Tsuro: Phoenix rising
Escape plan
POH CARDFAC181030000
EHP 15595
EHP 15407
EHP 15575
0.00 €

Boardnado revisits Gloom

Halloween is still months away and I don't like this at all. So let's take a look at a gloomy little card game that is sure to bring some (dark) joy into your life.


BoxMirror universes are the staple of a lot of fantasy or science fiction series. Especially when they're an inverse of what you usually know. Like a dark, twisted version of our world. That's what I think about when I play gloom. (Although maybe not quite as dramatic).


The world of Gloom is a constant dull grey. It probably rains all the time too. People there have the strange concept that the more miserable they are in life, the happier they will be in whatever afterlife there exists. So they pretty much WANT to be as unhappy as possible before they die.


This is where the players come in. Each one of us will be custodians of the fate of a certain family. We will want to make each and every one of our family members as gloomy and distraught as possible .... and then kill them. Along the way we want nothing more than to make the other players' families as happy and joyful as can be .... and then kill those too. I'm sensing a theme here.


The player whose family had the worst outlook on life before they passed on wins the game. Does this all sound horribly macabre to you? Don't worry! It's actually not as bad as it sounds and more fun than it seems.




The goal of Gloom is to use cards in your hand to lower the respective self-worth value (sometimes called 'pathos points') of your family members as far down as possible. This is done by playing cards that make them more and more unhappy (such as angry bees). Then you try to kill them. Only dead family members contribute points towards your grand total, the living are pretty much useless.


Every player starts the game with a family of 5 (or for shorter games 4). There are several families to choose from and each has their own little backstory. There's the mad scientists of Castle Slogar, the crazy possessed family of Hemlock Hall, the murderous clan of Blackwater Watch and the most horrible circus you can imagine: Dark's Den of Deformity.


Your turn consists of three phases: First Play, Second Play and Draw Phase.


First Play: Play any card in your hand or pass your turn.
Second Play: Play any card in your hand except for 'untimely death'-cards (more on card types later) or choose to pass.
Draw Phase: Draw back up to 5 cards assuming you have less than 5 in your hand.


The coolest thing about Gloom cards is that they're all see-through. This provides an interesting mechanic as you can place cards on top of each other and they automatically 'overwrite' some of the text of the cards underneath it. Thus changing outcomes within the game.


This greatly reduces the amount of math required when placing modifier cards. These do exactly what you'd expect: they modify the existing self-worth of characters making them happier or unhappier in the process. By placing these cards on top of each other you can substract points or cancel out previously lost points (Yes the winner is the one with the LEAST self-worth value remember?)


Eventually you'll want to play an untimely death card. These again do exactly what you'd expect: they kill a character. Either your own or somebody else's. Is your rival family only mildly unhappy? Kill them off before they get unhappier! Is your head of the family shunned by society and recently widowed? Play an untimely death card on him or her now! Once a character is dead nothing good can happen to them anymore and their self-worth value becomes set in stone. It's also the only way they contribute those (hopefully negative) pathos points!


SeethroughLastly there are event cards. These are sort of like plot twists. Each and every one of them grants a powerful immediate effect like bringing a character back from the dead or canceling out an action that someone else just played. They're the only cards that can be used outside of a turn.


This still sounds pretty gloomy, so where is the fun in it? Well storytelling of course! Every card in the game has a little title or backstory to it. So each time you modify a character's card something happens to them like 'being chased by bees' or 'mauled by a bear' or 'found true love'. Gloom only really becomes entertaining once players start weaving their stories together. Recounting what happened to their families to make them be 'shunned by society' and 'driven to drink'. Of course be prepared to get a wrench thrown in your perfectly laid plans from time to time when your opponents suddenly use the 'delighted by ducklings' card and make all your hard work undone by cute little yellow ducks of happiness.




Dark humour isn't for everyone and this isn't really a game you can use to cheer someone up. However that doesn't detract from the fact that if you've got a group of people together who love to tell stories you will have a very good time.


Really that's Gloom's biggest strength. It allows you to create incredibly funny stories about doom, peril and killer bees. The fact that all roles are reversed and when people mess with you they're actually doing that by making your characters 'happier' is really inventive. "Oh darney darn! You made Darius Dark forget all about his 'life of consumption' by making him 'happily wed'! Curse you!" Is some of the chatter you might hear during a game of Gloom.


Of course if you take that storytelling part away this game quickly becomes far less interesting. Sure there is some strategy in playing the correct cards at the right time, but there is a pretty big luck factor to overcome if that is your only motivation for playing. So bear that in mind if you play this with people who are not into spinning tales at all.


Cthulhu BoxGloom is a pretty lengthy card game. A normal 4-person playthrough takes about an hour, even if you reduce the family size to 4 instead of 5. It doesn't feel like a drag, but it also doesn't invite an immediate second game once you finish the first. You're more likely to laugh about the calamities that occured while putting it away for next time.


Should you want more there is always the Cthulhu version (note: Every game has a mandatory Cthulhu version) where you too can cause eldritch maladies and devastation from beyond the stars to your puny family of earthlings! Oh and yes other non-Cthulhu expansions exist too (but who wants those when you've got Cthulhu, right?)





Gloom is a curious and lengthy little card game where pretty much everything you'd expect from such a game is reversed. It's filled with thematic dark humour and relies heavily on storytelling to make it fly. It can be very enjoyable however in the correct circumstances. Also: see-through cards!


If you want to take a trip to this dark, misanthropic universe then feel free to take a look here or click this button!