This week’s game gives us a break from the “board” part of board games. Gloom has a pretty interesting mechanic going for it, being a Transparent Card Game. The game of Gloom has players choose from four families to take control of and send to their doom. Cards are distinguished by what part of the card itself is opaque. Character cards have colored portraits, death cards overlap the portraits, story modifiers cover the right side of the card, self worth (points) modifiers are on the left, and reaction cards are completely transparent outside of the description box. Players earn points by lowering the self worth of a character, but points only count when a character is dead, unless otherwise noted by a story card, and characters can only be killed if they have negative self worth. Story cards are special modifiers that act as bonus objectives for everyone playing. Once a player has killed all of their family members you tally up all of the dead characters “self worth”s and relevant modifiers, lowest score wins.
Right off the bat, I think it’s an interesting premise, I just wish more was done to reinforce it. It’s hard to feel gloom or anything really for the characters when I have no reason to care for them at all. There is no mechanical difference between family members or even families period, which I find disappointing. The characters are just place holders to stack modifiers on and have no impact on the game. I think an interesting tweak would be to have certain families already have certain story modifiers on their cards. Within the family you could even have different member have different perks to reflect their different portraits. This would add an extra layer of strategy, timing exactly when a member has used up their usefulness, or maybe encouraging you to kill another player’s character for them. That way we actually have a reason to care about the family members, and feel gloom once they are lost.
One more way to reinforce story with mechanics would be to have the story modifiers in the game be tier to certain types of bonus effect. Investigation story modifiers could offer the ability to see the next card in the deck, or a card in another players hand. Romance could allow simultaneous plays on two characters in the same family. Horror could have larger than normal self worth modifiers. Madness could steal modifiers. There’s just a lot of possibilities there and room for growth that I feel hasn’t been tapped into.