know they have died and they can no longer have cards placed on top. Once all the members of one family have sadly passed onto the next world the game ends, you tot up your self worth and whoever has the lowest wins the game! Hooray! Or should that just be an unenthusiastic yay?
One thing to note at this point, the game play is simple, and can be picked up easily, however it did take us a few rounds to really get to grips with it and to clarify a few things in the rules. So the rule leaflet could do with a little make over just to make it a little more clear and concise.
OK, so I really enjoyed this game. If you’re the sort of person who has a dark sense of humour, finds the macabre fascinating, or if you just like interesting mechanics in card games you’re going to enjoy this. There are two main things that makes this game stand out from others out there as something a bit different. First is it’s basic game play of having those plastic cards that you can see through, they stack and layer up you only ever score what you can see, so you can cover up one score with another, which can be brilliant if you have a card that will give someone a +10 self worth and you put it on your friends card with a -25 on it. As you’re layering more cards on your characters the second great thing comes more into play: the theme. It is like playing something that could be Addams Family themed, every card is unique, the family members all have names and a brief description and background. The rest of the cards are unique and have titles like was Pierced by Porcupines (-15), was Pestered by Poltergeists (-20) and Was Delighted By Ducklings (+10), The rules encourage you to come up with a story for how that character befell into that state or event, which can result in some weird, wonderful and down right bizarre story lines, in that respect it can feel a little like Frenzy (an RPG where you get to create and star in your own Coen Brothers movie). Even if you don’t go too far down the story telling avenue the cards are funny all on their own, and there are positive ones, which you can place on your opponents families and mess up all their plans. There’s something so satisfying about being able to annoy your friends in a good game. It is these reasons why I really liked Gloom. It’s just a relaxing, funny game. Great for having a few drinks with friends and just having a laugh at all the horrible things you’re subjecting your poor family members to throughout the game.
The box states that it can take up to an hour. It took us a little less than that, but we weren’t concentrating on the story telling aspect too much, but if you did want to, an hour sounds about right. Maybe even more if you really went to town on the story telling aspect. This relatively long play time (for a small box card game) can make it a bit prohibitive, you’re not going to want to take this out with you, like to the pub say, or out on a picnic like can with other cards in the small box category.
This would make a great game in any games cupboard. Especially if you’re a lover of story telling, and interesting card mechanics. The long play time can have some drawbacks for a small box game, but for others it could be a massive positive. Another slight drawback is the box, it could do with a slight re-design as it can can get a little tattered around the edges quickly when you’re taking the cards in and out, but so long as you take care of it, it shouldn’t rip. The rule leaflet definitely needs looking into a bit further, as I felt that it could be a bit clearer, I had to check and re-check through it a few times to clarify certain bits and pieces, but once you get there the rules are simple enough to remember and to teach to new players.
There’s enough cards to give it a great amount of re-play-ability and even if you get bored of those cards there are at least 3 expansions with more macabre cards and events to bestow upon your family. There are even different versions like the Cthulhu and Fairy Tales addition. So, if you want to get your macabre story telling jive on, I suggest you bring a little Gloom into your life.