Before I launch into extended ramblings of inane drivel, and also point out this is my firstest ever attempt at doing the writted type writing about board-games, it goes without saying, first and foremost, that I am a huge, nay, colossal fan of this particular solo/co-op title and all that follows will be, without contradiction, nothing but a biased opinion. What about OBJECTIVITY? I hear you cry….well on this occasion,,,pants to that!
So What’s All The Fuss About?
Where to start? It has to be the Art…oh yes!! As Gloom of kilforth is a high fantasy adventure card game, it is only fitting that the world of Kilforth is brought to life in a striking fashion
…and boy, does it come to life?! Ania has produced a gazillion individual pieces of artwork that lavishly, nay, spectacularly breathe life into this world. Since backers of the first GoK Kickstarter campaign have started to receive and feverishly tear the shrink-wrap off their copies of the game, most report an inability to actually play the game as they find themselves transfixed, drooling in awe at, and appreciation of the masterful artwork on the cards.
The art is special, yes, but don’t be fooled into thinking that this is just some glossy veneer pasted over a mediocre, contrived mechanic. Gloom of Kilforth has a smooth, dare I say elegant, structure. We, the hero, journey through kilforth uncovering the secrets the land has to hide. It takes me back to my teens and the epic fighting Fantasy novels…that choose your own adventure feel taking your hero where you will, encountering local Kilforthians, finding tasty treasures, fisticuffs with disgusting beasties and the like, improving stats and the age-old tradition of leveling up. All in an endeavor to be strong enough, healthy enough and equipped with suitably absorbent underwear to take on the rather disturbing Ancient Ones. It’s not role-play, nor rigid board game, nor pot-luck dice fest, nor worker placement nor a bowl of custard but a wonderful blend of all theses things and more, whilst still retaining its own unique identity.
The fuss is about a sumptuous, unique adventures every time one ventures into kilforth.
A Journey Begins By Francesca Hall -GoK OST
Immersion or Subversion?
Seeing as I have already waxed lyrical about the marvelous achievements of Ania’s illustrations it might be obvious that I see this as Immersive. Not just because it looks and wears fancy-pants, but because the way each location offers varied and challenging ways to ‘kick your head in’…I mean, interact with. You have a long term goal of duffing up an Ancient…
…but on that perilous journey there are rumors of allies, treasures, spells and titles of grandeur, all of which force the player to choose which, if any, they wish to pursue. It is so much more than turn a card over, roll a dice, pocket the reward. One really has to interact with the locals, to search, beg, borrow and steal a way through this enchanting world.
Players may take on the role of a wide range of fantasy races, but each race is additionally paired with a trait/special characteristic lending the choice of character combinations not to be endless, but certainly hugely variable, pairing a multitude of interesting skill set and ability combinations.
A personal favorite is the synergy between health and action points. Directly linked so that, let’s say, getting a black eye from an unruly Hobgoblin could impact on the number of actions for future turns and consequently forcing a well crafted strategy to be rapidly rethought. And thus we, the heroes, are forced to make difficult life choices. Jump into combat and run the risk of losing health and action points or bury one’s head in the sand and ignore everything…or even use the Hide ability to sneak upon or past risky situations.
…did I Mention Gloom?
…each turn a card is turned from the Night deck (and there is rarely anything nice to come out of it) rain, snow, gales, hail, more beasties and each card drawn from this night deck causes a location to fall into Gloom. So! I hear the cynics cry. So Gloom locations are so….Gloomy….they eat away at your health, making life that little bit more tricky to navigate through. It doesn’t stop there. Oh no! there are 25 locations and 25 Night cards. if, by the turn of the last night card (forcing the last location into gloom) Heroes have yet to dispatch the Ancient one, it’s good bye Kilforth. The land succumbs to the despicable influence of the Ancient one and Gloom does spread all around. An excellent, and certainly during my games, a sphincter squeaking timer mechanic!
There are so many nice little touches I’ve not even mentioned but I’m not about to do a How-to-play narrative, which is probably sensible considering the significant cock-ups I always seem to make…but that’s the beauty of solo play…there is only me, myself and I to witness such events.
Wood, chits and Card board bits:
Ivory core cards and well crafted wooden components,high printing quality, well constructed box all confirm that this is a game of quality. I would have liked to have seen custom carved cheese dice, but we can’t have everything can we? I wonder if I mentioned the art?
Meeples & Standees:
Tristan Hall: top bloke, all round nice guy and designer of the game
Francesca Hall: writer of pianistic sounds, haunting melodies and lyrical word type bits for the amazing Gloom of Kilforth OST
The Gloom by Francesca Hall -GoK OST
As this was designed from the outset as a solo/coop tasty little morsel, one would expect it to be soloable…and, surprisingly enough, it is. I have regularly ventured into Kilforth with a couple of heroes working cooperatively and it is a veritable blast. It’s a little more scary going it alone as two can explore quicker than one, and it’s astonishing how quickly the gloom catches up with you. Once familiar with the rules (which holistically are not difficult, but have quite a few details to remember) the game flows surprisingly well…actually not surprising at all as, during the Kickstarter campaign, it became abundantly clear that this was going to be a pretty special solo game. It can be played with multiple players both cooperatively and competitively but, BSoMT is about that solo experience after all.
The Real Nitty Gritty (thanks to Carbon Dragon for suggesting this section)
- Winners and Losers: Is this game winable solo? Yes! Is this game easily winable?…not on your nostril hairs. This is an epic adventure across the whole of Kilforth. High points and low points, all part of an epic fantasy journey. Many times I have been within a millimeter of winning only to fall at the last hurdle…but when an Ancient One is vanquished, the elation of victory is immense!
- Rules is Rules is Rules: There is a fairly substantial but wonderfully illustrated rule book. The rules themselves, in the 31 pages, are mostly intuitive and are accompanied by numerous gameplay examples but there is a lot of new concepts to uncover so re-reading the rule book is a necessity. Once playing the game, it is a simple process to understand but is less simple to explain. I didn’t experience any real difficulty but there were a number of ambiguities that some readers struggled with. There has been a reprint of the game which has had a reworked rule book which has addressed the issues. Fortunately Tristan is always on hand in the Gloom of Kilforth facebook page to answer player’s questions. Link to the rules from the latest Kickstarter campaign
- Lucky Buggers: For the majority of the game it is the wits of a player that govern what happens, which direction a character may run in a headless fashion but, and it is inevitable, luck must feature in a game to add variability. It is complete pot luck when entering a a location as to what encounter will jump out of the gloom…and that is a good thing…it is unexplored territory so we shouldn’t expect a regulated encounter. However, once nan encounter is….well, encountered, let the dice fest begin. Many interactions are dice driven including combat so those who are frustrated by human hating cubes be mindful. All that said, there are ways to mitigate some of the luck element…increasing dice pool (as most rolls need 5 or 6), using luck tokens, using the hiding ability…or simply avoiding a location that is renowned for harboring nasties! There is a lot of luck driven elements but these add to the experience.
- Lows and Highs: This is a dark fantasy world lavishly illustrated with numerous unpleasant encounters, aggressive beasties and some exceedingly disturbing Ancient Ones but despite this somber theme, there is no element of despair, depression or gloom (despite what you read in the title). It has a dark theme but does not fall into that dark gothic horror feel. The gameplay is uplifting, exilerating and most enjoyable. The imigary too, as dark as this aspect is, is an absolute wonder to behold. Playing Gloom of Kilforth is a high fantasy adventure that is so much more uplifting than the title may infer.
- Footprints All Over The Table: The size of this game is very much down to personal preference. Not that you can choose to have it just a few centimeters by a few centimeters. By that I mean if you are happy to have all the cards placed very close together and are content with having little breathing space, it is possible to fit this in to a space about 70cm x 90cm for a solo game…well I have managed that. But this does have a fairly big footprint on the table if one wishes to play comfortably, so be warned. That said, as this is a card based game, there is far more flexibility with positioning so a square space is not necessary.
Me, Myself and I:
I, we, us…my whole collective found this thoroughly entertaining. It does look great, though A5 card size would be even better to see the art…mind you, that would need a football pitch to lay out the components…but the gameplay is so engaging. It does take a little to get all the small rule details committed to memory but to actually play, the brain isn’t forced into a melting cauldron of mechanics, modifiers, sodifiers and what ever elseifiers. It is straight forward, and in my case, leaves my brain to firstly enjoy the adventure and secondly plan what needs to be done. It’s like living a Fighting Fantasy book or playing D&D but without the fuss. Now I’m a little more familiar with Kilforth and its inhabitants, I can make more informed choices about where I go to see a man about a dog…but, after an absolute shed load of plays, it has yet to become boring or predictable. In fact I may move to Kilforth as some of the locations are much nicer to visit than my house. There is so much to do without being overwhelmed but at the same time so little time to do it in.It’s such a fulfilling experience with so many varied encounters with all manner of local Kilforthian personalities and even after a crushing defeat against the Marquis just leaves me wanting a revisit. This is a perfect solution to my desire for solo adventuring. No DM required but all the thrills and spills I remember from my youth…playing D&D, that is, as my youth was pretty uneventful…except spilling things quite often.
Yay or Ney?
Yay…yes Yay all the way.
I have read criticism about luck and reliance of dice rolling. Yes dice feature heavily for testing abilities and combat but there are so many subtle elements within the game that a careful thinker can mitigate much of the random luck element and that is coming from someone who obviously riles up dice in an extraordinary fashion.
The Art, smooth gamplay and extremely friendly GoK community gain this title a jaw-shattering, impossible BSoMT 1d8 roll of (9)
A superb game that has hit my table sooooo many times and with an expansion on @Kickstarter! http://kck.st/2wojS4L in its final week, even more Kilforthian goodness is to come. I solo this usually with 2 heroes working together as it helps me explore locations quicker and facilitates quicker movement around Kilforth but have played just once character and have played once with No.2 daughter. I have no gaming lists but Gloom of Kilforth is currently in the top 1 of that non-existent list.
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Something for The Weekend Sir?
- Tristan Hall:
- Hall or Nothing Productions:
- Interview by We’re not Wizards with Tristan
- Set up & Intro youtube vid to GoK..start of a splendid run-through series… by the even more splendid genius https:/twitter.com/CatWeazle0
- The Board to Death review of GoK
- Run through video by Sir Ricky of Royal using prototype components pre-Kickstarter campaign
- JPlay using prototype components with a run through
- The One Stop Co-op Shop run through of the solo game
So that’s your lot!
Feel free to comment…although I don’t know if this bloggy website thingamajig has that option…. abuse will be completely ignored, obviously, unless it is particularly imaginative
Link to GoK Blah Blah