In most games you’re trying to come out on top, i.e., building an empire, defeating an evil ogre, escaping a sinking island, surviving a long, zombie-infested winter, but in Gloom you want your family miserable. Not just miserable, but the most wretched, cursed family that ever lived and DIED. Gloom is a card game for 2 to 5 players, and the intended audience is teenagers and adults due to the mature-ish content, and the unusual language used. Players win by having the family with the lowest self-worth points after one of the families have all their members die. The cards are unique given they’re transparent, enabling cards to played on top of family member cards, adding or removing additional points, and occasionally obscuring previous points.
Players have the option to use cards to kill off family members with a negative self-worth, lower a family member’s self-worth, or raise another player’s family member’s self-worth. Examples of mishaps are the following: was distressed by dysentery, was taunted by tigers, was pestered by poltergeist, and was terrified by topiary. Examples of positive events are the following: found fame at a feast, was the toast of the town, was delighted by ducklings, and was wondrously well wed. When a player feels a family member has sufficiently low self-worth, and before a player can place positive event cards, the family member can have an untimely death, e.g., was baked into a pie, was devoured by weasels, and fell from on high.
A theme enhanced way to play the game is to generate an ongoing story as cards are played. For instance, Darius Dark was out for his usual evening walk on the moor when out of the mist came fearsome beasts. Darius [was pursued by poodles], and to escape their bites he jumped and waded into the marsh. Unable to return to land because of poodles he waded further out into the water until it became deep enough to swim. With his strength sapped he swam towards what he thought was a rock. Too late he noticed his error and [was mauled by a manatee]. Desperately he swam away and before he lost consciousness he managed to pull himself up onto a floating log. Awoken by singing and a gentle brush on his cheek, he saw his future bride for the first time, and that’s how he [found love on the lake]. Months later Darius was wedded, and as the ceremony came to an end, a sudden earthquake caused the pipe organ to shift off its platform, and fall onto the bride, and that’s how Darius [was windowed at the wedding]. Overcome by grief, Darius turned to the bottle and met his end a time later after he [drank too much rye].
As you can see, it’s a macabre game, like something out of Addams Family, Lemony Snicket, Tim Burton, etc. with its stories and the Victorian-esque artwork. As each player only has two actions each turn, it’s a challenge to spread misfortune on each of your family members and sending them to untimely deaths before positive events can happen to them, played by other players. Not a game I would want to play often, but certainly one to pull out on a dark and stormy night.