‘Gloom’ game review
By Ed Appleby, Illustrator
This October, I’m going to be taking a look at a series of darker-themed games to get into the Halloween spirit, starting this week with Gloom.
Gloom is a card game for two to four players designed by Keith Baker and published in 2005 by Atlas Games. The game has a darkly funny feel, in the vein of Edward Gorey, and players score points by making their characters experience a series of unfortunate events and untimely deaths. Despite the dark themes, the game is actually hilarious and lots of fun to play.
The gameplay of Gloom is very simple, with only four different types of cards and very concise rules, leading to a relatively quick game. The cards are made of plastic and transparent, which gives the game a very novel mechanic where you play modifying cards directly on characters, covering up previous modifiers.
This is definitely a case where the theme and mood of the game excel beyond the basic mechanics. Players are encouraged to immerse themselves in the theme and tell stories about how the characters came upon their tragedies. It’s not as difficult as you might imagine, as the tragedy modifiers are wonderfully written and rife with delightful alliterations. The fact that Lord Wellington-Smithe gets mauled by a manatee is less interesting than how that managed to happen.
This greatest strength of the game is also its greatest weakness. This is not a game for players who are easily distracted, or in a party setting. Since the game relies so heavily on its theme, breaks in the flow or atmosphere of the gameplay can severely reduce the enjoyment of the game. Some players also aren’t storytellers and the game cannot just be played like a hand of poker.
I highly recommend the game for both new and experienced players. Gloom is not a good party game, but more of an intimate, hanging-with-friends-after-a-long-day game.