Publisher: Atlas Games
Year Made: 2005
Platforms: Tabletop - Card Game
Price: ~ $25
Content Areas: English
Suggested Age Level: Middle School, High School
Play Length: 60 minutes
Number of Players: 2-5
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Games are typically positive experiences that bring joy. Sometimes though, players are at their happiest when their characters are miserable (just ask any Sims player who has removed a pool ladder from a swimming Sim). Gloom is a morbidly fun game that requires players to tell the tragic stories of the members of a family and aim to have the most miserable family before killing them off with a flourish. The game ends when one family is killed off entirely, and the player whose family had the most miserable life is crowned the winner.
For all of its surface-level depression and despair, Gloom's strength is in its dark comedy. Events such as "Terrified by Topiary" give players a laugh and provide just enough of a creative springboard for them to explain how a dignified count could find himself "Pestered by Poltergeists." For players who create the story behind the events, it builds a world and cast of characters that are difficult to forget. The cards themselves are not only designed with a darker edge but are clear so players don't have to hassle with searching through their cards for which effect still applies. One glance at a character tells a player everything he or she needs to know.
Gloom is another game where students get out of it what they put into it. If players don't like creating the stories behind events, they can still play, but they lose some of the joy behind Gloom. The differences between some of the types of cards can also be tough to sort out at first, so it might take a few rounds to get the hang of the game.
Given its emphasis on storytelling, Gloom is a great addition to any English language arts classroom, especially around Halloween. It would also be a pretty entertaining pairing with Edgar Allan Poe or any story, such as "The Monkey’s Paw," that tells of a family's life gone wrong.
Like similar storytelling games, Gloom provides a scaffold for players to unleash their creativity and go wild. Gloom just tends to accomplish this in a darkly comedic way.
Educational Rating: 4/8
(Classroom Tech Friendly, Motivation, Concrete Learning, Additional Skills, Feedback, Difficulty, Accessibility, Extension)
Overall Rating: 8/8
(Immersion, Environment, Storyline, Replayability, Entertainment, Gameplay, Originality, User Control)