Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Game Review: Gloom

I was sitting in the drafty main hall of our creaky old mansion, screwing wheels into the leg-stubs of my favorite rat, Detritus, whose legs had recently been gnawed off by our cat Wemsley, who had choked to death on them. My lady was in her darkened chamber, surrounded by cracked mirrors and brushing the spiderwebs from her hair. The door moaned open and two of our ghastly friends entered, bringing with them a game they promised would be more diverting than scraping mold from the stern portraits of dead ancestors.

My lady and I sighed and rolled our eyes. We had tried such games before, and they were always about gaining money or wild hi-jinx which only made our everyday existence that much more unbearable. Our friends assured us that this game was different. It was every bit as morbid, macabre, and morose as we were.

Sure enough, the game was Gloom, and we were soon having more fun than a bevy of bats in a magnificent mausoleum. Each player controls a family of five unlucky, unlikeable people. The purpose is to make sure that the members of your family live as miserable lives as possible, then die. How horrid. How delightful!

The real fun comes from playing with quirky people with twisted senses of humor, and fortunately, our ghoulish group fit the bill. Soon, we were weaving tales around the cards, exploring how a brain in a vat is an especially unfortunate victim for poltergeists (since he can't get away from them) and learning exactly how many vicious animals a single red-headed stepchild can accidentally aggravate on a single picnic. Also, the only thing worse than being eaten by bears is being eaten by bear-snake hybrids.

The game has impishly innovative card design. The cards are printed on translucent plastic, and players stack events on top of the characters to describe the horrendous things occurring to them. Each of these events are worth a certain number of negative points (which are best for players!), except those few things that are actually pleasant for the characters (alas!). As you play more cards on top of the characters, bonuses from the more recent cards start to cover up the bonuses of past cards, so you can play excellent events on the other players' characters to cancel out the dreary day that character has had, while simultaneously ruining the previously peachy (or at least appallingly average) day your own character had.

I would recommend this game to any gloomy, ghastly gamer who is looking for a change of pace. Just beware those manatees, don't anger any midgets, and make sure the tiger is the one in the cage...

No comments: