An innovative take on the fantasy adventure genre, the game boasts incredible artwork and a superb theme. You are an adventurer looking to tell their tale in the form of a three part saga. Each part of the saga is completed by collecting keywords from locations and encounters.
As a first offering from designer Tristan Hall, this was a very ambitious project and 10 years on the making. His decision to use only one artist to produce the unique pieces of art for over 300 cards led to quite a big delay, but the result is a truly stunning looking game with a consistent feel. Every time you draw a card, you will spend a moment just taking in it’s beauty. This coherence really helps in immersing the players into a fantasy world akin to a Tolkien story.
You choose from a selection of heroes races and classes, the variety of which will give many combinations, keeping the game fresh. Then, choose a ‘saga’ – a personal quest spanning 4 chapters that you must complete before taking on the final, randomly selected Ancient One.
The map is set out in a 5×5 grid of location cards so each map layout will be slightly to different every game.
The game is played over 25 rounds, at the end of each, a random night card is drawn which causes one location on the map to fall into gloom and triggering either a random event or spawning an encounter at that location.
Heroes start with 4 health points and 4 action points and each time they complete a chapter of their saga, they get an additional HP as well as a choice of an enhanced skill card.
One of the cool mechanics in this game is that your action points are tied to your health, so as you start to take damage, you get fewer actions. Conversely, when you level up, you get an extra action point with your new health token. Action points refresh up to the heroes current HP at the end of each round and you can spend AP to heal. This leads to some great strategy in deciding when and how to take on the various enemies that will appear and where to move to on the map.
When you move into a new location, if there is nothing already there, you draw an encounter card from the corresponding deck and place it over the location. If it is an enemy, you must fight it immediately, if it is something else (an NPC, a special place or a side quest) then you may spend AP to try to win the encounter.
All encounters are resolved using dice rolls against one of the stats on the encounter (combat, stealth, knowledge or influence) You roll the amount of dice listed for that stat on your hero card, all of which can be boosted over the course of the game by playing cards from your hand into your tableau.
Successes are 5s & 6s and you must meet or exceed the life total on the encounter card to defeat it. The special thing here is that in most cases your successes can stack, so as long as you have enough AP, you can keep taking actions to roll more dice until you defeat the encounter. If you run out of actions and have to end your turn, all previous successes are lost and you must start again the next day.
As an aid, each hero gets 4 fate tokens one of which can be spent each day to provide 1 success so you can mitigate a bad die roll to a degree.
Each encounter card will have one or more keywords on it and it is these that you are collecting. Each chapter of your saga can be completed by discarding from your hand cards with specific keywords on them (and spending 5 gold) so you will be looking at the map to find cards relevant to your saga. The rules are pretty good and you can set up and start playing relatively easily while reading through. Your first game will take a few hours and there will be a bit of flicking back and forth through the book to check effects but there is a great glossary of terms on the back few pages that should cover most questions.
Once you’ve got the first game under your belt and the rules down however, the game will speed along and you will feel totally immersed in the world Tristan has created, assisted by the glorious art.
Another bonus is that this game has been designed from the ground up to be fully playable with one hero, so solo players can choose a character and follow it’s saga fully rather than having to play ‘overseer’ of a party.
Gloom of Kilforth deserves a high place in everyone’s collection if they are a fan of high fantasy and sprawling adventures. It’s scope is more akin to PC games like Skyrim more than card games like Lord of the Rings. Unlike other fantasy card games, everything is carefully designed and, despite drawing from random decks of cards for encounters, items and rewards, the cards come together to form a cohesive narrative. It doesn’t take much imagination to fill in the story as it unfolds and this was what really drew me to the game after demoing it at Harlequins in Blackpool prior to the Kickstarter launch. Gloom of Kilforth fired my imagination in a way that most other games hadn’t and the way the art, and the card text is designed acts like a framework to let you weave a unique narrative every game.