Adam and I have been discussing new things to do for the website and the show. On one such brainstorming session, the following conversation occurred.
ADAM: Scott, you magnificent bastard. You have a whole room full of board games.
SCOTT: Yes. Yes, I do.
ADAM: You should review all of them.
SCOTT: That’s insane. I have way, way too many of them. It would take years.
ADAM: Do it anyway!
So here we are. Welcome to Scott’s Game Review Corner. And our first subject of review is the remake of the 1987 board game “The Fury of Dracula”, now called “Fury of Dracula.”
Fury of Dracula (2006)
Game Design: Stephen Hand & Kevin Wilson
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Number of Players: 2-5
Time: 2-3 hours
“Fury of Dracula” is a fantastic and very thematic board game by the amazing team over at Fantasy Flight Games. In fact, I should preface by noting that I have yet to actually play a FFG game that I haven’t enjoyed. They’re big into games that are atmospheric and story driven, and we’ll be looking at more and more of their games as this series goes on.
But that’s a little off topic.
“Fury of Dracula” is, essentially, a continuation of the novel “Dracula” by Bram Stoker. Dracula has returned from the dead, and looks to get vengeance upon the hunters who defeated him once before, while planting the seeds of an empire of undeath across Europe. Now, Dr. Seward, Lord Godalming, Professor Van Helsing and Mina Harker have come back together to put an end to the count’s evil once and for all.
Lets start with a look at the various components that come with the game. “Fury of Dracula”, like most FFG games, is beautifully designed, with high quality components and art.
The game comes with five character cards, various tokens, several card decks, dice, and five wonderful plastic character tokens. I wanted to include a picture of the player tokens, but unfortunately my shitty camera couldn’t manage it. I did manage a picture of the excellent board.
The play area is a map of Europe, broken into west and east. There is also an area to keep track of the time of day, counters for the hunters and Dracula to monitor their strengths, and a track where Dracula lays out his location cards.
While we’re on the subject of game components, here’s a little something I wish more games came with.
A sectioned plastic insert in the box. This makes keeping various tokens and card decks separate a snap and makes it easier to put the game away. Take note other game designers – you should all be doing this.
The game itself is fairly straightforward. One player is Count Dracula. His goal is to score 6 points, at which point he will win the game. He earns points by creating powerful vampire thralls, defeating the hunters in combat, and just surviving long enough. The other players are the hunters, who are on his trail. They win the game with nothing less than Dracula’s death – by reducing him to zero blood tokens.
The Dracula player, as he is competing with up to four other people, is much stronger than the mere mortals who hunt him. He has a lot more health, is stronger in combat – especially at night, more on that in a moment – and has access to some fairly devious and terrible vampiric powers.
But the Count is not omnipotent. He has limitations, and weaknesses. Crossing water is taxing to the count, costing him a point of blood. He is also distrustful of modern transportation, preferring his carriage – he will not make use of the train, giving the hunters the ability to move around the board faster than him.
Dracula is not stupid, though. He knows his enemies are many, and that they are formidable in their own ways. For this reason, he moves in secret across the board – leaving a trail of clues for the investigators to follow, and perils to harass them along the way.
Each of the hunters has their own strengths and weaknesses. Lord Godalming is tough, granting him a bonus in combat, and can use his family’s wealth to catch the fastest trains across the county. Dr. Seward is ever prepared, giving him the ability to hold an extra item or event card, and can help his allies recover faster. Van Helsing is motivated getting extra actions, and is wilful enough to shrug off a vampire bite. Mina Harker is well organized, and can go through the decks faster finding useful items.
Play starts with Dracula’s turn. First, time progresses. There are six phases of the day, 3 daytime and 3 nighttime. The hunters have the advantage in the day phases, while Dracula is strongest at night. Next, the count choses a location to travel to using a deck of location cards. He can only follow the path from one city to the next, and cannot double back easily. Dracula then takes an action, by either laying a trap for his pursuers, or attacking them directly.
Next up, the hunters each take a turn, moving along the board after the elusive count, and taking actions to search, rest and resupply.
The game proceeds, with the hunters and Dracula playing a game of cat-and-mouse until one side has claimed victory.
Combat is a common element in the game, as the hunters do battle with either Dracula or his various minions. The mechanic is a sort of rock-paper-scissors, combined with die rolling. Both players involved in the combat draw a tactics card, revealing them at the same time.
They then each roll a die, adding any modifiers that may be in play. The winner of the die roll looks at their card, and determines the effect that happens next based on what their opponent’s card was.
The game is also affected by events. Any time a hunter resupplies they may draw event cards, and any time they rest they must draw two of them. Event cards add an element of risk. The majority of them are cards that are to the benefit of the hunters, but mixed in are events that are actually beneficial to the count! Event cards are drawn from the bottom of the deck, so the hunters never know if they’re about to draw a card that could help them, or hinder them. For the hunters, events can be anything from a helpful tip, a useful ally, or a daring escape in the nick of time. For Dracula, events could be a fearful horse or terrible storm that leads a hunter astray, or the devilish power to foil their best laid plans.
I’m going to talk for a moment about the overall feel of the game, too. I, personally, prefer games that are little more “immersive” – games where the theme and atmosphere help to draw me in. Now, for many of you, this is going to result in some head scratching. “How do you have theme and atmosphere in a board game?”
Well, you add flavour text, art, and you design the gameplay elements in such a way that they almost tell a story. A good board game is fun. An excellent board game is fun, and has a discernible beginning, middle and end. And by the endgame, it should feel like things have come to a climax.
Contrast with “Monopoly”, where by the endgame you want to slit your wrists. “Can we just say Dad’s the winner and go do anything else?”
Well, “Fury of Dracula” is an excellent game in this sense. The design of the gameplay is elegantly interwoven with the Vampire hunt, and the feel is desperate and dark whether you play as Dracula or one of the hunters. And the drama of the game definitely builds, creating some desperate, exciting moments, and building to a strong endgame scenario as either side makes a push for victory.
A special shout out here goes to the wonderful art in this game. It’s dark, haunting, and effective – and surprisingly sparse. Few of the cards have pictures on them, but what art there is beautiful and very appropriate.
This coupled with appropriate flavour, and a clear understanding of the “Dracula” story by the designers. The game really does follow a narrative that is a believable continuation of the classic novel.
“Fury of Dracula” is a fantastic game, with a great deal of replayability. The theme is carefully woven into the game play, and most importantly it’s fun. The hunters must work together to bring down Dracula, who smugly watches them plan while secretly planting the seeds of their doom. The strategies available to the Dracula player are many – he can be a cautious creature of the night, always a step ahead of the hunters while leaving vampiric thralls in his wake; or a bold aggressor, hunting his foes just as they hunt him.
Likewise, the hunters have many options available. They can spread out in search of Dracula and his minions, or stick together to bolster their strength. They can make haste to hunt the count quickly, or risk biding their time to gather the tools that can give them the edge.
In the end, I highly recommend “Fury of Dracula.” It’s got a great Gothic feel, and it’s damned fun to boot. Especially with a full five players.