Gloom is undoubtedly a card game of both strategy and infinite hilarity. Not only that, but it also holds the potential for a great deal of outrageous storytelling that will cause players to laugh, wince, and maybe even feel the presence of the recently departed just over their shoulder.
The base game is made for 2-4 players, but expansions are available that provide other kooky families for a player to choose from. The main objective of this game is to have all 5 of your family members dead after first putting them through a number of ordeals that earn them the lowest possible Self-Worth score. There are Event cards that can give you the upper hand when a fellow player is trying to bring a plague on both your houses, Modifier cards that give family members a positive or negative self-worth score along with other hindrances or bonuses, and of course there are Untimely Death cards, which could bring about such fates for your family members as being pushed down the stairs, drowned in a bog, or even being baked into a pie.
Unlike most playing cards, the cards in this game are partly transparent. This is so when they are played on a family member card of your own or of somebody else’s, that family member’s portrait is still visible. It also allows you to continuously stack modifier cards on top of family members and allow different self-worth scores to overlap. The cards give this game a unique look as well as a unique playing experience.
One thing that I like about this game is that while the goal is to give your 5 family members as low of a self-worth score as possible, the conditions printed on some Modifier cards will often work against you such as decreasing the number of cards you’re allowed to draw at the end of your turn. At times, it can also be to your benefit to deal cards with a positive self-worth score onto your own characters instead of adding to the score of other players; a positive or neutral score will keep your characters from meeting an untimely death sooner than you would like, and often the conditions printed on such Modifier cards can be helpful to you such as increasing your card draw limit or allowing you to discard any undesirable cards from your hand. In this way the game is very often a strategic one that causes you to think carefully before you make your move.
The most unique aspect of this game is that it provides something for the avid storyteller and the dedicated dramatic alike. With the unique background you’re given with each member of your family, you are given the opportunity to spin the most outrageous tales about them as modifier cards are placed upon them. Perhaps you might enjoy telling your friends the tale about how Professor Helena Slogar, the eccentric inventor of Castle Slogar, was shunned by society, cursed by the queen, and then later met an untimely death by drinking too much rye. The circumstances printed on each Modifier and Untimely Death card provide the opportunity to make up inventive stories about your family members as they are dealt cards by yourself as well as other players.
Gloom is great to play with only 2 players and the fun only increases when you add one or two more. Whether you’re a cunning strategist or a teller of tales, Gloom will be exactly the game you’re looking for if you’d like to have a miserable old time with your friends.