Link for the win!
First of all, I have to say I am a Fantasy Flight fanboy, their games just look and feel fantastic! Ok, on to the review...
Fury of Dracula, or FoD, is little different then most games in that one player is the Dark Lord, and all the other players, called Hunters, are trying to finish him (me)off. As most of our gaming sessions end up this way anyway, FoD seemed a good fit.
The map is Europe, with the cities being connected by rail or road. There are port cities which allow travel by water also. Players can move 1 road section, or one Water section per turn. Rails is a bit dicey, ('scuse the pun), for the players as they roll a die to determine how far, and even IF, they can travel by rail. Drac can't travel by rail, and when traveling by boat, he loses life, or blood. (Vampires and running water do not mix, much like Italian salad dressing!) Instead of a life track, Dracula has blood counters, and taking damage in combat, playing certain cards, traveling by water, etc. all cause Drac to lose blood. They only way for him to replenish this is to play a FEED card, which replenishes 1 blood counter. However, as this means Drac stays in the same location for two turns, it can be a risky option.
The players are represented by platic minitures, and each character in the game has a special ability and different life and toughness levels. Drac's plastic guy isnt put on the board unless the Hunters find him. The vampire's movement is traced with a series of cards the Drac player plays face down, one per turn phase. With each card, (except Water), Drac puts an encounter chit on top of it. As a new card is put down, the existing cards are slid to the left to form a chain. Drac cannot visit the same location untill it falls off the end of the chain, (except for a special card), so once his trail is found, his movement options can get very small quickly.
The Hunters can move and then perform an action. They can Search the area they are in, and if it is one of the location cards in Drac's movement chain, it is flipped over and the encounter is delt with. Encounters can be all sorts of nasty stuff, from fledging vampires to minions to Bats and so on. This also puts the Hunters on Dracula's trail. If the Hunters find Drac, then there is combat.
Combat is a nifty system where each player pulls out a card from thier hand and each rolls a die. The winner consults his card and cross references it against what the opponent played and applies the result. The cards can Dodge, Fist, Pistol, etc. Dracula only gets his 3 basic cards in the daytime, but at night he can use his full hand. Obviously, the Hunters try to time their attacks for the bright light of Day!
The is a lot more to the game, but this is a review and not a rules lawyer post, so I'll get to it....
When I first read the rules, I envisioned the Hunters blindly stumbling around Europe, occasionally finding Drac's trail, only to lose it quickly, and I worried that it would be boring for all. THIS WAS NOT THE CASE! The four Hunters in our game worked closely together, often voting on what to do next. The Hunters in FoD have many options available to them, and almost from the start, Dracula was running for his life.. err... unlife?
Several times the Hunters were cackling about how 'They have me now', only for Drac to slip into Wolf form or escape out to sea. The game ended with Drac having one blood left and surrounded by hunters, which was a win for Dracula as he now had the required Vampire points. Our game went a bit long, as the game ends when either Drac is dead, or he gets 6 Vampire points. Each turn is 6 phases, 3 day, 3 night, and every Dawn phase Drac gets a Vampite point. He gets 2 Vampire points by defeating a Hunter in combat, or by having a Vampire encounter last for Drac's entire Movement Chain, (usualy 6 phases).
In our game, Drac was hounded the entire game, and never even came close to getting any vampires to full undead status. (The Hunters kept finding them and killing them, curses!) Combat was also sparse, as I quickly was in a postion where I didnt have the Blood to risk combat, (quick note: Each side can have allies, and one of the Hunter's allies can cause Dracula to lose blood 50% faster while at sea, and this, coupled with Drac being forced out to sea on a regular basis, quickly put Drac on the defensive in our first game), and I couldnt stop for a second to try and replenish.
Everyone enjoyed the game, and I can HIGHLY RECOMMEND this game for 3 to 5 players. It was a lot of fun, a lot of groans when Drac slipped away, alot of gleeful shouting when the trail grew close, all in all, a great way to spend an evening.
Great review! Thanks for your thoughts on this tempting title. I appreciate how you took the time to include your perspective on the 'boredom' scare that seems to surround this game, as well as a bit of strategy on Dracula's preference for wearing Nike