It’s almost October, the sullen season of apprehensive apparitions and bloodcurdling boogeymen. To get yourself in the macabre mood, Gloom is a grim game where the goal is to get as sad as possible. It also has a thing for alliteration.
Gloom is an inexpensive game (only $16, at present) that’s perfect to set the mood for the spooky season. In the box, you’ll find a stack of cards, including five gothic Addams-Family-meets-Lemony-Snicket style families. Each player picks a family and then tries to make them as miserable as they can, right up until every member dies a tragic death.
Each player also gets a hand of cards with different actions you can take, all of them awful. Cards such as “Starved in a Storm” or “Was Galled by Gangrene” describe the tragic fates that can befall each member of your house. The cards have point modifiers on each of them that reduce (or increase) your family members’ net Self-Worth.
It’s not all nightmares and nuisances, though. You can play cards to cause events to befall your opponents’ families as well as yourself. Some cards have positive effects like “Was Praised in the Papers” or “Had a Picnic In the Park” which can increase your characters’ Self-Worth. For the morose members of your family, this is a fate worse than death.
In unique twist, all the cards are transparent, which allows you to counter the negative effects your opponents play on themselves. When one of the other player’s family members gets Terrified by Topiary for a -20 modifier, you can drop a Found Love On the Lake on them to not only negate their misery, but add a +15. Now they have something to live for! How dreadful.
When a character has a negative self-worth value, you can play a death card that locks in that person’s awful accomplishments. Or lack thereof. The person with the lowest overall family score “wins.” Insomuch as anyone can win at anything in this cursed existence.
On its own, the game mechanics are cute, but the game also encourages you to get creative with your storytelling. When you play a card that says “Was Badly Betrothed,” don’t just say it. Tell the table what happened. What made the marriage so morbid? And how, exactly, did they go from that to being Marooned on the Moors the very next turn?
The (drearily un-)colorful events and wacky wordplay give players plenty of inspiration to get their own stories going. If you have a crowd that gets really into the story, and wouldn’t mind a simple game with an interesting twist on its game mechanics, Gloom’s got it going on.