Sunday, December 29, 2013

MIXED BAG. TABLETOP TALES! GLOOM REVIEW!

TABLETOP TALES PRESENTS
GLOOM REVIEW!

Designers: Keith Baker
Artist: Scott Reeves
Publishers: Atlas Games
Type: Card Game
Themes: Gothic Horror, Story-Telling, Strategy
# of Players: 2-4
Ages: 13& Up
Time to Play: 30-60 min.
Approx. Price: $15-25

I saw Gloom on Tabletop (linked below) and instantly fell in love with the Addam's family aesthetic and black comedy of a card game where your goal is to create as much gloom as possible for your family and then kill them off. It's basically the goal of the holiday season.


Let's see if a lot of misery can bring a little joy into your life.

PREMISE
I'm about to round out the premise here, but if TLDR, you can skip ahead to the next section or check out the beginning of the the episode of Tabletop above.

Gloom is a card game where your goals are simple, but how you get there is dreadfully droll: you pick a family of four to five characters and attempt to make them as miserable as possibly by playing cards in your hand to increase their misery. Meanwhile, you and your opponents will attempt to bring good fortune to everyone else's family. Ultimately, your goal is to kill off your family members when they're as unhappy as possible so that, at the game's conclusion with the death of a family, you have the most miserable family.

The game draws upon themes of American Gothic Horror with a circus of freakish fair folk, a suite of severely misguided scientists and subjects, a kooky clan of inbred ingrates, and a family possesed by less than positive forces of the occult depicted in an inky black and white style that, when combined with the comically macabre misfortunes on the cards, creates an evening sadomasochistic schaudenfreude.

And the best part? You can bring the story to life of drawing connections from each twist of fate to ultimately link the acts together into an endless stream of unfortunate ends.

PRESENTATION
The first thing that will happen when you open up your box of Gloom cards is that the smell of freshly printed plastic will overwhelm your senses. Then the art will do the same.

The artwork by Scott Reeves is delightfully dark and creepily comical with all of the portraits, embroidery, and other elements of gothic horror art. The art helps to instill the game with a lovely atmosphere of cruel comedy that anyone with a keen sense of humor, especially with some experience with Gothic lit, will enjoy. The art really pops on the see-thru cards that do more than serve to look attractive because they are actually an integral part of the game.

When you a lay a card down, you can see the components of any card beneath that are not covered and they still have an effect. This rather unique mechanic allows you to stack misery or have your characters overcome the awfulness. It's so simple and smart that it'll make you wonder why more games haven't tried to use this trick.

PLAYABILITY & REPLAYABILITY
No two games of Gloom ever play the same way. With the players creating an improvised little story to explain each misfortune and chain them together creates a unique experience that, thanks to the games easy point of entry, creates an experience that is easy to share time and time again. One game may have the inhabitants of Castle Slogar all wind up poisioned by different means and in the next half of the family will be eaten alive by animals and the other live happily ever after.

With a little bit of work, you can create more uniqueness to each experience by establishing side characters, events, and environment that fit in America or another local. From the Moors of Massachusetts (alteration is a plus) to the Everglades of Florida, you can create a new experience every time.

The only part of the game that can possibly lose it's appeal over time is the four families and/or the events that take place. If so inclined, you can pick up expansions and alternative versions to spark up your gloomy game sessions. They even have a Cthulhu themed version.

PROS VS. CONS
+ An original premise drawing inspiration from American Gothic Horror that will have your friends laughing at the misfortunes of others like a real German (sorry Germans, but you did invent a word for "happiness at the expense of others).
+ The beautifully bleak artwork and creative use of plastic cards creates a truly unique experience you'll want to share alongside your eyeliner.
+ The game is easy to learn, fun to play, and with a group of irony-loving friends you'll have a different experience every time.

CONCLUSION?
MUST-BUY: REMOVE YOUR GLOOM AND BUY IT SOON!

I clearly love the game that loathes love and lovey-dovey feels. You'll want to pick this up for anyone who loves to play games and is especially fun with people that no how to tell a story and/or have a good sense of dark humor. It's a challenge to tell the best story that is almost better and/or more important than winning the game.

And that's the sort of fun that I wanna invest in with the money I inherited from my cousin who just got eaten by Albino Black Bears, while looking for his lost children amongst the bee hives he had been using to groom a new breed of Brazillian Murder-Bees.

I wonder what games I'll get for my birthday this year?

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