Wait? Isn't this supposed to be Locke and Key? That's what won our Facebook poll right? Well, yes, you are right, but don't worry! We have a special surprise in store for all of you, wrapped around the Locke and Key Critical Review, but it will take us a week or so to get it all worked out. I promise you it is worth it though and you will like it!
In the meantime, I thought it would be good to get another Critical Review up, this time with what I think it is an excellent "filler" game, so what better to "fill" the gap between when our surprise is ready? May I introduce you to.... Gloom!
Gloom is published by Atlas Games and is a 2-4 player game. I have found it is optimally fun with 3 to 4 players, but a 2 player game is still fun and enjoyable. Keith Baker is the designer and creator, and Scott Reeves and Michelle Nephew are responsible for the gothic, victorian style art that adorns the cards and packaging.
Now, Gloom's rule book will tell you it takes about an hour to play, which in a 3 or 4 player game is true, however in a 2 player game, it can easily end in as quickly as 15 minutes, depending on the cards that come up, but on average, you're looking at a 30 minutes 2 player game.
In Gloom your goal is simple, pick a specific family from one of the four included in the base set, and through the use of the Modifier Cards in the game, ensure they have the worst possible events happen to them, before killing them, and finish the game with the lowest Self Worth to achieve victory! Sound morbid? Well it is, but it's done in a very tongue in cheek way that makes it not only enjoyable, but downright creative depending on your imagination!
The first thing you see is that Gloom is unique in it's design. The cards are all see through, made of a bendable plastic. If you have ever seen "water proof" cards, that's what they remind me of. The video shows a bit about that, but by no means are they "cheap" or "poorly" made. They have stood up quite well so far to some testing.
Why are they clear though? Simple, the Modifier cards you will play on your, and your opponent's family members, have three spots for negative or positive Self Worth points on the left side. As you play them on top of the Family Members, you can continue to see which Family Member is below them, and what are the active Self Worth points as well as specific icons that impact the game.
This makes for a unique experience, and offers quite a bit of change in the game, as several cards will add or subtract from your modifiers and your opponent's modifiers for Self Worth, as well as utilize several icons in the lower right corner to impact the game.
The mechanics are very smooth. You play Modifiers to impact Self Worth, you use Events to impact gameplay and draw cards, even potentially raise the dead, and then you use Untimely Death Cards to "finish" the deed and kill your, or your opponent's, Family Members.
There is a lot of strategy involved, more than you would think actually. As while you are driving that Self Worth down, you have to be careful, as once you have a negative Self Worth, you, or your opponent's, can then play any Untimely Death on anyone's Family Members, and "off" them! That means at times, if you have only a small amount of negative Self Worth, someone can swoop in and completely ruin the plan by using an Untimely Death to end your poor Family Member's misery, locking them down to a low amount o negative Self Worth and ensuring you don't rack up points on them!
There is as well, an added bonus. The more creative you can be, the more you let your imagination run, the more enjoyable the game is with the storytelling aspect! Taking time to make up stories as you play the cards, and use creative explanations as to why these events are happening to your characters almost turns this into a must have party game, as it is just a blast to try and "out-do" your opponent's creative tall tales!
Today, there is Gloom, Cthulhu Gloom, and 3 expansions with links below to each in the reference. The base set sells for $24.95 MSRP and while it is more than enough fun, the expansions add their own new cards, flare, and misery to the Family Members!
Gloom is most definitely a fun, creative, and morbidly tongue in cheek game to own and play. I highly recommend it, assuming you don't get Mauled by a Manatee or Plagued by the Pox on your way to get it!
Critical Score (from 1 to 10):