When I first heard of a game called Gloom, I thought “How depressing!” Then I started to learn more about the game, such as the incredibly awesome see-through cards. You layer the cards on top of each other and they’re made out of flexible and thin plastic. That was pretty great! Then I learned it was about out-saddening the other people playing. That seemed very funny. Finally, I learned that there was a storytelling angle to the game and, if you know me you know I love stories, so I was sold! A hilariously fun game that I could play 1-on-1 with my husband or with friends. What can get better than that? …… The Artwork!
Designer: Keith Baker
Year Published: 2005 Rough Game Time: 60 mins
Players: 2-4 Suggested Ages: 10+
Type: Card Game, Hand Management, Thematic
What’s the Story, Morning Glory?
Players control the lives of bizarre and offbeat characters that are part of some strange families. Essentially, you want to make your characters as absolutely miserable as possible. Suffering is just the tip of the iceberg for the tragic lives of these families. Death is the only way they can find solace, and even then. . . fate might have a different story in mind. While players try to destroy the fates of their own characters, they also strive to cheer up the cheerless lives of other families with special moments that will enhance the characters positive moods.
What’s in the Box?
- 20 Family Cards (5 for each family)
- 20 Untimely Death Cards
- 58 Modifier Cards
- 12 Event Cards
- 1 Set of Directions
How To Play or Not to Play, That is the Question
- First separate the family cards from the rest of the cards and shuffle the rest of the cards together.
- Each player should select a family and place them in front of them. Familiarize yourself with the story of each family member. The directions share some background information on each family, as well as the family symbols.
- Players will draw five cards each from the shuffled deck.
- The player who has had the worst day goes first.
- On a player’s turn they can play or discard up to 2 cards and then draw back up to your hand limit. Limit is typically 5 unless there are modifier cards that change that.
- First, players can either play or discard any 1 card or choose to pass. Only on this turn can the player play an Untimely Death card.
- Next the player can either play or discard another card or choose to pass. Untimely Death cards cannot be played on the second part of the turn.
- The player’s turn ends by the player drawing back up to their hand limit. If the player ends up with more cards than the player’s hand limit at the draw phase, they do not draw up to their limit. Only draw up if you are under your limit. Do not discard the hand of cards back down to the limit unless there is a modifier card in play that requires this.
- When players play a card it can either be on their own family or other player’s families.
- When a card is played, the person who played it needs to connect the events on the card to the story that is being spun by the family.
- If a card is played on another family, the player controlling that family takes the effect of the card, not the player who played it.
The game ends when an entire family is deceased. It ends immediately with that person, regardless of what the turn rotation is. Points are totaled for all the deceased characters with the points that are showing. The player with the most negative score wins! Do not tabulate the points that are covered up by cards that have been laid down.
Rules Weren’t Meant to Be Broken (Or Were They?)
The turn steps are sometimes beat by your eagerness to kill off a character, so make sure that if you want a character to meet their demise, it has to be on your first turn. Additionally, do not forget that you can discard as part of your turn if you’re struggling to get helpful cards.
When you have positive cards in your hand, make sure you remember the stories the other players have shared so that you can add plus cards to their characters or have them come to their demise while they at their least gloomy. Don’t forget to watch what the other players are doing. It is a multi-tasking game, so you have to stay on top of things.
Modifier Cards have pathos points and might have a Special Effect. The cards might also include Story Icons and will have Flavor Text that spices up the story. Story Icons play a role regarding Event Cards and Untimely Death Cards. These cards are placed on top of the character cards.
Event Cards are played and then discarded. They are not placed on the character cards. The events can be played on a player’s family or other families.
Untimely Death Cards cannot be played on character cards that do not have a negative self-worth. Something gloomy must happen to a character before an Untimely Death can occur. These cards cause the character cards to be turned over. Keep the points cards in play for that character at the time of their death.
Best Played Under These Conditions
Gloom is made for 2-4 players and there are expansions for Gloom that allows for additional players to be added. I have typically played it with 2 players, but it has been the most fun playing with 3-4 players, because of the diversity of stories and the different players you can choose from.
My recommendation is to try to be as storyteller as possible. Playing with friends makes it more enjoyable, because you can more easily play off of each other. The storytelling part is really the best thing about it, so if you aren’t that into telling silly about stories or trying to make connections, this game is not for you.
Spice Up Your Game
Why not attempt to make your guests as gloomy as the card game? Well, they might not come back, but you could still have fun with your last night playing with them.
You could make cups of tea or hot chocolate, but instead of serving them hot, make sure they sat out for a while and serve them room temperature or cold. Only make room temperature water available. If your guests are wanting beer or something carbonated, make sure it’s already been opened and is at room temperature. It won’t kill them to try to get into the minds of the families in this game. . . Or will it. . .
If you want to serve food, choose chicken breasts or pasta and cook them without sauces. Just maybe some salt and pepper. That doesn’t mean tasteless and dry, just bland food. You could always taunt them with some sauce if they want to add some plus bonuses to their families. That would be devious.
As for snacks, what makes people gloomier than stale snacks! Buy some tortilla chips and puffy foods that turn into Styrofoam when left open overnight. You don’t have to go for brand names, but that will definitely bring the gloom into the room. Try putting out some salt-less saltines and dry toast slices. Are you concerned that this might be too much dryness? Really make them sigh in exasperation by putting out some dips that are simply jarred baby food! Banana and Spinach are great choices for this.
I’ll be honest, my husband got all frugal on me in regards to these recommendations, but it’s really up to you and what you want to bring to the table. You could even just provide initial gloomy snacks by leaving a small bowl of snacks out to get stale, instead of the whole bag. Same with the soda. You could have two sodas already open and just pour little glasses of them.
Decor would include a white tablecloth and fake black flowers in black vases. If you have dead flower decorations already available, you could set those out. Think gloomy and drab without going heavy into Halloween. This would be a great game for a Halloween Theme Night with friends, though. Gloom would also be fun to play with the right family around Thanksgiving, too. It has that morbid sense of humor that could make those family holidays hilarious!
Gloom is an engaging and beautiful card game that challenges the mind in more ways than one. Spin a creatively depressive tale of a family tragedy while also contributing to the highs of other families. The game replay is great, because you can always try a new family and there are so many different event and modifier cards that it is near impossible to have a repetitive story. There are several expansions to make replay even greater, as well as quirky (Geek & Sundry Tabletop Expansion). Even for gamers who are not hardcore about games, this is a fun way to involve all types of gamers. I would play this when asked, if not initiate gameplay. There’s a reason this game is so popular, so get your copy and join the Gloom Gang!