You awaken from a restless slumber, you can’t remember what happened the previous day. You have no memory of where you are or who you are. In front of you is a castle, it’s Dracula’s Castle. Dark, foreboding and filled with untold horrors.
You enter the castle, it is dark, it is dangerous and you are not alone. Hunt or be hunted. Explore the rooms, pick up weapons and artefacts but watch out for the traps that are around every corner and lurking in the shadows of every room.
You hear a noise coming from the round corner. Do you run and hide or do you take the fight to your enemies in attempt to become the lone survivor.
Dark, deadly and very dangerous, welcome to Dracula’s Castle, welcome to Damnation: The Gothic Game.
Damnation: The Gothic Game is the second edition of the 1992 classic, The Gothic Game, originally designed by Nigel Andrews and Robert Wynne-Simmons. Damnation is being designed by Kris Rees and published by Blackletter Games. It is a competitive, dark, gothic horror game for three to six players. Explore Dracula’s Castle, collect cards, weapons, protection, actions and reveal and fall foul of random events. Each player will take on a role with two generic abilities and two special abilities.
In Damnation players will take move around the castle by rolling a d6 and a castle die. The castle die will potentially cause players to draw from the castle deck or acticvate traps as well as giving players extra movement.
In the resolution phase players can declare “power of adjaceny” if they are next to another character. This allows you to move the other player on their turn and make them go in to a room they didnt want to, activate a trap, move closer to Dracula or just generally cause them harm and hassle. Players can also attack other players using weapon cards if they are in range, with the player being attacked losing health.
After the resoution phase players might be able to perform additional actions from cards or abilities that their character has.
At the end of a player’s turn they discard down to their hand limit and play passes to the next player.
Depending on what rooms a player ends up various rules will change. For the most part players will draw a card from the respective room deck. However, special rules, events and actions happen if you enter the vault, courtyard, the Dark Tower, the Moat and the Spiral Staircase.
The game ends when all but one player has been eliminated (yes there is player elimination). The second edition comes with variants for team player, classic play and the option to remove the player elimination. Players can also become a Vampire.
If you have got this far and paid attention to the above then you have probably noted that Damnation has two interesting mechanisms, roll to move and player elimination but dont be put off. Before you go and read something else thinking this is not for you I just need to say that this game is absolutley fantastic and a barrel of laughs. I urge you, nah, I beg you to keep reading.
So, roll to move is, I admit, an uncommon mechanism in modern day board gamin, high luck, you can get done over by the dice etc etc. Player elimination in a 45-60 minute game, not too everyones taste, including mine if I am honest. But I tell you, despite the dark, twisted horror theme this game generates so many laughs, groans and fantastic gameplay moments. For some reason, these two, sometimes, uncommon mechanisms have produced a fantastic game. One of the big reasons I play games is to interact with other people and have a good time. Damnation delivered this in bucket loads of dark, blood curdling laughter.
When a player is eliminated they reveal one of a number of Deathkneel cards. These cards significantly change the game and generally make it easier for other players to die/be killed. These cards significantly accelerate the end game. “All weapons do 10 damage” for example means that any hit with a weapon on an opponent is insta-kill (in most cases). Coupled that with “players can attack in standard rooms” will result in the end game coming very quickly. In one game that I played one of the players went in to the torture chamber (fully aware that there is card that will eliminate them from the game) and got eliminated with the iron maiden. He groaned and we all laughed (as did he eventually). I asked him how he felt about being eliminated and having to sit around for two rounds and his words were “It was really good fun watching you all hunt each other down”. The game ended pretty quickly after his elimination, the Deathkneel cards ensured that.
The cards that you draw from the room decks have a mix of good and bad things and there is real tension when you draw them. You need to go in to the rooms to draw weapons and items that will help/protect you, but on the flipside you are wary about what you might find.
You can become the Vampire. The Vampire is super powerful, he rolls two movement dice and can zip around the board chasing you down. If he lands on or passes over a player the Vampire bites them and they are eliminated. But the Vampire only has six turns before he has to return to the Crypt, otherwise they are eliminated from the game. It is great fun watching everyone scatter and scurry when the Vampire comes near them.
I haven’t played The Gothic Game that this second edition is based, but I have played this, a fair few times now and each time I have had such good fun. And that is one of the reasons I play games. If you are looking for a horror game dripping in theme, that has players laughing when they declare power of adjacency, crying out in anguish when they cant escape the moat or just want something to whittle away an hour with your mates over a beer then I recommend that you check out Damnation when it hits Kickstarter on 24th October 2019.
Please note – Damnation: The Gothic Game was provided as a review copy from Blackletter Games.