06 May 2014

Gloom [review]

Gloom is a fast paced and easy to learn cardgame for 2-4 players where the goal for each player is to make his/her family as miserable as possible and then kill off the family members with accidents or "premature death" cards as they are called. 

Each family contains 5 family member cards, which can be decreased down to 4 if you play with more than 2 players to increase the speed of the game. Players draw cards from a shared deck and place cards with positive or negative modifiers on the family members under their own control or belonging to other players, as mentioned you want to make your own family members as unhappy as possible - scoring points for accidents and tragedies that they endure before you kill them off. But beware, the opponent will attempt to increase the happiness level of your family by playing out positive modifiers on them, prolonging the torment and making them potentially useless when victory points are counted. You see, only dead family members count towards the total amount of victory points, and you want as many negative modifier points as possible to stack on each of your characters to make them as valuable as possible.

The rules for the game are dead simple, there are 4 types of (transparent) cards: positive and negative modifier cards, event cards and premature death cards. Modifier cards come with positive or negative score as well as some special symbols linking them to a theme such as wealth, relationships or animals. These cards can have 1-3 round slots with numbers, whenever cards are played they are placed on a character, on top of the previous  card. As such previous modifiers can be covered up by new cards, negative scores turned to positive ones and vice versa. Much of the game is a race to keep your opponent busy removing positive modifiers on his characters so that you can play out negative modifiers and kill your characters with premature death cards before he kills his. The player that manages to kill all of his active characters first automatically ends the game and the players check their character cards and total up the modifiers to see the final score of their family.

The tricky part is not being able to kill off anyone until the character has a negative score, sometimes it can be worth killing off your own characters even if their negative score is low so that you end up finishing the game fast - leaving opponents with lots of negative scoring cards on their yet living characters who then doesn't count towards the total victory points. Another aspect of the game is that many of the cards come with additional effects such as  granting you additional cards "on your hand" or vice versa.

Event cards are also adding additional variety to the game flow by doing things like resurrecting a dead character, removing all modifiers from a character or swapping modifiers with two living characters among other things.

At the end of the day though, the game is a light hearted beer & pretzels game that shouldn't be taken too seriously and that can be used to start a boardgame night or just played when you have 30 minutes to spare.  The most unique part of the game are the transparent cards that you stack atop each other, I would want more depth to the rules and gameplay - I have not tried any of the expansions but have read mixed reviews about them so I'll stick to the core game.

I have also tried this game out with 2, 3 and 4 players. I found that 2 players can be fun, but also frustrating as you can react to whatever your single opponent does pretty much immediately and 2-player mode also renders some event cards and even modifier card effects a bit too powerful to make for a fully balanced game. 3-4 player mode is perhaps to be preferred as there is more of a spread when it comes to playing events and screwing other players over.

I would rate the game somewhere around 6.5/10, I love the idea and the artwork of the family members, the transparent cards and many of the ideas but I can't help but feel that the game feels a bit too shallow.


  1. Thanks for the Review - I have been looking at this game off and on for awhile. The premise is excellent

  2. It is fun, more so if you play with the story telling part and get everyone involved.


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