"The object of the game is simple... to kill every other player on the board!"
With those words emblazoned on the outside of the box, you know this is going to be interesting. Contrary to what you might think based on the title, this game is not about pale depressed people who dress in black. This is gothic in the classic sense - gothic horror. The game takes place in a haunted castle. You and your fellow players run around the castle trying to stay alive - either by avoiding the castle's dangers or by wiping out everyone else before they get you. Last man standing wins the game.
The first thing you'll notice is the unusual box. It's a long, rectangular box like most Milton Bradley games but it's narrower, thicker, and sturdier. It is strangely reminiscent of a coffin although it doesn't explicitly bear that shape. Inside the box you'll find a game board, a deck of cards, eight plastic pawns, a big black plastic pawn, a red dice cup, a six sided die, and a paper score pad. Sorry, no pencil.
The board is striking in its garishness. The illustrations are black pen and ink pigmented with a wide choice of bright colors. You could probably go crazy staring at it for too long. Maybe that's the idea. The castle is surrounded by a moat and filled with rooms which are illustrated with various horrific scenes. The Den has a caged bear struggling to escape, the Crypt has the obligatory pentagram, and the Torture Chamber has an iron maiden, just waiting for you.
The cards are divided by room, so that each room gets its own little draw pile. The black pen and ink illustrations are simultaneously gruesome and humorous. Horror fans will appreciate the atmosphere imparted by them. Think Edgar Allen Poe meets Monty Python. Did I mention the game is from England?
The pawns are your standard equipment, except for the vampire pawn. This fits over a player pawn, indicating that the player has been transformed into a vampire. How cute.
This is one of the dumbest games you're likely to ever play. I'm not exaggerating when I say that. The mechanics are pure roll and move. Luck almost completely decides everyone's fate, but if you have a sense of humor, you'll probably enjoy watching everyone get wiped out in various gory ways. Read some of the session reports and you'll see what I'm talking about.
On your turn you roll a die and move exactly that many spaces. There are special spaces on the board which cause certain actions if you land on them. The portal spaces allow you to teleport to any other portal. This is a welcome addition in a game where movement is largely random. The cracked tile spaces cause you to fall off the castle and into the moat. More on that later. The arrows force you to enter the room or space they point to. These can be nasty. The oubliette simply kills you if you land on it. Ouch.
If you happen to land adjancent to another player, you are granted the power of adjacency over that player. You have one of three choices. If you have a weapon card , you can immediately kill him. If you have an item card, you might be able to give it to him (think dropping a poisonous asp into someone's lap). Or you can simply move the player's pawn on his next turn. It's awfully fun to move someone onto the oubliette, for example.
If you choose to enter a room, you must immediately draw the top card. There are several different types of cards which unfortunately are not explicitly categorized. "Event" cards cause something to immediately happen to you - you lose some life, you gain some life, you have to go to another room, you fall in the moat, etc. Most of these cards are humorous and should be read aloud. "Weapon" cards can be kept secret for later and used to instantly kill an adjacent player. "Defense" cards protect you from certain weapons. "Item" cards are miscellaneous cards which have various effects when used.
No game like this would be complete without special rooms, and The Gothic Game is no exception. The Great Spiral Staircase is perhaps the most entertaining. If you enter this room (usually as a result of being moved by another player), you get one simple action on every subsequent turn: you roll a die. If the result is a 1-5, you go that many spaces downward. On a 6, you get to go back up. Hit the bottom of the staircase and you drop off into the void. It's very entertaining to watch people cling to hope as they spiral downward turn after turn. I've never seen anyone escape.
The Tower offers another fun twist to the game. If you happen to enter the Tower when a player is entering the castle through the hallway, you pour boiling oil on them and they are killed. This is a surprisingly common occurance thanks to the Moat. The Vault is a special room that warrants its own dicussion - when you enter, you are instantly transformed into a vampire.
Playing as a Vampire
Once transformed into a vampire, you have six turns to wander the hallway looking for victims. As a bonus, you get to roll two movement dice to everyone else's one. Anyone you pass is instantly killed and you gain twenty life points and two more turns to roam the halls as a vampire. The twist is that if you don't make it back to the Vault in time, you're fried in the morning sun. Also, there are a couple items in various rooms that can be used to protect against or even kill the vampire.
The many red spaces around the edge of the castle cause you to fall into the moat. Once there, you lose five points and must roll a die each subsequent turn in an effort to climb out. Roll a 1-3 and you lose more points and founder in the moat another turn. Roll a 4-6 and you re-enter the castle through one of three entrances. If you come in the front door , watch out for people pouring oil on your head from the Tower! If you come in the south gate , better beware of the vampire! And if you crawl in through the grate in the vault, you're transformed into a vampire yourself. The Moat serves to really mix the game up.
This is a silly game along the lines of Munchkin or Nuclear War or any of the various other games that are largely decided by luck. If you want a strategy game, don't play this. You will hate it. However, if you're looking for a game that is funny, easy to play, and has a great horror atmosphere, this is it. With a group who appreciates the game's theme and humor, I guarantee this will be a hit. While it doesn't have the strategy of other haunted house games like Betrayal at House on the Hill or Chill: Black Morn Manor, it's probably the most fun of the three. I highly recommend it. The only problem is that it can be difficult to acquire. I had to import mine directly from England. Still, it's a worthwhile purchase and certainly a lot of fun around Halloween.
Variants / Clarifications
The game supports anywhere from 2 to 8 players. I would say a minimum is 4 players, and if you want to scale up to 8, you should remove some life points from everyone. With 8 players I would probably start everyone with 60 or 70 points instead of the usual 100. Also, always be sure to cap everyone's life points at the starting amount or the game can drag on as people recover life points occasionally.
The charm of this game is the cards, so I'll leave you with a few to enjoy.
Stone Age Club - "This may be used to knock out the brains of a player on an adjacent square."
A Fine Stew - "Gain 20 points, but when you discover that the stew was made from human remains, you run to be sick in the lavatory. Go there NOW!"
The Rack - "A slow and painful torture loses you 60 points, but you are a longer person now, and you may lengthen your stride at will, by adding one to the throw."
Death - "An encounter with Death. Lose 40 points. He travels with you everywhere and if you land on a green square, he claims you. You may only lose your deadly companion if you enter the great spiral staircase and survive."
- Last edited Thu Feb 8, 2007 8:36 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Wed Feb 1, 2006 9:57 pm
Hmm seems this borrows some of its mechanics from Game of Dracula which my daughter loves! Perhaps I'll try to pick one up.