Designer: Keith Baker
Publisher: Atlas Games
Date Released: 2005
Number of Players: 2-4
Age Range: 8 and up
Setup Time: minimal
Play Time: 45 minutes or less
Game Flow and Review:
Most people choose happiness over sadness, but that isn’t the case for the families of Gloom. You assume control of one of four miserable families, making each family member as unhappy as possible before they die. An interesting and morbid concept for a game; perfect for Halloween.
Gloom has four main card types: characters, modifiers, untimely deaths, and events. The character cards have no special effects. They’re just quirky misfits. But the core game mechanic of Gloom lies with the most abundant card type in the deck, the modifiers. In fact, modifier cards are played directly on top of character cards, and that’s the reason why all Gloom cards are printed on transparent plastic.
Each modifier gives a character a negative or positive score. You’ll want to play negative cards on your family and positive cards on your opponents’ families. Remember: the most miserable family wins. Think of it like a game of golf. The most miserable person, who also has the lowest score, wins.
When you have a good, negative score on your character, you can off them with an untimely death card. Now you get two cards that you can play on your turn, but you can’t play an untimely death card as your second card, otherwise you’d just play a negative modifier for your first card, and then kill your character with the very next card. That wouldn’t be very sporting. It might make you feel good, but feeling good goes against the tenor of Gloom.
The final card type differs from the previous three. While every other card type stays in play (they’re permanent cards), event cards are played once and then discarded. There are some event cards that you can play on an opponent’s turn as a response to a card they want to play which further separates event cards from the other three.
Play ends when one player runs out of family members. However many points you accumulated on your dead family members when this happens count toward your score. It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t rotting.
Gloom is easy to pick up and play, and its use of alliteration calls for copious chuckles. I’m not sure if there’s a lot of replayability, and you have to have luck on your side to win.
Verdict: A fun, fascinating, and award-winning card game with a sick sense of slapstick. Gloom will smack a smile on your face, while it puts frowns on your family. But don’t look for too many strong strategic elements.