Gloom:  A Cynically Optimistic Review

Your average card or board game is an exercise in gaining advantage. Higher numbers are better, lower numbers are bad. More is good, less is a detriment.

Your victory comes at the defeat of your opponents and their misery is the anthem to your victory.

Gloom does none of these things. It also doesn’t take itself very seriously, and neither should you. It treats death with the same sacred reverence as a whoopie cushion. Death is silly, death is comedy, death is no escape from the horrors you’ve endured.

OK, that got dark. Moving on.

Gloom is a unique card game where misery is your key to victory. Happiness and positivity are to be given to your opponents, and unpleasant life experiences are to be hoarded.

The base game is two to four players, and each player has a family of five nobles/rich folks that you’ll be creating a narrative to each of their lives. Each card has values in the positive, or negative, and from one to three values per card.

Playing these cards on top of the characters will bring them joy or suffering, as well as creating a story of their life experiences, and only the most miserable can truly enjoy the afterlife that is awaiting them, as their earthly sorrows pave the way for the true satisfaction that death provides.

The special mechanic of this game is that the cards are clear, with only numbers and card text visible. As you play life events on each person, your own or your opponents, the numbers will cover up and overlap the effects and values under it. Good outweighs the bad, bad overshadows the good and only the top visible numbers and text matter.

With each new card played on each of your family, their most recent memories of their life on this world will shift wildly from uplifting to downtrodden and back again, coloring their preparation for The End that awaits them.

Now the next big question is: Where does all the death come into play in a game about suffering until death? Don’t worry, I was just getting there.

Each player will have two actions each round to play cards on any character on the table they deem fit of their generosity, for good or ill. Your first action each round is the only time you can play cards that will “kill” a character.

Some of these deaths are entirely neutral, and don’t provide any inherent bonuses or penalties, or wipe the slate clean if you happen to be stuck with a number of happy experiences you can’t seem to be rid of, and others will give large positive or negative numbers.

Deaths will remove a character from play, having been sent off to their final reward to enjoy or languish as their final score dictates. The game continues until one player has an entirely dead family, and then each player has one last turn to play catch-up and make their final moves, spreading prosperity amongst their enemies and anguish to their household.

Lowest score wins in this game, like golf, only you don’t have to shush every few minutes for someone hitting a ball with a stick. Playing Gloom is one of the few times you can feel good about spreading cheer outside of the Christmas season, without all of the decorating and stress of finding “that one thing” your cousin is asking for.

Winning is doing your best to make everyone else happy. So, when thinking about a gift this year, instead of spreading cheer, think about giving a little Gloom.

For more information, visit Toy City at 133 Key Road in Keene. Toy City can be reached at 352-3131 or online at toycitynh.com.