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The sky is gray, the tea is cold and a new tragedy lies around every corner... This is the tagline for one of my favorite card gam...

Greg Reviews: Gloom 2nd Edition

By 12:16 PM , ,

The sky is gray, the tea is cold and a new tragedy lies around every corner...

This is the tagline for one of my favorite card games of all time. It's one I love so much that not only do I own several of the expansions, which I rarely buy for games, but I picked up the second edition of the game recently which we will take a look at today.

In Gloom we are introduced to four families. The aristocratic family of Hemlock Hall, the backwoods country folk of Blackwater Watch, the carnival folk of Dark's Den of Deformity and the brilliant family of necromantic scientists Castle Slogar. Our only goal in life is to make our family as miserable as possible and then kill them.

That wasn't a joke. In Gloom each player can make two actions. You can either play a card on one of your family members to lower their self-worth, such as 'Fell Down the Well' or 'Suffered From Sores', or on members of the other families to make them feel better about themselves, such as 'Was Diverted By Drink'.

When you feel someone has suffered enough you may play an Untimely Death card, like 'Was Baked Into a Pie'. This is super important for two reasons. The first is game length as the game ends whenever all the members of a family have met their untimely ends and second you only gain points from dead family members. Because obviously if they are still living, they can't be THAT miserable.

I'm sure you've noticed by now that the names on the card are very descriptive. The reason for that is that Gloom isn't your normal card game in that it is a narrative game. If I want to play 'Fell Down the Well' on Butterfield the Lurking Butler and gain those -10 self-worth points I have to tell the tale of what happened. Such as why he was near the well and how he ended up falling in. In a later round if I drew 'Was Sickened by Salmon' and wanted Butterfield to gain another -10 I'd have to consider his story. Maybe the salmon was why he lost his balance and fell in or perhaps he was down there for some time and ate a wayward salmon that found its way into the well.

These stories are really what make the game, especially when you start playing cards on your opponent's family and begin to mess with their dark story by making it happier.

The cards themselves are adorably macabre featuring that dark victorian aesthetic familiar to stories such as Frankenstein or the 99' Tim Burton version of Sleepy Hollow. The cards are also unique in the fact that they are made from a transparent plastic. You can only gain points from VISIBLE modifiers. So as you add cards on top of other cards they can cover up modifiers below (such as when you play a positive card instead of a negative one). This can mean that you end up with one or two characters that keep bouncing back and forth between fortune and misfortune as your opponent tries to make them happy and you try to make them miserable enough to be worth killing off to score points.

The game normally plays 2 to 4 players, though it is recommended that if you have a 5th player you just take a member of each family to create a new mutant family. However, as I mentioned previously there are several expansions and the stand alone versions all have new families. So if you have a large group and an entire evening to kill, you could definitely add additional families and cards.

In the Stand Alone variety, we have Cthulu Gloom, because every game needs a mythos version, Fairy Tale Gloom, and Munchkin Gloom. Now while each of these versions has their own families meaning you can play each on its own they are fully compatible with every other set of Gloom. So if you want to have a REALLY weird night of Gloom, try combining all the cards.

If you like narrative storytelling, macabre misfits and hours of card-flipping fun then Gloom is the game for you. It remains one of my top 5 games.

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