October 04, 2011

Fury of Dracula

I like horror games. Shocking, I know. The biggest issue with horror games isn't that they're scary and that people don't want to play them. The issue is that a lot of people think it's a little odd to play horror games at say...Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or at your birthday party. That makes Halloween a sort of horror gaming feast to the rest of the year's famine. With that in mind I scheduled nothing but horror board games for the entirety of October's events.

The first game played was a new game to my collection, but not a new game. The version of Fury of Dracula that I bought is produced by Fantasy Flight Games, but is actually a remake of an older game of the same name, produced by Games Workshop. I sort of have a love-hate relationship with Games Workshop, because I think they make great stuff but it's generally too expensive. I also have a lot of trouble finding people to play Warhammer 40k with that I don't greatly disklike, so that's always an issue too.

And...once again I'm off topic.

Where was I now...oh right! Fangs, capes, stakes, holy water and a merry chase for a bloodthirsty monster through 19th century Europe.

Regardless of how many players take part in the game, all four hunter characters must be used to track down Dracula. With four players this left one hunter to be shared around amongst our three hunter players, which proved a little odd.

Scott, joining us for a Monday session the first time, elected to play Dracula. Sebastien, William and I took the roles of hunters; Lord Godalming, Dr. Seward for Seb and Will respectively, with me playing Mina and keeping an eye on Van Helsing. We doled out all the cards and counter tokens, and Dracula made his first move.

Our first day started off with a stroke of luck, Lord Godalming hit upon an early clue and we were hot on Dracula's trail. Mina decided to take to the sea in hope of heading Dracula off to the north, while the men closed in from east, south and west. As the day waned they had started pushing the Count south towards the coast and the good Doctor was able to force a quick encounter. Taking some scratches himself seemed a small price to pay as night fell; Dr. Seward landed a lucky blow with a stake causing Dracula a grievous wound and forcing him to retreat.

With full dark upon us Lord Godalming continued to chase the Count down, his trusty dogs lending him courage. Another fight ensued, but Dracula's increased strength made for a much more evenly-matched encounter, or would have if Seb hadn't thrown things into disarray by tossing handfuls of garlic at the Count as he dove into the fray. Unable to fight effectively Dracula once again made his retreat.

Surrounded on all sides we fully expected Dracula to take to the sea, but Mina's arrival from her voyage allowed her to telegraph ahead and notify the port authorities to the Count's movements. Effectively hemmed in he was forced to take wolf form and move secretly around our group, but only a few cities away.

Mina and Van Helsing were both able to track Dracula, but once again he chose to make a getaway rather than stay and fight. As the second day turned to night, with the hunters still hot on his trail, a singular bat was seen flitting through the cold evening air. Dracula had escaped us!

Our game took a full three hours and we ended it with no definitive winner. It was our first play and none of us had played before so there was a LOT of flipping through the rule book. The game has very nice components and a strong attention to theme, but still lacking a truly strong sense of danger or horror for the heroes. I think it's much more intense for the Dracula player as he gets to listen to all of the players' plans and formulate his escape, or ambush!

I do feel that the game is a little bit "swingy" in that fortunes for one side or the other can change very rapidly. While this can be a good thing, it can also be frustrating and lead to players feeling like they haven't accomplished much. This is especially true after having tracked and cornered Dracula over a several turns, only to have him to somehow escape to ANY space on the board.

I think playing with a full complement of 5 players would work best, but perhaps 3 players (with hunter players controlling two hunters each) would work well too. I'm sure the next play of this game will be much more fun!

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