Only twenty-five days. This is the time, we have been given to save the world. To the great heroes, this would probably seem like a sufficient reserve to defeat everything that stands in their way, including the ancient being itself, who stands at the birth of this evil. But our only experience with hero deeds so far is rescuing a stray dog from a nearby cave and helping a local innkeeper to drive away regulars arriving after closing time. Nevertheless, we have listened to the call and now we are facing our fate.
This heavy burden is placed on our shoulders by the designer Tristan Hall in a board game, which he created in 2017 on the basis of a successful campaign on the Kickstarter server. The result of his work is called Gloom of Kilforth: A Fantasy Quest Game. Ania Kryczkowska took care of the graphics of the entire content, and the game only now comes to us thanks to the European distribution of Esdevium Games. The game even has its own soundtrack composed by Francesca L. Hall.
On the lid of a solid cardboard box, players see one of the locations in their new world. Inside, cards are waiting for them, among which they will find a set of twenty-five places. First, they place the central city of Sprawl in the center of the table and create two circles of randomly shuffled cards around it, creating a square map measuring five by five cards. In addition to the plan, they create a supply of encounter and reward cards, each of the decks divided into four piles by type. Somewhere nearby, they will also need to place shuffled night cards, hero upgrades, and a randomly chosen ancient creature card.
Each player now randomly chooses one race (gains a character) and receives a class from the second shuffled deck describing the further specialization of their abilities. Player places his piece in the central city, gets a set of tokens for actions, lives, destiny and one gold coin on top of that. Above all, each participant receives three random saga cards, which on their total of six sides describe the way, how the hero can become someone strong enough to defeats the main villain.
In their turn, the heroes have a number of opportunities to become famous, gain experience and hope that it will be enough to face a terrible enemy in time. But in order to achieve anything at all, they have to move up, down or sideways across the locations. Movement is always possible only by one location at a turn or with the use of shortcuts. They can also use time (and action) in his location and hide, thus avoiding possible combat.
When standing in a location, heroes can search it and thus reveal an encounter card. The result can be the discovery of the enemy, but also a specific place inside the location or a new quest. But it always means a card, that the hero must somehow overcome. To do that, he has to use another action called confrontation. This does not have to take place only with the help of strength, but the characters also have study, influence and sneaking at their disposal. Specific encounters require specific solutions.
But a successful solver always has a reward to choose from – money or a random card. Above all, the completed card becomes a so-called rumor (about his deeds, probably). A card that he can keep and hold in his hand for further use. These cards are absolutely essential, because it is with their help that the heroes can advance their personal development. Each level is represented by a saga card, which has requirements in the form of keywords, and it is for them, that hero can advance his skills. Only when the hero has completed the final saga level can he hope to end the game and win.
Whenever an enemy appears in a location or a player character arrives at a place, where an opponent is standing, it is time for engagement. This is a little bit more complicated than ordinary sklil tests. It uses the moment of surprise, but battle is still ruled by dice. However, the player can decide to run away from the fight, for example. If this does not happen, a series of rounds take place, after which the opponents take away their life points until one falls to the ground without any heart remaining.
When a player no longer wants to perform any further actions, he can pass. Or he runs out of energy (the number of actions in the turn corresponds to the hero’s health) and the turn must end. Once everyone has played his actions, the current day is over and night is coming. So players reveal the top card from the night deck, which causes one location to go into gloom. Then the effect of the card is evaluated, which can be one-time, but can also remain in the game for the next day (weather) or it can be a new enemy appearing on the map.
The game lasts a full 25 days, ie the same number of rounds. But the end can happen sooner if one of the heroes manages to defeat the main villain. However, he can only stand up to him after completing the last task from saga cards.
Gloom of Kilforth is an experience, in which players are on a mission. To drive away the darkness. But the path to this is not so easy, because first they have to become those strong adventurers, so that final enemy does not sweep them off the surface of the Earth like tiny flies. This is, of course, the theme of many games, whether digital or board, but this game is where the feeling of the rise of power is perfectly dosed.
This is because players have solid freedom, but above all they are driven forward by the demands of their saga cards. These are behind movement of the whole story and only by completing them can the game end well, but they do not ensure that on their own.
The sagas are dealt randomly at the beginning of the game, just as the placement of locations depends only on the shuffled deck of cards. As a result, the games are always significantly different, because players need different keywords. To find them, it is necessary to have a solid portion of luck, because otherwise you can turn over each stone and unsuccessfully.
Just the search for keywords and the fact that the whole story is always close to the maximum number of 25 rounds, means that the game is definitely not short. You can only count on the fact that two hours is the absolute minimum, and with more players, the game can take even longer. But the game is best experienced in two, while Gloom of Kilforth is also excellent as a solo party.
But not everything is as great as it might seem. We’ve already talked about chance, although we can repeat that players don’t really have many opportunities to adjust the outcome of the dice roll. So, in general, you need to roll a five or a six.
While the basic variant described offers players the opportunity to measure their strengths and defeat only one villain, there is still a cooperative version in the rules. It actually has exactly the same rules, only the players have more final bosses with whom they have to cross their swords. Specifically one for each participant in the game!
Players see a map in front of their eyes, which is created by cards. They gradually turn to the gloom side. This has an unfortunate effect, because if the hero ends his move in this position, he will lose one life.
And this is very annoying, because hearts are very closely tied to the number of actions available in turn. We really like this element, because the game then forces you to take more care of your character’s health. The bosses each have their own cards, which add another level of difficulty to the already treacherous cards of the night.
In terms of processing, we must praise mainly the illustrations, that are really detailed and faithful to the whole fantasy setting. Unfortunately, the cardboard characters themselves do not correspond to the races, which detracts a bit from the overall immersion in the story. Its like you’re playing for someone else. You will find everything you need in the manual and there is also a sheet with an excerpt of the rules in the box.
But Gloom of Kilforth, despite minor shortcomings, can tell a story really well. There is a fairly ordinary game in the background given the basic mechanics, but the little things, the feeling of progress and adventure give it exactly the right feel. So if you don’t mind spending more of your time every time you play, then Gloom of Kilforth is a really delicious adventure game.
+ great adventure
+ both cooperative and competitive
+ development of heroes
+ card graphics
+ the number of lives corresponds to the number of actions
+ darkness progresses and affects locations
- random (without significant possibilities of influencing the roll of the dice)
- game length (mainly in more than two players)
- pieces do not match the characters