Tag Archives: Gloom

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.

Munchkin Apocalypse to cause frenzied fun with new card types

Last week, I got to go to Barnes & Noble. Now, this used to be no big thing, as I went to the bookstore a highly frequent amount when living in Clifton, NJ, nearly every other day, especially with the given that I had two brick-and-mortar locations within five minutes of my apartment–in either direction. A beautiful thing. I’m not bragging, really; I’m saddened on reflecting this, as there are no bookstores near us in the Pennsylvanian woods. There used to be a Borders about 20 minutes down the road, but that place went under and is being replaced with a Michael’s, not a BAM. ::insert the sound of a toddler crying::

Right. All of that was to say that I was in B&N recently, and so I got to check out their stock of geeky board and card games. My eyes bulged and brightened at all of these desirable gaming experiences, such as Game of Thrones: The Card Game and Game of Thrones: The Board Game–love the originality there. Sadly, no copies of Gloom, a quirky social card game Tara and I are interested in after seeing Wil Weaton and friends play it on a recent episode of TableTop. However, I did get to see what was new and kewl with Munchkin these days, because really, it seems a new product or expansion is launched each month, and if you blink too much you’ll miss it all. I saw a copy of Munchkin Conan, which looked tempting and is so not easily confused with the 15-card booster pack called Munchkin Conan the Barbarian, but I passed for the time being. Right now, I have one Munchkin core set in mind, and one only. It comes out this fall, it’s based on the end of the world, and it’s called Munchkin Apocalypse. Let’s take a look at a few preview cards…

Here are some sample doors:

Oh man. Doesn’t everyone know that bloggers have no class? ::zing::

And some sample treasures, with a first look at the new Seal card type:

Don’t know much yet how these Seals work–I have to imagine like Portals and Dungeons from vanilla Munchkin¬†and Munchkin Cthulhu–but I have read a rule online that says if seven Seals are currently open, the game is over. Kind of like when everybody becomes a Cultist rule. Hmm…

You can’t see them all, but these are the cards you get if you buy some Radioactive Dice for your next round of Munchkin Apocalypse:

Not satisfied yet? Want more? Wow, y’all are a demanding bunch. Okay, okay…I’ll scour the Interwebz for more previews. Just give me a sec.

And I’m back! Only found one decent image. Here, here:

So, yeah. This is looking good. I hope there’s references to the following items: A Boy and His Dog, Fallout 3, and The Walking Dead. Guess I’ll find out in a few months, and I hope I can squeeze a group game in before the Earth cracks open and we all kiss each other goodbye.