1-4 players, Competitive/Cooperative, Card Based Keyword Matching
Designer: Tristan Hall
Artwork: Ania Kryczkowska
Publisher: Hall or Nothing Productions
Release Year: 2017
Gloom of Kilforth is one that caught my eye primarily due to the engaging artwork. Then I started to hear little birds whispering to me about how fun the gameplay is. Eventually I was like, “ok good gravy I’ll check it out, shoo birds”. Got my hands on a copy and went through the rather extensive setup, took a small coffee break, went back to it to learn the rules. Now that I’ve played a few games, let’s see what I think about it.
Overview of Gameplay
In Gloom of Kilforth players will be choosing a race and a class like Dark Elf and Wizard for example and picking the specific card for each. Utilizing the hero they select they will also select a “Saga” which is a unique batch of chapter cards that the player will be working on defeating. These tell a story that work towards unlocking a powerful totem for the player to use, which will probably be needed during the final showdown against the end boss, aka the Ancient. Once all the Ancients have been defeated (1 per player in a co-op game), the players win! However if all the Night cards have been drawn out, then Gloom has settled over the entirety of the land and the players will lose.
So, in this game a typical player turn involves spending an Action Point (you have the same amount as Health points, which is four starting out) to do a number of things. Starting out you will usually find yourself either moving around the card based area or hiding. Hiding basically allows you to sneak past enemies that you might discover and is HIGHLY recommended especially if you have a low fight value. But anyway, once you start moving you will encounter different things and this is where a lot of the fun comes to play. The way the card map is setup you have 25 completely different location cards spread out that form the land of Kilforth. Each location is marked with one of four different terrain values: Badlands, Mountains, Forest and Plains and there is also the center card, Sprawl City that acts as a neutral zone. SO, when you move onto a new location you will draw a card from the corresponding terrain deck that matches that location. You will read the card and usually place it on that location, sometimes you will draw up an event which just happens and is discarded. But for the most part you will find all kinds of different things like unique places to explore or strangers to talk to or of course enemies to battle.
Resolving these encounters is the surest way to gain those keywords that you are looking for to complete your personal Saga’s chapters. You see each chapter in your saga has a few keywords on the bottom of the card and you need to roam around and discover these encounters with the appropriate keywords that you need. Once you find one you will need to pass a test to defeat it and collect the card. The tests are based around your characters stats of which there are also four: Fight, Study, Sneak and Influence. Usually you will use the Fight stat for enemy battles, the Study stat for Quests, the Sneak ability comes in handy for certain “Place” cards and of course for sneaking past enemies and the Influence stat is used quite a bit when encountering “stranger” cards. The cool thing is that you can stack up successes in a single day phase so you can spend multiple action points to eventually beat the test…..as long as you do it before you run out of AP’s and have to camp for the night, then everything resets. There are a few more minor tidbits of actions you can perform during the day phase such as clearing out obstacle tokens or hitting up the market at the city to buy or sell items, but this is for the most part the way the day phase will transpire.
After all players have used up their action points then the night phase starts up. During this phase a player will draw up a night card which will show one of the 25 lands being overcome with Gloom. You will flip that particular location card to the more “gloomy” side which shows that if a player ever ends their turn there, they will now take 1 point of health damage. Also the night card will have some kinda action such as a new enemy to be placed, weather effects or some other event that transpires. On top of all that the particular Ancient that you picked to go against at the beginning will be linked up with one of the four terrain types. If that type of land was flipped then you also have to draw a “Plot” card to place on the newly gloomed land. These little beasties will help the Ancient during the final battle in some way but also have a way to defeat them if you move to their spot.
After the night phase, players will regain action points based on how much health they have and start it all over again. Eventually once a player has completed a chapter in their Saga they will gain an extra health point (which in turn gains them more actions to spend the next day), a new ability based on their chosen class and a new chapter card to try and complete. So, over the course of the game, players WILL get stronger all in an effort to finally best the diabolical Ancient awaiting them.
(Note: I have the “Pimp My Gloom” Expansion pack which enhances some of the components) The components are pretty good overall. I do have some qualms about certain things, specifically the location cards and some of the tokens but for the most part I am impressed. The dice specifically are excellent! The normal game only comes with 6 dice (which is not enough imo) but with the expansion you get 12 total dice, 6 marbled white and 6 marbled black dice which look and feel incredible. You end up rolling more and more dice as your character grows so it’s nice to have enough dice to make a single roll instead of a couple rolls.
As far as the tokens are concerned most of them are nice little colored wooden pieces that dictate a few different things like obstacles and being hidden. There are also little red wooden heart tokens to track your health but weirdly enough they opted to have heart tokens dictate your action points, only in black. I thought this was a little odd at first but it actually makes sense if you stack the black hearts on top of your red ones. This really helps because when you receive damage you will not only remove a red heart but it also causes you to remove an action heart as well. Just one fell swoop and bam! The only tokens that are below average are the treasure tokens. These guys are just cardboard square tokens and the art and design of them are very bland when compared to the rest of the game. A small gripe honestly to otherwise excellent art and design throughout.
However my biggest gripe are the tarot sized location cards. Now granted I believe these are bigger because of the expansion and it’s not the size that bothers me, but the thickness. They are pretty thin all around I have seen some considerable warping already to the point I have to bend them all in the opposite direction to try and flatten then out a bit. Considering these location cards actually make up the entirety of the “game board” it would be nice to have them all sit flat and perhaps also have a linen finish to make them feel a bit more premium. So overall, nothing terrible but a few design choices that could be improved.
Nothing overly fancy about the box. You will want to bag up everything in specific bags as there are a lot of different card decks and tokens. This does make the game a bit of a bear to setup due to the large number of different decks that need shuffled and the variety of tokens to sort. Although there are a couple felt bags that can hold some things such as the dice and the many treasure tokens. The box is very compact though so it will easily find a space on a shelf and everything fits back in very nicely.
Visual Appeal /Theme
The theme is pretty generic fantasy with all the races and classes boiling down to typical fantasy tropes BUT the artwork is INCREDIBLE. Adorned throughout all the cards from the locations to the regular items you will find this outstanding artwork, and it never fails to impress. Heck one of the biggest reasons I get so excited to play this game is just for exploring around and getting to flip over a new encounter JUST to see what new visual candy I get. The flavor text on the cards is also really well done and adds to the art very well. And I know I said it’s just generic fantasy, but, this is REALLY well done generic fantasy. I mean the Dark Elf female race card looked so awesome that I didn’t even have to look through the rest of the race cards to pick one. I saw it and was like, “YEP gimmie that one, I don’t even know her strengths or weaknesses but she looks awesome”.
The rulebook is……ok. I did mention earlier how I took a small coffee break between setup and learning the rules for a reason. This game has a lot going on with the first time setup and playing and frankly is almost overwhelming. The rulebook is ok at explaining the setup but I did find moments where I had to flip around to learn about other things before I understood what I was reading at that moment. Also, and I am still struggling with this today, The whole “Deed” section still makes little sense to me. I understand that a “Deed” ability is basically a free action that can be taken based on what it says on the particular card being used but in the manual it lists all kinds of other “Deed’ abilities that I cannot link up with any card I’ve seen. The words don’t match and it’s confusing to me basically.
Also the plot cards and Ancient were a bit confusing to figure out as well and this ties back to those pesky “Deeds”. A prime example is that you need to perform an “Assault” Deed in order to attack the Ancient, which I never found the Assault keyword on any card so I’m assuming one does not exist even though the word Deed is aligned with multiple other words throughout. ANYWAY, it states in the manual that, “ Restriction: Hero must have completed their saga finale, they must be at the Ancient’s location, and that location must have no other encounters.” Ok, this is pretty cut and dry. BUT THEN, under the Ancient Battles section it states, “It is not mandatory for a hero in the same location as the Ancient to battle it, they must perform the Assault Deed to initiate battle with it.” Confusion abound. Perhaps I’m just dense and am not understanding the wording correctly, who knows.
Player Interaction/Fun Factor
Player interaction is very limited regardless of which mode you play, co-op or competitive. It basically boils down to adding an extra dice to roll per player that is at the same location at the same time during a test if playing co-op. This honestly would not get used that often considering the map size and players wanting to explore. Besides that, when playing co-op, there is one Ancient added for each player and no player can engage an ancient UNTIL their saga is complete. So, even though it’s co-op you will still be working alone to find what you specifically need. On the competitive game front whichever player defeats the Ancient first will win, which is a little better I think but at the same time a lot of that depends on luck of the draw with location encounters.
Now as far as fun is concerned, this game is OUTSTANDINGLY FUN when playing the solo game. I have a blast wandering around the card locations, eager to find new quests or strangers. And there is such a large variety of different encounters to experience that no two games will be alike. On top of that all the different kinds of rewards you can gain from these cards and the choices you have to make, whether to keep the card to use for its keywords or discard it to gain a shiny new helpful item, are just incredible. Furthermore, I absolutely love how the cards in your hand are referred to as “Rumors” and you actually have to travel to the specific location listed on them to put them into play as assets. This further enhances the theme into the gameplay as you are actually venturing throughout the land of Kilforth to investigate these “rumors” and realizing they are true!
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
Now this might have been obvious from my above rambling about the player interaction but I VASTLY prefer this game solo. There is too much downtime between turns for higher player counts and honestly since the player interaction is so low anyway, it’s just not worth it to play with more than two. Heck even at two it’s almost like you are playing two different games considering there are now two ancients to deal with instead of the usual one. Solo though is amazing and I like it SO much solo that I think this unseats my previous fav solo game, Mage Knight. (Mage Knight isn’t pure solo either but I think plays better solo).
The replay value is super high as well with the abundance of cards in each of the decks. You will always find new adventures awaiting when you draw terrain cards. More still are the different asset/rumor decks. There are four of these decks: Items, Spells, Titles and Allies. Each deck having a vast variety of different cards to choose from and in a single game you won’t hope to experience even a fraction of all of them. Add to all that the variety of different races and classes to choose from AND when you level up you get to choose one upgrade from two options each time. So you can always craft a different character based on how you want to play. It’s just awesome. THE ONLY thing that I think would round out the replayability would be to have a larger assortment of Night cards. You use all of them every game and even though they are shuffled, you will still expect the same. I would like maybe double the amount shuffled and then deal out the 25 you need per game so you always will be on your toes with the night events.
The Fuzzy Llama Golden Seal of Eternal EXCELLENCE
Positive Final Thoughts
Overall this game is my fav solo gaming experience. There is SO much variety with card draws and playstyle that you will experience a different game every time. The artwork and flavor throughout is incredible and just begs you to continue exploring just to see what is next. On top of that the game is just flat out fun! I enjoy the skill tests and the way they work and the abilities you can gain are all so interesting. Plus the way the game gives you choices of rewards when defeating encounters is great, do you keep the card for the keywords or discard it to gain a new rumor? It’s these kind of choices that really make the game shine. Highly recommend when playing solo!
Negative Final Thoughts
Some added clarity around the rulebook would be nice, especially concerning the “Deeds” stuff. The location cards could be a bit more premium considering they act as your game “board”. Also this game loses a lot of the fun when you add in more players unfortunately. Since there is very little player interaction and increased downtime it’s not one I can recommend if you play with groups.