Saturday night I was driving home with my family after a pretty grueling day at our restaurant. We were all tired, but the kids and I have a tradition of firing up the computers and playing The Old Republic. Something wasn’t sitting well with me, though, and we made a detour to our local game store.

I love video game night with my kids. It’s been a great tradition for half a decade now, and we’ve raided everything from the halls of Ogrimmar to the icy plains of Hoth. We’ve had a blast flying Starfleet’s finest and learning new dragon shouts. As fun as all of this has been, there is also a bit of disconnect present. We might be together, even in the same room, but we’re facing monitors. The immediacy of our family dynamic was being filtered through LED screens and questing; it was time for a change.

A little browsing at our LGS put that change right in my hands; We were all exhausted, but we couldn't wait to get home. We sat down and played our new game together for hours. As cliché as it sounds, this was a completely different game night. For one, my wife hopped right in (most video games bore her to death). We had a blast, and look forward to doing it again next week.

In the spirit of our newly-found pastime, I decided to explore some physical games and share them on the hallowed pages of Big Shiny Robot. Some of them have been out for a while. You might have even played them, maybe even a lot. But so many of us have been consumed with button-mashing and dungeon raids that a whole new world of GAMES was able to come into the world without most of us noticing!

First up is the game we picked up on Saturday, a morbid and highly entertaining card game called Gloom. Launched by Atlas Games onto an unsuspecting world in 2005, Gloom has you take control of one of four different families, and then make their lives a living hell before killing them off. Sound sinister? It is, and it's fun.  In the course of our first game, members of my twisted little family were mauled by a manatee, crippled by creditors, and ran out of air. I was also able to inflict a better life on the family that my daughter was playing, which made the game even more entertaining (queue sinister laugh).

Gloom uses clear cards that you lay over the base card for a character. You draw cards, and try to set the worst possible modifier cards in play on each character. Modifier cards introduce scenarios that have positive and negative effects to a character’s self-worth: your goal is to get each character’s self-worth into the negative as far as possible before killing them off, while heaping positive self-worth cards onto the characters of your opponents. If this seems a bit complicated there are walk-through videos on YouTube, and ">this little ditty from Atlas Games does a good job setting the mood of the game:

Gloom plays fast, and there are a lot of ways to cross and double-cross your opponents. The game design favors an Edward Gorey vibe, and the playful sense of humor employed keeps things from getting too grim. While the whole theme of inflicting misery and mayhem on a family of misfits might seem a little too morbid for kids, they will probably eat it up. There is a lot of strategy to learn here, and anyone over the age of 10 will have a great time with the game.

Picking Gloom up will set you back about $25.00, with additional expansions for the game going for $15.00 a pop. There is a lot to like with this fun and wicked little game, and it’s definitely worth switching the computer off for!

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