Gloom: A Card Game of Schadenfreude

Ayen January 6, 2011 1 Comment »

Card Game Published by Atlas Games

2-4  players

Ages 8+

Approximately $25



Some people believe that humor only comes at the expense of others.  While  some people think LOL Cats prove/disprove this theory, most of us still think it’s funny when someone gets hurt, regardless of whether the act was something common that went wrong or something derived from sheer stupidity.  The card game Gloom is a game inspired by Edward Gorey, in which you make horrible things happen to a family of five before killing them off.  That makes the game pretty hilarious.

This LOL cat is actually funny.

To go into a bit more detail, each player has five cards in front of him that represents five people, one family, in his control.  There’s no bonus or drawback for a particular family; me, I like to take charge of Castle Slogar, a family full of constructs and sick scientists (Everyone needs a hobby). Cards are dealt from a deck and then used to varying effects, either making your own family suffer or by bringing good karma upon the neighbors.  You can torture your family in all kinds of ways: they can “contract consumption” or be “beaten by beggars.” Or if your fellow players are feeling “generous” (read: don’t want you to win), your family members can find themselves “finding love on a lake” or “having picnics in the park.” All of these things will give the character either negative Pathos Points or positive Pathos Points. You want as many negative points as possible.

One of the neatest things about the game is the cards themselves. All of the cards are made of transparent plastic which you play on top of each other in order to change the character’s Pathos Points.  To demonstrate, Lord Slogar, your neighborhood Brain in a Box, is going to help us out by letting us ruin his life. Slogar’s card is on the left and a modifying card is on the right.

This is Lord Slogar. We are going to ruin his life.

I wish I could make the flavor text clearer for you since it’s one of the great things about this game, but we’ll focus just on mechanics for now. Lord Slogar is one of the five family member cards that I control. His card will remain in play until he dies a miserable death.

Galled By Gangrene: Who likes to lose a limb?

The card on the left is Lord Slogar. The card on the right says “Galled by Gangrene” and is the beginning of the end of his life. The circle at the upper left is a -15 (so negative Pathos Points; we like those). The icon at the lower right is a skull, but we’re not going to talk about those. The icons come into play when a card says something like, “if this card has the Skull icon, lose 10 Pathos Points.” Pretty basic and not nearly as exciting as cruelty.

To give Lord Slogar gangrene, we’re just going to place one card on top of the other…

Now he has gangrene. Poor brain in a box.

And there you have it: Lord Slogar has gangrene. Those negative Pathos Points will be added to his total when you score up in the end. But we’re not content just leaving him with rotting limbs. No, no, we’re meaner than that, aren’t we? So let’s say that he’s not only been galled by gangrene, but now he’s going to be cornered by cultists. By playing that card on top of his current stack, we can add more negative Pathos Points and make him more miserable.


Whatever is showing on top, that’s the current rating, whether it’s adding a couple numbers together or not. Some cards will have a number that will cover up another number; the visible one is what is counted. By the time he dies, Lord Slogar will have been Galled by Gangrene and Cornered by Cultists. Then he was Shunned by Society and finally drowned in a bog. And as we see, he had negative 15(3) = 15 Pathos points.

Make all 5 of your family members miserable and kill them off before any one else murders his family and you win!

I’m sure you can see the blurry text at the bottom of each photo. That’s either flavor text or basic game directions like skipping a turn.

I love this game not only for the schadenfreude, but for the storytelling aspect. It’s not enough to say he was Galled by Gangrene; he’s a Brain in a Box, so how does he get gangrene? Well, “Although life in a box seemed to be simple and safe, Lord Slogar soon learned that being in a box is anything but safe. Some experience pain in phantom limbs but for Lord Slogar, even though they were not attached, those limbs were very, very real.  And so one night…” You fill in the rest. And isn’t that much better than saying, “I play Galled by Gangrene. Neg 15 points.”?

Notes on Gloom:

-Make sure you play on a small table (or other such area) so that you can all read the negative points of each other’s families.  It’s annoying to constantly ask, “Wait, how many negatives does the Grave Digger have?  Okay, how about the Brain in the Box?”

-Get into it!  It’s much more exciting to tell the story than to add up the points.

-The game gets more complex, but not more complicated, as you add more players.

-While each family has its own color, they all show red when the characters are killed. Differentiate them in some way from the rest of the family. We push them forward or sideways, just something to show that this person has kicked the bucket.

Enjoy! Happy gaming! Make Edward Gorey proud!

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One Comment

  1. GreenEggsNSammNo Gravatar January 6, 2011 at 11:05 am - Reply

    OMG I must play this game! It sounds awesome!

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