Gloom is a game where you make life as hard as possible for your family. None of us is good at that!
With board games, I tend to talk about crowdfunding for smaller games. Gloomier: A Night at Hemlock Hall, the stand-alone sequel to Gloom, straddles this line. It is a title that has a large fan base, but it is not a game for everyone.
Later today (if I got my time zones right!), Atlas Games kicks off their campaign. Luckily, I know almost all I need to know about the game except for cost. So let’s look at why I am excited for Gloomier: A Night at Hemlock Hall!
So what is Gloom?
Gloom is a reasonably straightforward card game where you play modifiers on family members and try to score the lowest score possible. Yes, that’s right – the lowest score possible.
The hook to Gloom is around storytelling, prompted by actions on the cards. Because you are trying to make life as hard on your family as possible, breaking legs or losing loves is excellent for your score. Winning the lottery doesn’t sound very bad, so you pass that good luck to another players family.
And when you think someone can’t get much lower, you kill them, locking in the score. Once an entire family is gone, everyone adds up deceased family members’ scores, and a winner is determined.
That doesn’t sound very nice!
Gloom is a game that revels in dark humour. Between this facet and telling a story as you go, not all gamers will be interested in the game. These points have kept Gloom relatively niche in board game circles. As someone that enjoys all Gloom has to offer, I find the title always being overlooked disappointing.
The fun of Gloom isn’t dwelling on the macabre or misfortune. The enjoyment lies in interactions with your fellow players. Sure, you can play just for points (the digital version is excellent for this solo), but spinning a tale as you play is the heart of the game for me.
Seeing someones face as you ‘celebrate’ an opponents luck in winning the lottery (and the banter as you ruin someone’s plan) isn’t something that works well online.
Enter Gloomier: A Night at Hemlock Hall.
Just released on Kickstarter, Atlas Games are crowdfunding the stand-alone sequel to Gloom, aptly named ‘Gloomier’. While many gameplay elements have been kept from the original game, Gloomier comes with much of the original’s expansion content.
This makes Gloomier: A Night at Hemlock Hall feel more like a ‘Big Box’ release, but even that doesn’t quite fit in this case. I think this is why Atlas Games have chosen to market Gloomier: A Night at Hemlock Hall as a stand-alone sequel.
Gloom had some new rules included, which included Stories and Guests. These expanded gameplay by adding powers that triggered under certain conditions.
These could be things like the players with the most of a specific icon can draw more cards on their turn or play more event cards than usual. There are quite a few effects that can be added, and as you select them randomly makes every game different.
I haven’t seen the final rules yet. Still, I imagine you can exclude expansionish and build up to more complex interactions. I would certainly hope so, at the very least!
Gloom is a game that I have seen many new players jump in with ‘everything’ included and just get lost in the process. The base rules are straightforward to teach and follow, but as soon as the ‘card text’ overrides these rules, things can get interesting.
So Gloom/Gloomier: A Night at Hemlock Hall is hard to play?
Not at all. It can be a challenge to learn on your own, but Gloom has been around for almost 20 years, so the amount of help online is considerable. As long as you can find it. FAQ’s and the like can be contradictory, especially as new expansions and revisions have come out over the years.
That is one thing that I am looking forward to with Gloomier: A Night at Hemlock Hall. Because all of these expansions and rule revisions have been included from the outset, I expect much clearer interaction explanations with the more problematic ones changed/removed.
There is also a how-to-play video already available, which I have added below. As you can see, the base rules and play order is pretty straightforward – it’s card text rules that can confuse new players.
Are you backing Gloomier: A Night at Hemlock Hall?
At the moment, I only have Gloom in Space in my collection. I gave a friend my original Gloom decks a couple of years ago, as she could play it much more often than I could.
The only thing that will stop me from backing is pricing. I don’t expect the costs to be astronomical, but shipping may get rather pricey.
I would love to have Gloomier: A Night at Hemlock Hall in my collection, but I still have the genuine problem of getting Gloomier to the table. Even if I started in-person game nights again tomorrow, it’s not a game that everyone likes.
But if the sound of Gloom and Gloomier has caught your interest, check out the Kickstarter campaign here and check it out!
Until next time,