Category Archives: board games

Rolling dice never changes with Fallout: The Board Game

I am still surprised to this day that I did not fall head over heels in love with Fallout 4. I mean, I like it well enough, but the obsessive amount of exploring I did in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas never reared its pretty head in the same way, and I’ve tried going back to the campaign about finding my stolen son and defeating–or teaming up with–an army of synths several times now to see things from a different perspective, never really getting too far in and eventually petering out when something more interesting comes along to demand I play it. Still, if anything, Fallout 4 brought with it some fun side stuff that I enjoy more than the main gig, such as Fallout Shelter and Fallout: The Board Game; I’ve already talked about the former, and this post is most definitely about the latter.

Initially, I balked at Fallout: The Board Game‘s price tag. Sixty dollars plus tax sure seemed like a lot for…a board game, but maybe I’m still new to this cardboard, tiles, meeples-run world, considering I’ve looked around online and seen other games priced much higher than that. Still, that price is in line with a brand-new videogame release, and I don’t often get a lot of those. Well, regardless of all that, in March or April of this year–sorry, my chemo-drippy brain is fuzzy on the details–I entered V.A.T.S., selected a copy for a 100% lethal shot, and watched as Bloody Mess played out at the register. Er, I bought a copy. Sorry, sometimes I lose myself in both the world and language of Fallout.

Okay, time for the nitty-gritty. No, not that Gritty. Fallout: The Board Game is a post-nuclear adventure board game for one to four players. Naturally, it’s based on the mega-popular series–well, maybe not Fallout 76 as it currently is–by Bethesda Softworks. There are multiple story scenarios to play through, and each is inspired by a familiar story from the franchise. Survivors begin the game on the edge of an unexplored landscape, uncertain of what awaits them. With just one objective to guide them from the very beginning, each player must explore the hidden map, fight off ferocious, irradiated enemies, and build up their survivor’s skills as they attempt to complete challenging quests and balance feuding factions within the game. To win, you must reach a specific amount of agenda influence points, and the number of influence points required for victory is dependent on how many players are participating.

Fallout: The Board Game is played in a series of rounds, with each player getting two actions on a turn. Different actions include moving, exploring new tiles, fighting enemies, questing and encountering, and resting. After all players finish their respective turn, the round ends with monsters activating and looking for wanderers to attack. Combat is handled with three custom dice. Every monster has vulnerable areas, represented by the V.A.T.S. icon, and players must roll to hit these specific areas. Having a weapon and matching S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats will grant re-rolls, along with other cards and perks. Defeating monsters grants XP and sometimes loot, but the monster doesn’t go away entirely, instead it retreats into a dormant stage to fight again another day.

Experience is handled through a pretty nifty leveling system attached to a tracker. Each point of experience will move a peg along the player’s S.P.E.C.I.A.L. track, skipping over any empty spaces. Once it completes a circlet, the player gets to draw a new S.P.E.C.I.A.L. token to add to their stats. Duplicate tokens will instead grant a perk and single use abilities, and having certain S.P.E.C.I.A.L. tokens will affect combat encounters and mission quests. You also track your amount of radiation on this board, and if your HP every goes below the current radiation peg…your character perishes. The tracker also has slots for companions and inventory items.

There are quests. Lots of ’em. In fact, the base game comes with a 150-card deck of numbered missions to complete. When a player has an encounter, another player will read the card and options to them, but not the results. The player must then decide which option to choose without knowing the outcome. Alas, when playing solo, it can be difficult to not read the results as you do this to yourself, and I often based my decision on already knowing what goodies I got. Many quests will branch off into multiple cards after granting experience points or loot, and some will also reward you with influence points. Following an entire questline to its end is fun and just as satisfactory as in the videogames, but sometimes you have to juggle multiple quests, which can become overwhelming.

Phew. I know that is probably a lot to take in, and for me, it took several attempts at playing Fallout: The Board Game for most of that to sink in. I’m still not 100% certain how the shop works, but whatever. Also, the agenda points system isn’t great, especially in solo mode, but it’s how you win the game. Personally, I wish it wasn’t, as I have more fun doing quests and exploring unflipped tiles than trying to balance two factions or simply focusing on a single one only to betray it at the end if you suddenly see a way to get more agenda points with the other faction. It just doesn’t feel cohesive, but maybe it works better with more players fighting to gain these points first.

So far, I’ve only played solo, and it can be a lot to pay attention to. Each game has roughly taken me two to three hours to complete, and my first time having a go at it, most of that was dealing with the game’s initial setup. There’s a lot to set up, from the placement of tiles, to the shop, to your inventory, to the multiple quest decks, and so on. The game pieces look amazing, and I love the little enemy tokens. It’s pretty exciting to see things I barely glanced at in the videogames represented as useful cards here. I’ve occasionally also forgotten some rules and flubbed my way through a mission, and there was one mission card related to the alien mothership that simply broke my brain; I tried searching online for an explanation of what to do, but couldn’t find anything so I simply packed everything up and called it a day. The game is aesthetically cool, but not perfect in how it plays.

Oh, and I just became aware that there’s already an expansion available called New California. Right, and this gaming mat looks really neat and would certainly help me keep things more organized because I generally don’t know where to keep some of the decks and other items in relation to my health tracker and other cards…though its price tag is not immediately desirable considering it costs just as much as an entire game expansion. Hmm. Either way, I’ll keep having a go at Fallout: The Board Game in hopes that I can actually win it without getting a rule wrong or forgetting to do something vital. Y’know, like moving all the monsters towards me at the end of a round.

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Dice manipulation is the key to One Deck Dungeon’s door

After a handful of attempts, I’ve still not beaten any final boss in One Deck Dungeon, though I got somewhat close against the dragon, better than my time with the yeti, and I’m perfectly okay with that. Each run is completely different and randomized, and luck definitely plays a major factor into how things go, especially when you consider this is a game of mostly dice rolls, and I’m sure I’ll see a flawless run eventually. Until then, I’ll keep kicking open doors, dodging traps and slaying monsters with as much skill as my character sheet allows, trying hard to save all my health potion cubes for the final encounter.

As you’ll recall from my last board game-related post on Friday, I’m getting into solo tabletop gaming. Eventually, I’ll have a post about Fallout: The Board Game, but this is not that post. This one is about One Deck Dungeon, an aptly named roguelike card game, wherein you dive deep into a dungeon for treasures and special skills and build your character up along the way. It’s at times similar to Dungeon Roll and far from it, offering a lot more adventure-affecting decisions each turn. The deck consists of your standard D&D-esque enemies to fight, such as a glooping ooze and a skeleton knight, as well as perils like a spiked pit and boulders, and the character classes don’t stray too far from the traditional, featuring warriors, clerics, and rogues.

Each door card, when flipped over, represents an obstacle to overcome, as well as the potential rewards for doing so. Each turn, after burning a few cards from the dungeon deck to the discard pile, which represents “time” spent, you can reveal what’s behind a locked door and take it on if your heart desires. If you defeat the card, meaning you are still alive and in one piece after all the effects are suffered, you can claim it as one of several things: experience points, an item, a skill, or a new potion type. Each of these affects your character in a specific way, and your current level card determines how many of each you can use at once. For instance, when playing solo and at level 1, you can have one item and two skills. You then tuck the card under the appropriate side of your character card to show off its benefits, such as an extra die to roll or new skill to use in battle. Identifying a new potion not only nets you more options, but also a free potion cube to boot.

Things I’m really liking a whole bunch about One Deck Dungeon are as follows. For one, all the character portraits are women and not sexualized, which is really nice to see in this field where bikini chainmail and mega-muscular dudes run rampant. Layering cards beneath the character sheet and watching the stats and abilities list grow is surprisingly effective and pleasing, reminding me a bit of how Gloom cards went on top of each other, as well as Munchkin weapons and armor sets. Lastly, the manipulation of dice–while at times it can feel somewhat like cheating–is where the most fun shows up, especially as you get more options for re-rolling numbers or exchanging them for other colored dice. Starting off an encounter with a terrible roll and a bunch of ones and walking away from it untouched after covering up every square is an extremely good feeling.

Sometimes there can be a lot of elements to be aware of, and the fights can become overwhelming. For instance, you have to remember that spots on encounter cards with a green shield must be covered first before any others, and the dungeon card has its own spots and effects to be aware of, like discarding all ones rolled each fight or spending extra time to use skills. You must also keep track of the enemy or encounter’s special text, as well as your own skills, and I started using extra white potion cubes as markers for when I used a skill so I wouldn’t accidentally use it twice and therefore cheat my way to victory. Occasionally, I’d goof hard and really want to walk back my actions, but it was almost impossible to remember what dice got traded in and what was originally rolled. Also, as mentioned at the top, the boss fights are pretty tough, and I don’t yet know if I’m the problem–remember, I still haven’t gotten past the pirates in Friday–or if they have been designed to be ultra punishing.

There’s a standalone expansion to One Deck Dungeon out already called Forest of Shadows that adds poison and dice exiling, but I think I’m good with my handful of scenarios and classes for a bit, unless I suddenly become a dice-rolling god, smiting foes and perils with little effort. I’ve also downloaded some extra content from the developer’s website, printing out the Phoenix’s Den and Caliana class cards myself. Evidently, there’s also a Steam version in the works, if that’s your thing; my experience with board games turned into videogames is somewhat limited, having played only a few matches of things like Smash Up, Catan, and Monopoly Plus, though one day I’d really like to check out the digital entertainment version of Lords of Waterdeep. We’ll see. For now, I’ll keep trying to roll six after six after six.

Only Friday can get you safely past the pirates

I think Disney’s 1960 Swiss Family Robinson film, a tale of a shipwrecked family building an island home, which is loosely based on Johann David Wyss’ 1812 novel The Swiss Robinson, is my only association with the subject material, besides a random episode or two of Lost in Space. Also, during the last Disney trip, though this has not been drawn yet, Julie and I explored the Swiss Family Treehouse attraction a bit, though I mostly dealt with a pushy family of three that simply had to get past me on those narrow rope bridges only to stop a few feet ahead, block the path, and stare at stuff. Thank you very much.

That all said, I’m here to tell y’all about Friedemann Friese’s Friday, which is a solitaire deck-building card game, which tasks you with optimizing your deck of fight cards to defeat hazards and make it past the pirate ships circling the island. Yes, another solo tabletop game, a specific market niche I’m digging as of late; see my post on Dungeon Roll for more. If the game’s name doesn’t clue you in, you play as island native Friday, not Robinson Crusoe, and your job is basically to babysit the bearded man and ensure he doesn’t do anything stupid and grows stronger in order to better prepare him for the grand escape. This island is your home, and you know it well.

Setup is painless and quick, and I was able to fit everything inside a single dinner place-mat. An entire session lasts around fifteen to thirty minutes depending on your actions and how long you spend analyzing the cards you’ve used versus the ones left in your decks. During a turn, Robinson Crusoe will attempt to defeat hazard cards by playing fight cards against them, with the higher number winning. These hazards range from trying to get to a damaged wreck via a raft to exploring the island further to fighting off hungry cannibals. If he is successful, the hazard card will flip and become a fight card; this is now added to your discards of fighting cards and will eventually get shuffled back into the deck. However, if you fail to defeat the hazard, Robinson loses life tokens, represented by what look like tiny wooden green leaves, but also gets the opportunity to remove some of these under-performing cards from the game entirely. There are three phases, each one being more difficult than the previous, and if Friday can keep his island comrade alive long enough, eventually he’ll battle one of the two pirate ships lingering in the ocean.

Spoiler alert: after about five or so games, I’ve still not managed to get to the final pirates phase. Grrr. Let’s blame it on Friday’s communication difficulties. The closest I’ve gotten is the third phase, red in color, but cannibals destroyed Robinson Crusoe quickly after he lost too many health points getting there and went home feeling sated. Friday is a game of choices. Sure, there’s luck and randomness involved like in many other card-based games, but it really does come down to issues like pushing forward for more cards at the expensive of life points to get that hazard card as a fight card or losing a fight on purpose to rid yourself of cards like “Distracted (-1)” and “Weak (0)”. I’ve not figured out the perfect strategy, but removing bad cards from the game as early as possible seems obvious though not always easy to do. For one game, Mel kept a sheet of paper and tracked what cards remained in my fighting deck so I’d know whether or not I even had a chance at winning a fight; this is both allowed and encouraged, as the instructions explicitly say that Friday is not a memory game and goes on to list out every card in your arsenal for you to be aware of.

One of the things I really like about Friday is its overall footprint. Everything you need to play comes inside a tiny, square box and, as mentioned above, you don’t need a ton of table space to play. The cardboard deck mats are great for organizing where everything goes, and the instructions are pretty clear, though I did have to watch a couple playthroughs on YouTube to fully get how you handle both winning and losing a fight, as some bits weren’t entirely clear. In the end, I’m a fan, and whenever Friday eventually helps Robinson Crusoe sink a pirate ship, I’ll shout it passionately and aggressively from the top of the island for all to hear.

As always, I’m all ears for any solo card/board games that you enjoy and therefore think I might too enjoy. Scythe has already been recommended.

Boldly push your luck with Dungeon Roll

I was not conscious of the Dungeon Roll Kickstarter back when it was spinning its fundraising wheels in early 2013, but that’s okay. Everything worked out thanks to 10,000+ backers, and I still stumbled upon the game later in life, in its natural habitat, sitting side by side other various board and dice games in my local Barnes and Noble. It’s one of the sections I gravitate towards first, followed by the new book releases in science fiction and fantasy. Naturally, competition is fierce, but I was drawn to Chris Darden’s Dungeon Roll for two reasons: one, it can be played solo, and two, it came packaged in a tiny treasure chest.

Let me put on all of my DM accessories and tell you all what you ultimately do in Dungeon Roll. This is bite-sized dungeon-crawling adventure with all the traditional D&D wrappings, such as battling monsters, gaining experience points, and grabbing loot. The player’s goal is to collect the most experience through these main actions, and each player randomly selects a hero avatar card at the start, such as a mercenary, half-goblin, or enchantress, which provides unique powers and abilities that will definitely affect how far you can go into the dungeon in each run. My personal favorite is the knight/dragon slayer. Players take turns being the main adventurer, boldly entering the dungeon in hopes of fame and fortune. Or you can play by myself and see how far you can push your luck.

However, before you enter the dungeon proper, you need to assemble your party by rolling seven Party Dice. Your party can ultimately include clerics, fighters, mages, thieves, champions, and scrolls, all depicted appropriately on the dice via painted debossed faces. Another player (or you can do it yourself when playing solo) takes on the roll of the Dungeon Lord and rolls a different set of dice to create oppositions in each level of the dungeon, based on the respective dungeon floor, and these can be monsters, potions, treasures, or dragons. You then use your Party Dice to defeat the monsters or take treasures and potions and decide if you want to push forward to the next level, knowing you won’t get any more dice for your party (unless an ability helps with that) while the Dungeon Lord gets to roll more. If you can’t go any further, you return to the tavern to rest. At the end of three delves, you add up your total amount of experience points to see who won, or, if playing by your lonesome, just feel really good about how you did regardless.

The tricky part about each delve and deciding to go further or retiring to the pub for some mead and meat off the bone is dragons. Each time you roll the dice and a dragon comes up, you put that dragon die aside in an area called the “Dragon’s Lair”. Once you get three dragon dice in there, you must fight the dragon after dealing with the main set of enemies. To take down the dragon, the player needs to use three different types of companion party dice; if they can’t, they are forced to flee back to the tavern and end their turn, gaining no experience points. Generally speaking, most teams aren’t able to deal with a dragon until their third and final run, so it’s best to avoid early on.

Dungeon Roll is at once both a simple and straightforward game, but also confusing and unclear in spots. I re-read the instructions several times and even watched a YouTube video or two before playing once, but still don’t feel 100% confident I know what to do rules-wise in every scenario. I’ve played it solo and competitively against Melanie, and both formats are enjoyable and come with their own strategies for success. I do wish the rulebook elaborated more on some of the rules or provided example scenarios of what to do and when. For instance, I still am not sure what the point of sacrificing a party die for a potion that brings back a single party die. I guess that’s for if one really wanted a champion before on to the next dungeon floor. Otherwise, it’s an enjoyable experience that is easy to travel with and full of replayability. The art on the hero avatar cards, done by Ryan Johnson, is stylish and cool, easily standing shoulder to shoulder with other card-based fantasy games like Magic: The Gathering and Lords of Waterdeep, and there is a good breakdown of genders and races across all the classes.

If you know of any other single-player board/dice games similar to Dungeon Roll, please, by all means, leave me some recommendations in the comments below. I’m up to try anything, so long as the game itself isn’t made up of a thousand tiny individual pieces that need to be hand-painted to provide personality and the rulebook is not longer than Bone‘s total page count. Oh, and I already have a copy of Cthulhu Dice. Otherwise, suggest away.

The only way to Quarrel is with an anagram solver

final quarrel thoughts cheating gd

Words are wonderful; trust me, I copyedit for a living. Not surprisingly, I enjoy a great number of word-based games, such as Scrabble, Scattegories, Apples to Apples, Zip-It, Balderdash, and so on. Basically, if it lets me flex my word-creation or word-pairing muscles, I’m in. However, I’ve never been great at seeing anagrams, especially under a tight time limit, which is why I quickly dropped away from Quarrel a week or two after I got it back in January 2012. You might have noticed that I “completed” it a few weeks back, giving it its very own haiku.

By “completed,” I am talking about the critical path to defeating everyone in the Showdown mode, as well as dominating the known Quarrel world through the domination mode. Both these modes are various scenarios where you battle against one, two, or sometimes three AI-controlled opponents, all fighting for colored territory. There is online play and a number of challenges and Achievements to go for, but I think I’m mostly done going after those. Also, by “completed” I totally mean cheated.

The process went like this. Since I always was picked to go last in both the Showdown and Domination modes, this meant waiting and watching. If an opponent attacked another opponent not named PaulyAulyWog, my girlfriend and I would quickly look at the eight letters given to us, pause the action, and then load up an anagram solver on her cell phone. After plopping down all the letters, she’d select an eight-letter word and tell me what to create. I’d do this as quickly as possible, though sometimes my fingers would slip or I’d hit the wrong letter by accident, forcing me to panic and swiftly amend my error. So long as I got the anagram submitted in time before the two other players put in their answers, I was awarded an extra back-up unit, which are beyond helpful. The process, more or less, went the same when I got attacked, but it was never a guarantee I’d win because I might not have enough letters or still was too slow when buttoning in.

Honestly, I don’t feel too terrible about using an anagram solver for Quarrel. I would for nearly every other word-based game, especially the ones I mentioned earlier. For many of the Showdown and Domination matches, the first fight against you is absolutely crucial for determining how well the remainder of the round will go. If you don’t win or at least take a prisoner early on, it’s basically over, and not a whole bag of fun to sit through everybody’s turns knowing you are a lost cause. Perhaps there are people out there that see a string of six to eight letters and immediately, within seconds, know what the strongest word to create is–I am not those people. Before giving in and relying on an anagram solver, I attempted to play these two modes, only getting as far as two or three rounds in, and those were farces, with me somehow staying alive long enough to watch everyone else kill each other and feast on their remains when the smoke cleared.

When you’re tasked with creating a three- or four-letter word against an opponent with the same objective, speed often trumps complexity. However, when you have the opportunity to make an eight-letter anagram, you make that eight-letter anagram. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what arsenite or ergatoid means; they are knockout words, and the faster you put them down, the stronger your army will grow. You might be quick enough to remember those eight mixed up letters and pause the game yourself to search for a word, but I recommend having a partner next to you. Eventually, my girlfriend would begin memorizing the first four letters, and then I’d pause, giving her the last four, and saving us a second or two of time. That might not seem like much, but Quarrel‘s AI opponents do not kid around. Unless we’re talking about Dwayne, that is.

So yeah, Quarrel. There’s a lot to like; on the flip side, there’s a lot to dislike, and perhaps it speaks to the quality of the game’s challenge that I had to look outside my noggin for extra help. Again, maybe there are super geniuses out there with fingers like that one bot from Ghost in the Shell that can figure out the anagram right away and submit it faster than light. I suspect many might not suffer the same difficulties as I did, but this is one puzzle game that was more frustrating than fun, even when you figured out the way to win.

Turn-based trial and error assassinating with Hitman GO

gd early impressions hitman go

The Hitman series and I have not exactly clicked over the years, which is strange, seeing as these are stealth-based games with multiple paths and ways to succeed, with one often using the environment or disguises to get jobs done than simply firing a bullet from a sniper rifle miles away. It’s that whole “this sounds better on paper” thing, seeing as I could barely get through the opening parts of Hitman: Blood Money and walked away from Hitman: Absolution fairly early on, though I’d still like to return to the latter eventually and give it a second shake.

Good news, everyone–Hitman GO rocks! In fact, it’s my favorite Hitman game so far. Yup, this turn-based, puzzle board game version of Agent 47’s stealth assassination missions is basically everything I do like about these games, but with a super strong aesthetic and enough challenge to get me scratching my head, but returning for more after every level. I bought it the other night for $0.10–that’s ten cents for those with eyesight problems–through Microsoft’s online store as part of their weekly sales for Black Friday, though I’m playing it on my laptop and not a tablet/phone as it is probably intended to be experienced. Too bad, so sad.

There’s no story in Hitman GO, and there doesn’t need to be. Instead, each world, represented by a vintage-looking board game box, collects a handful of themed levels together, with the main goal either being to reach the exit unnoticed and alive or kill a specific target, often draped in red attire. There are side objectives as well, such as collecting a briefcase or completing the level in a set number of turns, and those go towards acquiring stars, which will help you unlock future sets of levels. Every character is represented as a tiny figurine, even mimicking the “toppled over” effect of taken chess pieces when knocked down. I liked this in Crimson Shroud, and I like it once again here.

Truly, it’s the board game aesthetic that has me transfixed. Here’s a true fact about me: if you are ever looking for me in a bookstore, you can generally find me at the board games shelf, ogling just about everything, fascinated with all the games and possibilities, saddened over the fact that I don’t have anyone to play these things with. Recently, I gave Machi Koro a good hard look, amazed at the colorful, friendly artwork. If a real, tangible version of Hitman GO existed, I most assuredly would be staring at it for a while, as i do when I play. You can rotate the board around for a better view or to simply admire the small, off-to-the-side details.

I’m currently in the middle of the second world’s levels, which have introduced new, tricky mechanics like hiding in potted plants or using trapdoors to teleport around the screen at the cost of a turn. My biggest struggle right now is with the knife-wielding enemies in teal shirts that turn 180 degrees, as I still don’t grok when it is wise to move towards them. Strangely, it’s when they are already facing you. It’ll take some practice, though I’m sure there are other elements down the road that will be just as hard to figure out.

A negative, sadistic part of me wonders if I’ll hit a wall when I get to the Blood Money-themed levels–yup, I know they are forthcoming–and tasked with tossing coins to distract guards, but we’ll see what those ultimately look like when I cross that path. Until then, may all your puzzles be murder.

Gloom is a macabre morsel of merriment

Gloom Hand

Gloom asks you to laugh in the face of others’ displeasure, perfect for an evening of beer, pretzels, and friends, so long as everyone is in the mood to make much mayhem. Also, alliteration. It’s not a great fit for more serious gamers, thirsty for strategy, but I’ve found the game of inauspicious incidents and grave consequences a strong palette cleanser after energy-draining, often soul-crushingly long sessions of Lords of Waterdeep or Kingmaker.

In Keith Baker’s Gloom card game, which came out in 2005, you assume control over the fate of an eccentric family of misfits and misanthropes. There are four families in the base set, each containing five members: Blackwater Watch, Dark’s Den of Deformity, Hemlock Hall, and Castle Slogar. The goal is easy enough: make your family suffer the greatest tragedies possible, and then kill them off one by one. Modifiers like “Was galled by gangrene” and “Was swindled by salesmen” add negative points to your people by lowering their self-worth, and the player with the lowest total family value after an entire line has been wiped out wins.

Gloom‘s gameplay is rather simplistic, but still requires some planning. Each turn, you get two actions to play modifiers on your family or an opponent’s, event cards, and untimely death cards. Please note you can only kill someone on your first action every turn, preventing you from loading Lord Wellington-Smythe up with a lot of self-worth and then forcing him to kick the bucket. The event cards can really shake things up, but other than them, it’s perfunctory card action, with a few rule changes to pay attention to, all of which are stated directly on the cards themselves.

The real magic behind Gloom is in the stories it births. When you take control of a family, you play the narrator of their lives, coming up with reasons why they went here or there and did this or that. It’s better to play a modifier with passion and reason than simply to give a character negative 15 self-worth. Sure, it takes imagination and effort, but it is worth the storytelling, especially when you begin to link your families with others, like the time I decided that Butterfield, the butler for Hemlock Hall, was actually married to Grogar, Professor Slogar’s work-in-progress teddy bear, after receiving the “Was wondrously well wed” modifier card from another player. Keep the stories alive, and the game, even when it slows down due to card shortages or roadblocks, remains bursting with flavor.

It’s hard to know what I love most about Gloom: the art or design of the cards. Both work hand in hand. All of the cards are transparent, which makes it so easy to see how the modifiers stack on top of a family member. Plus, they’ll survive an accidental soda spilling before all them Munchkin cards. The macabre and gloomy artwork, done by Scott Reeves, Lee Moyer, and Todd Remick, as well as heavy use of alliteration, will make many think of Edward Gorey instantly, but there’s also room for some influence from The Addams Family comics and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Regardless, fans of ominous Victorian horror will delight at the family member depictions, though the majority of the other cards lack personality.

I brought Gloom home-home during the holidays to play with my sisters, but we never got the chance due to all the to-and-for hubbub, charades, and Scrabble bouts. Hopefully we can make up for this over the summer so long as no one is stalked by snakes or sleepy from the sun.