Card Game: Gloom

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.

gloom in the box

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?

GloomHand

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. 

gloom in play

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.

gloom expansions

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. 

★★★★☆

 

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Card Game: Adventure Time Love Letter

2-4 players. Ages 10+. Play Time 20 Mins. (Approx £10)

First off this is a beautiful game in more way than one.

So, let’s have a look at what we get in the box. You get 16 beautifully decorated cards, 13 Tokens of Affection, 4 reference cards and 1 small yet perfectly formed instruction booklet. That’s it, all you get. and yet for what seems like so little you get a lot of fun.

adventure time cards

The theme has been well thought out with all your favourite characters present, we’ve got (among others) Finn and Jake, LSP, Marceline, The Ice King, and of course, the main show Princess Bubblegum, who we will all be trying to get our love missive to with all the vigour of vying for the last piece of chicken in a KFC family bucket. The cards have all had some wonderful work put into them and are all given a level between 1 and 8. The characters have all been placed in period costume, in keeping with the feeling of the original version of Love Letter and gives a feeling an old fashioned romance story (think Cyrano De Bergerac meets Cartoon Network). The tokens of affection have been adapted as well, the wooden red cubes of the original version have been replaced with odd shaped multi-colour plastic tokens, another well thought out addition in keeping with the theme.

.love letter original

Original Love Letter.

The instructions are really clear, concise and small. A sign of a good game is short yet clear instructions in my opinion. They even include little quick reference cards for each player, though all the cards state on them what they do when discarded the reference cards do come in handy for learning what all the cards are and what they do. Once you know all the different cards (there are only 8 different things that they do) you can probably leave them in the box. 

The play goes in rounds, at the start of the round you receive one card each with a draw pile in the middle. When it comes to your turn you pick up one card put in your hand and choose which of the two in your hand you would like to discard, each card having a different effect when discarded (the cards all state on them what they do, and any further clarification can be found in the rules booklet). The end of the round occurs when there are no more cards left, with whoever has the highest number on their card winning the round. They get their letter delivered to the princess and receive a token of affection in return. The end of the round can also occur before this if all players bar one gets knocked out due to the cards played. The winner of the game is declared once one player gets to 4, 5 or 7 tokens of affection collected, depending on how may players there are.

 

advenure time game play cropped

The pick a card and play a card nature of the game makes it beautifully simple. There is only ever one choice to make each turn, and yet it can be an agonisingly hard one at times. With The Gossip (level 3) card you can choose another player to show your hand to, whoever has the lower number gets knocked out the round, sometimes this can be a dead cert if you have The Princess (level 8, the highest level) or risky business if your other card is only, say The Hero (level 4), there’s a good chance your opponent has a higher value card. There are cards that can protect you from other player’s conniving plans, there are cards that can help to ruin other people’s plan. It’s so simple, you can pick it up and be playing within a few minutes, and yet as is often the case with it’s simplicity out comes the complexity of the decisions you have to make.

Depending on what cards pop up the round can last a few seconds or several minutes. The quick rounds make it a quick game, less than 30 mins so, along with it’s small but mighty size it’s great to take with you and have a little game on a long journey, or if you’re having a picnic in the park, a quick pint down the pub, or as a starter game for a games night!

Over all this is a great small game. it’s so simple to pick up and yet it can be taxing as you’re trying to guess what cards your opponents have and which card would be best to discard. It’s a great game for kids, (the box says 10+ but I would say that kids a bit younger than this would be able to play and enjoy it too) especially this Adventure Time version or even just a time filler or as a starter game for a big games night.  I highly recommend Adventure Time Love Letter. The game play is the same as the original so if Adventure Time is not your bag there are various other versions like Batman, The Hobbit and the good ol’ original version to choose from too.

★★★★★