“All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” While Tolstoy was not talking about Atlas Games’s gothic storytelling game Gloom when he wrote this, he certainly could have been. All happy families have ugly ducklings, and all unhappy families have a teeming multitude of alliterative ills. While already a favorite for gloomy gaming tables the world over, Asmodee Digital teamed up with Atlas and Sky Ship Studios to bring this gothic game of fatal families to the digital realm in their latest adaptation.
The Pitiful Play
Gloom is a seemingly conventional game with an unconventional goal. You control a family, and you want to make them as miserable as possible…and then kill them. Sounds like a fun time, right? Gameplay proceeds the way it does in the card game: two actions and a draw step. Of those two actions, if a death is going to take place it must be done first.
In a four player game, I always had my family in front of me, and the family of the current player, or next player if it was my turn, across for me. To the right lies a scoresheet, and clicking on a score will bring that family across from you. The backdrop to all of this? Your family’s home, or graveyard, rather. It even changes color to match the family of the current player, to add an extra way to keep track of game progress.
The Loathsome Look
Gloom is a game that lives and, more usually, dies by its aesthetic. With an art style that is equal parts Edward Gorey, Tim Burton, and Charles Addams, and innovative translucent cards bedecked in funerary black and crimson, it’s immediately recognizable at any table. The new digital version made sure to keep the gloomy and cartoony look beloved of Gloom’s fans. Each doomed family member has animation and voice acting, and they even interact with the cards that are played onto them. They’ll bemoan their misfortune, celebrate their successes, and even assure you that it really isn’t that bad.
Samson O’Toole of Dark’s Den of Deformity even informed me that ducks were his favorite after being Delighted by Ducklings. The music keeps the tone somber, even with the ducklings.
The Vile Verdict
One of the things that hooked me on Gloom was its storytelling. Characters, go through a wild life before their inevitable demise, and getting those stories rolling in a group often leads to new interactions and stories I’d never seen before. My group had an unspoken rule that we had to make these stories make sense, connecting them whenever and wherever we could. A spoken rule was to keep the one dog in the game happy (Seriously, hurting that dog led to some intense revenge).
While you can keep stories like this going for yourself in the digital game—the cards are the same after all—you do lose that sense of group story telling when you play against AI or strangers over the internet.
Digital board game adaptions are creating a new market. Now that my gaming friends are spread out across four states, I understand the appeal of a new way to play. Even without teaming up online, how many times have you wanted to play a game but no one is available? Or wished you could practice before that next game night? This adaption of Gloom allows for all of that. The animation and soundtrack capture the feel of the game, and the mechanics are simple and easy to use. It’s not a perfect replacement for the real deal, but it’s still fun and a great way to make your friends and family miserable even from long distances.
Gloom: Digital Edition can be purchased on Steam for $6.99. Keep an eye on The Fandomentals for all the latest from Asmodee Digital!
Images courtesy of Asmodee Digital