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Subject: A Macabre Change of Pace rss

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Benjamin Bagenski
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In an industry constantly assaulted by endless zombie, Cthulhu, and ironic titles, stand-alone unique games are a welcome sight. “Gloom” is a fantastic game whose unique components, simple rules and phenomenal world will make your game night memorable. The cover art immediately reminded me of Edward Gorey’s gray rainy murder scandals, and the game is, through and through, a spiritual successor to his works.

You play as one of four demented households, filled with a mob of miserable souls. What is the correct term for a pack of miserable people, like a pod of whales, a flock of seagulls? A Travesty? Yes, you have a Travesty of miserable souls and will lead them through torture and demise to win the game. In Gloom, you want wicked things to happen to your household, while making others bright and cheerful: stepping on a lego piece would afford you a giant advantage, and nothing is more detrimental than a man selling ice cream singing Italian songs.

The game is composed completely of transparent cards, those plastic see-through ones which give off that strange celery smell when you first open the package (really, why do they always smell like that?). The rules are exceedingly simple and easy to learn, with one exception: hiding in the middle of the rule guide is a suggestion that you narrate and explain everything that happens to your characters, and this is where things become complicated.

If you don’t make the game into a story, the replay value is, honestly, very limited. You will typically need an experienced and enthusiastic player to “lead the game” the first time to encourage the other players to construct their own family stories and continuing scandals. Wheaton in Tabletop makes this look easy, and I’d recommend seeing how they do it before trying the game. If you have players delve into the world, then you can expect to be playing it again before long.

Because Gloom’s entertainment value is directly influenced by the creativity of the players (which I will make clear is a wonderful thing) I only give this game four stars in Replay value, but it’s your job to make it five stars yourself when you play! For the same reason “Easy to Learn” is four stars as well– the mechanics are simple, but getting the hang of rolling with these random cards and making it a cohesive, fantastic story is a little more tough but necessary for maximum entertainment value.

I for one had a fantastic playthrough where my Machiavellian butler rose up and became the head of his household and married the head of a second household, while the Lord of a third household turned out to be a member of another household in disguise (somebody noticed the two characters looked rather similar). The game culminated with a duel between the rising butler and the master-of-disguise lord, before they each met embarrassing and fatal ends. None of this would have happened relying purely on the cards. If you have a taste for intrigue, and remember to keep things gloomy, you’re in for a terrible time– in a good way.

So buy Gloom, gather your enemies, put on your best evening attire, dim the lights, put on some somber music, and have the worst day of your life. You’ll be glad you did.
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