2-5 players, 1 vs Many, Deduction/Hidden Movement
Overview of Gameplay
Fury of Dracula has undergone a few different versions over the years but for the most part has only gotten better with age. For this review I will be taking a look at the Fantasy Flight 3rd edition, however I will point of the differences between the 3rd and the newest 4th edition version which is published by a totally different company, Wizkids.
In the game one player will act as Dracula himself with the other players acting as famous vampire hunters trying to hunt him down and bring his evil reign to a bloody end. As the Dracula player you will be hidden from sight on the board, as in your miniature will not be ON the board until you are discovered. You will track your location by a series of cards that you lay face-down on the edge of the board as you move to new locations to avoid detection by the hunters. Of course all the while you will be trying to spread the vampiric curse to new locations to strengthen your overall influence and slow/weaken the hunters.
As the hunter players you will be trying to track down Dracula by finding his trail and defeating him. They will each have a miniature always displayed on the board at specific locations so the Dracula player will always know where they are. During their turns they will move about during the “day” phase to different towns and cities. They can supply up during day or night which allows them to draw a card BUT, and this is super cool, if they supply during the day the draw from the top of the deck. However if they supply during the night they have to draw from the BOTTOM of the deck. Mixed in with these cards are helpful cards for Dracula himself and if a hunter draws a Dracula card from the bottom, unseen from him until drawn, then he HAS to hand it over to Dracula. Such a risk! But so much excitement and fun. The hunters can also search locations to try and uncover potential lairs that Dracula has created or trade with other players and of course battle Dracula if found.
The Dracula player will win the game if they are able to advance the Influence track to 13 which is done by defeating Hunters, maturing vampires at locations or resolving a particular combat card during battle. The Hunters win the game if they are able to apply 15 damage tokens to Dracula which is basically his health total.
Overall I am really impressed with the 3rd editions components. Fantasy Flight always does a great job with their miniature quality and card stock quality. The cards all have a nice linen finish and feel great. The game board is huge and looks awesome. The colors are pretty muted but I love the look, it almost reminds me of one of those old time maps with the colors they use and indeed it is a map of Europe.
There are a variety of different tokens that are employed to use and are all of a nice thick cardboard quality although the sheer amount of different tokens can be overwhelming trying to sort out. Although personally I don’t think it’s too terribly bad compared to some games setup.
The newer 4th edition version has fully painted miniatures with slightly different sculpts and larger poker sized cards. This is all a matter of preference really as these changes don’t change the gameplay at all but I will say the painted minis are really nice.
For the 3rd edition you are getting the same ol same ol shipping insert you’ve come to expect with any Fantasy Flight game. Nothing fancy and you will need to sort and bag up all the different tokens. Sadly enough Wizkids didn’t improve on this aspect when they released the 4th edition and kept the same insert.
Visual Appeal /Theme
The game look great visually and the theme is excellent. A perfect Halloween game with vampire hunters trying to track down Dracula. I already mentioned how awesome the board looks and the minis look great on the board as well. The cards artwork is excellent and the text on the items and encounter cards is also thematic. Overall this game is super high on my list for thematic games.
The game comes with a “learn to play” and “rules reference” guide that allows you to jump in and start playing as well as learn all the finer points as they come up. And honestly I found the guides excellent. The setup has a nice picture with numbered bolded sections to help easily see what you need to do. The actions for each player are decently simple and have their own specific sections explaining each with pictured examples. Beyond that the only complicated things I ran into were the many “off-rules” that pop up such as maturing vampires and the combat actions but these all have sections explaining as well.
There are also a number of “advanced rules” that utilize components and cards that are normally left out of a regular game that can be implemented when hunters are more experienced and want a bit more of a challenging Dracula.
Player Interaction/Fun Factor
This is huge for this game. Seriously you CANNOT play this game without interacting with the other players. As the hunters you will want, nay, NEED to converse with the other hunters to form a strategy on how to track down Dracula as time is of the essence. And once found, how to take him down as he is one very formidable opponent. Heck even Dracula interacts with the other players although usually not in a pleasant way.
I will say that the Dracula player’s fun factor is completely different from the hunter’s fun factor. As the hunters you will work as a team each forming a small part of the larger whole. Trading and conversing and always on the edge of your seat worrying that you may never find Dracula in time. However as Dracula you are sitting back, calm and collected biding your time plotting out devious maneuvers in your head on where you think you should move next to try and create the most devious and complex web of trails to keep the hunters guessing. Of course that’s what you want them to believe. Often times I would try and put off the persona of complete calm but when I noticed a player move a hunter to a town directly next to me I would instantly panic in my mind. “Unholy crap! I’m going to be found!!!” And then the next turn they move a different direction and I inwardly breathe a sigh of relief. The point is, this game will keep you on your toes regardless which side you play on.
It has to be said there is a bit of downtime as each player will take actions and make critical decisions, especially if and when combat happens. Although personally I didn’t have much problem with the downtime as I found it enjoyable to watch the other players turns to see what would happen.
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
Optimal is five players all the way. One for Dracula and then four more players each controlling one of the different vampire hunters, which by the way all have asymmetric abilities at their disposal. And even though the game states 2-5 players, even if you play a two player game the hunter player will be controlling all four of the hunters. So TECHNICALLY it can be played with less than 5 players but not really as no matter what you control all the hunters every time.
Replayability is ok. Nothing about the game really changes persay with every play unless the players switch off who is playing Dracula, then you really have a different experience. Otherwise players are going in and doing the same thing every time. With Dracula of course you will choose different paths and locations to move around but that’s about as much an extent of difference as you are going to get.
The Fuzzy Llama Silver Seal of Distinction
Positive Final Thoughts
By far my favorite hidden deduction game. I’m really big on the theme and this game does an excellent job at capturing it. There is so much excitement that comes from so many aspects of this game such as the night card draws and the thrill of seeing if it’s going to pay off for the hunter or Dracula. And the stress the game creates from being SO close to either defeating Dracula but then he turns into mist and escapes or a hunter being in a location right next to you and you not knowing which way they are planning on moving.
Negative Final Thoughts
So the game is rather lengthy. I didn’t mention this earlier but expect to drop about 3 hours on a single play of this. For me that’s not too bad since our groups typically have a great time playing but for those looking for a standard hour and half game this won’t do. Another thing to be aware of is the movement can be CRITICAL for Dracula and needs to be carefully watched. Playing as Dracula you can easily trap yourself into a situation that’s just bad and worse. For example one time I had moved along a coast with the hunters close on my trail. I had a single life point left, was on the verge of death and only too late realized I was trapped as I could not move back to a location that I previously moved from. The ONLY option was to move into the water…..which harms me. Since that was my only move on my turn and I HAD to move, I basically unwillingly committed suicide in the Mediterranean Sea which brought the game to an abrupt and un-fun end for everyone.