Gloom: gothy card-game challenges your ability to create misery

Play This Thing has a review up for Gloom, a fun-sounding gothy card game that reminds me of the Lemony Snicket book -- the objective is to make up miserable things to happen to your characters, and the most miserable wins.

The object of the game, in fact, is to make your characters as miserable as you possibly can. Each player has a family, a group of characters that they then play event cards on...

The really interesting thing about Gloom is the story-telling aspect of game play. Though not required, when you play an event card such as "Terrified by Topiary," you may explain how this event occurs. Each character develops as more and more event cards are placed on it, so the character’s life story becomes increasingly unfortunate and, well, abnormal.

Link to Gloom on Amazon, Link to review, Link to publisher's site


  1. Gloom is indeed a great game. And the cards are very nice looking, both from the art and the fact that they’re made from clear plastic because the game requires you to overlay them during play.


  2. I can’t believe the Gorey-style artwork isn’t covered by some sort of copyright/trademark protection. I wonder if the game’s a rip-off, too.

  3. Oooh I’ve played this. It’s fantastic! Best played over a bit of alcohol, though — it’s rather silly.

    (It really is fun when the most evil thing you can do to your opponents is to make them happy…)

  4. Gorey is wonderful, too. I hadn’t known about him before this post.

    Last I checked, though, you couldn’t sue somebody for copying your style. (I mean, what if the Dali estate sued every modern surrealist painter?) Unless they actually copied, verbatim, one of his works, they’ve done nothing but flatter him by imitation.

  5. Gloom’s a fun little card game – visually it’s a lot of fun, given the clear plastic cards. The box it comes in is a bit of a loss, though.

    Interestingly enough, the question of how badly Gorey’s being ripped off caused me to look him up on Wikipedia – apparently he never married or had children… so even if this was infringing, which I’m not convinced it is, it doesn’t seem to be actually hurting anyone.

  6. I’m sure Gorey doesn’t care, and this is due to the fact that he’s been dead for several years now. If he’d been alive, I’m sure it would’ve chosen him right off the bat to illustrate it.

  7. I love Gloom – if I have one complaint, it’s that the cards can be -very- easy to lose because of their transparency! Quite shopvac friendly, too. :(

    Regardless, it’s a great game to play with some less than sober friends for a few hours.

  8. I think the major issue with the Gorey-esk artwork is that it looks so amateur. Almost as if it belongs on a box of children’s breakfast cereal.

    For instance, to make the gentleman on the right look “gloomy” they just shaded in some eyeliner and cocked his eyebrows. Without that, it might seem as though the gentleman was as gay as ever, possibly on his way to have some tea and crumpets.

    Perhaps if they had chose an artist that could use Gorey’s style more proficiently:

  9. When I played this, I would try to pick deaths that rhymed with the characters’ names or descriptions. It seemed appropriate.

  10. yeah – it sounds fun. For some reason this reminds me of my friend’s tendency to torture his character’s room-mate on the SIMS – his character would build up the most luxurious possible apartment with a tiny sealed chamber for the roommate. The game was officially set up so that you couldn’t advance if your room-mate wasn’t happy and well-adjusted, but this friend didn’t give a rat’s ass about that. He just wanted his character to be living it up in a grand mansion while his room-mate became increasingly miserable.

  11. Hey! I’m the creator of the game in question, and as a matter of fact I addressed the question of Edward Gorey’s influence on Gloom on my livejournal a week ago – you can find the entry at I would hope it would be obvious to anyone who gives the game a try that I am a huge fan of Gorey’s work – however, as Lunadude points out, there are other influences on the game, and if people don’t know any of them, they should.

    Regarding the methods used to make the characters look “gloomy” (and bear in mind that I’m not one of the games’ artists) I’ll note that the characters themselves aren’t all inherently supposed to look miserable; the character mentioned is the “lurking butler”, and I see him more as happily scheming in the corner than anything else. In Gloom, it’s your job to bring your characters to a tragic end – but your opponents will do their best to keep you happy and healthy. So Butterfield may in fact be about to be married magnificently; the question is whether you can arrange for him to be widowed at his wedding. As the original post says, what I enjoy most about the game is creating the story that goes along with the card, because that’s what makes each game different. Perhaps this is the third time Butterfield has been widowed – but based on the other things that have happened to him this game, an entirely different story may suggest itself.

  12. I am sorry, creator of “Gloom”. I am very impressed at the publication of this innovative card game and I hope it bodes well for other aspiring RPG and card game players.

    But, I did not enjoy this game. I bought it for my partner a couple years ago expecting to have a rollicking good time playing it. But we didn’t. We found its pre-created character stories stifling and restrictive. We thought we might enjoy it more if it had left more to the imagination.

  13. Since theres only one available on amazon and its used check out They claim to have all three in stock.

  14. It would be fun to combine this game with the final goal of that storytelling game — what was it? Once Upon a Time? After you finish up Gloom, narrate the story of your character. Extra points for irony.

    I would tend to agree with #16, though. A big downer for these types of games is the limited repertoire. How many times can you play “Pursued by Poodles” before it gets unfunny?

    A possible fix: verb/noun combinations. Play a “Pursued by…” followed by a “…poodles” card. This could increase the fun factor. (“Sexually molested by… midgets”, “Hit on the head with… a bust of Thomas Jefferson”, “Attacked by deranged… dragons”)

    Mad Libs meets Once Upon a Time meets Gloom!

  15. Gloom’s okay but not really great. The clear plastic cards are slippery and hard to pick up, plus they get scratched up very quickly. More fun than Let’s Kill, less than Guillotine – the other two death simulator card games I’ve played.

  16. For me, the key to the storytelling is drawing the connections between the modifier you wish to play and what’s gone before. For example, “was put into prison” is fairly straightforward. But WHY was he put into prison? At that point, it makes a big difference whether he was previously married magnificently (did he poison the pastor?), disgraced at a dance (less “Cinderella”, more “Carrie”), or praised in the papers (as it turns out, what they were praising was his serial killing technique). So the modifier itself suggests a basic situation – married, blessed, imprisoned, slandered, and so on. But there’s a lot of different ways “clever at cards” can play out, based on what’s come before. “Mauled by a manatee” is trickier, I’ll admit, because it is so specific. But I enjoy the challenge. How do you even run into a manatee in prison, or when you’re disgraced at a dance? Is it an ice sculpture that fell on you? Was it hiding in the punchbowl? Was that manatee doing hard time? From a purely mechanical perspective, it makes no difference, but it’s what makes each game different, and what I enjoy. So where post #18 is suggesting that you combine two pieces for the story – “pursued by” and “poodles”, I’m just saying that as it is, you are combining two things – the current modifier and the one that precedes it.

    Of course, if you’re just fresh out of ideas for ways to bring a manatee into the story, I can respect that! Frankly, when I play, I don’t use all the cards from all the expansions; if we’ve seen enough of manatees we swap it out, just as I change the cards in Apples to Apples every once in a while.

  17. Hellcow, I’m sure the game has been influenced by all the people you mention, but the cover art is a complete Gorey rip-off and you should at least have credited him somewhere.

  18. The more I find out about this, the more annoyed I get. On your Livejournal post, you say you’re a fan of Gorey, and then you say this.

    “I didn’t do the artwork for Gloom; that would be the work of Scott Reeves, Lee Moyer, and Todd Remick. For that matter, I didn’t even commission the art for Gloom; that was done by Atlas Games. So I can’t tell you exactly what instructions the artists received, or what inspirations they drew upon.”

    So you, as a Gorey fan, can’t tell whether the artwork on your game rips off Gorey? You’re either not a Gorey fan, or you were aware that it was a rip-off. Either way, your pants are on fire.

  19. if there’s ever a follow up to this game, please at least hide your visual sources a little bit better…this is pretty tasteless as far as plagiarism’s concerned…

    the fact that someone’s distinct style has been ripped off post-mortem makes me not want to buy the game…

  20. [[So you, as a Gorey fan, can’t tell whether the artwork on your game rips off Gorey?]]

    Perhaps you didn’t read through to the end of my post, Graham.

    “Obviously Gorey is a strong influence on the art, and that makes sense, because it fits with the flavor of the game… (but) the lines of Goody Zarr don’t seem to fit his style at all, and the entire Circus family has a very different feel. Todd Remick’s work in Unwelcome Guests has a completely different flavor; if anything, I think it’s more like Gahan Wilson than Edward Gorey. So I can’t speak for the artists, but sure, I think it’s only logical to assume that Gorey was an inspiration for them… but not the only one, as shown by the variety of styles throughout the work.”

    I’ve said that it’s *obvious* Gorey is an inspiration on the game. The main reason it didn’t occur to be to mention it somewhere is because I couldn’t imagine that anyone familiar with Gorey’s work couldn’t see it… and I’ve always assumed most of the audience would be familiar with Gorey. But he’s not the only inspiration. And the vast amount of art draws inspiration from something – As Kieran says in post 6, hundreds of artists are inspired by Dali, and you can see it in their work; but they rarely print that at the bottom of a painting, and you don’t see cards in Magic: the Gathering pointing out the inspiration of the Hildebrants or WAR.

    For me, the key is that I always assumed the audience of the game would SEE the inspirations and recognize them without them being spelled out. The recent discussions have made me realize that this isn’t the case – and that even the people who recognize Gorey as an inspiration often overlook or are unfamiliar with the others. My LJ post was an effort to correct that, because all of these authors and artists are influences, and I think anyone who enjoys the game will enjoy all of them; so that acknowledgement is a logical thing to squeeze into the rules in the future.

  21. Sorry, but that is a lot of blather. I am talking specifically about the figures on the cover of the box. They are SWIPES, nothing more, nothing less. Stop insulting our intelligence by talking about ‘inspiration’.

    “So that acknowledgement is a logical thing to squeeze into the rules in the future”. You bet it is! But nil points for trying to get away with it up until this point!

  22. Graham, you’re being a douchebag.

    If you want people to respect your intelligence, be intelligent.

    Granted, it was 9 months ago, but still, what a douchebag you are in this thread.

  23. Yeah, unfortunately Graham is being rude and obnoxious while displaying his total lack of understanding of art and copyright laws. Those are not “swipes” — I defy him to show specific examples of art it was allegedly swiped from. Similarity (or what passes as similarity to someone who can’t tell the difference between styles) is not a swipe. New art is similar to older works all the time, and there is NOTHING wrong with that. Gorey himself based his own artwork upon the work of countless earlier artists. It’s not like Gorey invented the style or owns it. Graham is just plain ignorant, and astoundingly so…

  24. Just to add, I find Gloom to be a fantastically enjoyable game, and the quibbles people have been raising are just that – quibbles. I think the inspirations are obvious, as INSPIRATIONS. For goodness sake, do we really need a list of references from Lemony Snickett to The Addams Family (by way of the humble playing card too)?

    Keith Baker – you’ve made a brilliant, fun, easy-but-satisying game, that anyone with imagination can make stories around. Somewhat in response to post 16, I’d like to say that my partner doesn’t play games – usually can’t stand them – but the day I brought Gloom home he stayed up until 4am INSISTING on round after round :)

    So, while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea (I respect differing tastes) I can say that in this household, you’ve won fans from opposite ends of the gaming spectrum :) Bravo, bravo, bravo.

    The only thing miserable about Gloom is I’m now starving for whatever game you come up with next!

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