Friday, April 23, 2010

Geek Spy: Gloom

At the time of writing, it’s a gloomy day where the sky is gray and my tea is cold and I‘m reminded of this storytelling card game called Gloom. The game has been around for a while but it’s so wonderfully twisted that I felt the need to spread the gospel of Gloom a little further by sharing it with you my dear readers.

So the premise: “The world of Gloom is a sad and benighted place. The sky is gray, the tea is cold, and a new tragedy lies around every corner. Debt, disease, heartache, and packs of rabid flesh-eating mice -- just when it seems like things can't get any worse, they do.”

Depressing right? Designed for 2 to 4 players, the game puts you in control of the fate of an eccentric family. The goal of the game is simple. You want this family to suffer the greatest tragedies before allowing them to die. You'll inflict them with mishaps like was beaten by beggars or was pursued by poodles to lower their self-worth, while cheering your opponents' families with marriages and other happy occasions. The player with the lowest total Family Value wins.

Where does the story telling come in? For example, Mister Giggles, the demented clown can be driven to drink but was popular in parliament then beaten by beggars only to be devoured by the weasels. So the rules suggest you take this opportunity to tell stories as you play cards, for example explaining how after Mister Giggles was driven to drink by the death of his porcupine, he ran for parliament in a drunken fit only to find his bill unpopular by beggars so they set weasels onto him.

The artwork of the cards is all produced in the etching style of Edward Gorey by Scott Reeves, which is pretty evocative of the mood of the game. The beauty not only lies in the premise but rather in the snarky copy written on each card. For example, if your character was mocked by midgets the side comment is “it’s the little things that hurt the most.”

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find this game in Hong Kong but you can always buy it online here.

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