The chair creaks as you settle onto it. The candlelight flickers. All around you the ravenous faces of your so-called friends twist in delight as you slowly open the box laid out on the table. Welcome to Dangerous Games! Each week, we'll feature a horror/thriller/monster tabletop game you should be playing. Don't be scared… roll the dice… what's the worst that could happen?
You're family isn't like all the other families on the block. Your dilapidated mansion at the end of the cul de sac looms with a haunting presence. Tangles of rose bushes choke your home, a wretched old dog barks on your porch, and you can sometimes hear a strangle scream from the attic. You've grown to love the unpleasantness of daily life. The thought of someone cheering you up makes your skin crawl. And when you want to get back at a child who's been cruel to you… you take them out for ice cream. Yes, you and your clan are not like anyone else on your block, and you like (to hate) it that way.
In Gloom, two to four players take on the roles of twisted, Addams Family-style families intent on experiencing as much pain, displeasure, and misfortune as they possibly can before they die unexpectedly. You "score points" by doing nasty things to your family members and you "hurt others" by doing nice things for their family members. The first person to kill off their entire unfortunate family stops the game. And the player with the lowest "family value" wins!
Each player starts the game with a family of four. There are four different families to start with including: Blackwater Watch, a family of killers and murderers, Castle Slogar, a family of of mad scientists, Dark's Den of Deformity, a family of two-bit carnies, and Hemlock Hall, a family of maladjusted socialites. All the cards in this game are transparent, and once laid over one another different positive and negative modifiers either show through or are obscured.
Each player has two plays per turn. They can then draw back up to their hand limit of five cards. The different card types include positive (bad for you) and negative (good for you) modifier cards, Event cards which have variable effects, and untimely death cards, which finally put your sorrowful characters into the ground. There's a lot of finesse involved in harming other players, killing them off too early (before they've accumulated too many negative points), and holding powerful effects until the last moment. In the end, if your family was more miserable than anyone else's… you win.
At its core, Gloom is a storytelling game. It asks its players to not just place cards down on their characters, but to describe, flesh out, and narrate the "hows and whys" of their misfortunes. You may have a card that reads "was eaten by bears" but it's not enough to just play it. Under what circumstances was your family member eaten by bears? Because of the storytelling nature of the game Gloom is incredibly varied from play to play. Unless you're playing with the exact same people week after week and you all only have about three good ideas each… you'll find there's plenty to come back to and re-explore with Gloom.
Though this game's been around for a while I must admit, I'm new to Gloom... and I love it. This is exactly the kind of morose, melodramatic, Edward Gorey-inspired stuff that horror fans like myself go crazy for. I've only recently discovered the game, and now it's one of our go-to games. Try this game out. If you can find it in a store snatch it up right away. And if you like this game… just wait until I dig into Cthulhu Gloom.