Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gloomy Neighbors

Tonight I went over to Jon and Maria's for some of Jon's famous pizza (kale, potato, and chicken sausage tonight!). It was a great visit, catching up on book and agent news, sharing stories and conversation over a bottle of red... nice, normal, stuff. But when the pizza was put away and the wine was running low in the glasses — the three of us got out a certain card game and the night took a wonderfully dark turn!

We were playing a game called Gloom. Gloom is simple: you win by picking a family of characters out of the deck and then spend your turns making them as miserable as possible. The most miserable family at the end of the game wins. But to make things interesting, you can also use your turn making other player's characters happy. So while I was wishing out wasp strings and mocking midgets to my family, Jon was laying down cards where my miserable characters found love. In real life, that would be sweet. In Gloom, it's bad news. You win when your family has the least amount of self worth. It is hilarious, ever-changing, and better when surrounded by adult beverages...

The real fun of the game is every time you change a character action you have to explain it in one ongoing, horrible story. This forces everyone to do a little web-weaving, and make it up as they go along. Think of it as fiction-jazz. Stories get horrible and out of control, turning the worst news into headlines. Jon took his characters into some hilarious place, including a conflicted clown named giggles finding true happiness in dark places. I talked about characters drowning in bogs and being taunted in private schools. Maria told stories about illustrated ladies on tightropes over vats of shark-infested pudding. It sounds silly, even sad, but it isn't. You get attached to the characters and get drawn into their made-up world in this high-stakes game of horrors. We played a while and pretty much just laughed. The game ended in a tie between Maria and I after she killed off my last character. It was great.

So why share about a card game on a farming blog? Well, because it's the kind of thing folks don't really do anymore. We get together to gossip, complain, converse, and award each other but we don't necessary challenge each other to a story-telling contest. this is something that doesn't require anything but your family and your time. It's a good game for farmers. You don't need anything but a blanket in the hayfield, a few beers, a tired body and reeling mind. (I think a lot of farmers have that in spades!) You can play it by campfire light while out under the stars, or at a booth at your favorite bar over dinner. It's not some confusing board game with pieces to lose or complicated rules. It's really for the story-tellers out there. And if you know someone with a dark sense of humor and a competitive edge, I may have just finished your Christmas shopping.

Tonight was a little competitive, a little dark, and a whole load of creativity. Try it out with some friends, you'll love it. And if you have time to watch the video above you'll get a real taste of the game before you commit to buying it. That show is free to watch on Youtube and reviews all kinds of games. This particular one costs around twenty dollars, but for a game you can play over and over with friends I think it's money well spent!

So that was my night. Any suggestions for equally addictive games out there that fall a little under the radar? Do you have a game the average Scrabble or Trivia Pursuit player may love but doesn't know about? Share it here!


Blogger becky said...

When getting together with friends we always play cribbage or euchre

January 17, 2013 at 11:28 PM  
Blogger Kelsie said...

"Once Upon a Time." Another fantastic storytelling card game!

January 18, 2013 at 1:12 AM  
Blogger Kirsten said...

We've been playing "Telephone Pictionary" here at the ecovillage. The more players the better, but its definitely for more than 4 (3-5 players you could just go around twice, though). Each player gets a pencil and as many scraps of paper as there are players. You draw a picture (let's say I drew a woman in a kilt chopping wood) then pass your whole stack to the left, picture on top. You look at the picture your neighbour drew, put the picture at the bottom of the stack, then on the new blank scrap you describe what you see in words (perhaps the next player sees a "Scottish axe murderer") then you pass the whole stack again, and the next player draws what is written, and so forth until your stack has made it back to you, and the final drawing is nothing like the original. And then the best part - everyone takes a turn to show and tell the progression.

January 18, 2013 at 3:03 AM  
Blogger Jedediah said...

I would recommend Fiasco. It's somewhere between roleplaying and impromptu theatre. You choose a playset that gives you the relationships between your character, their goals, a couple of things they have and a couple of places. Then it's your job to tell a story about what the characters want and you must turn in into a, well, fiasco.
There are very little rules and a lot of room for improvisation. The playsets can all be downloaded for free, you just need to buy the core ruleset and a handful of dice (four for each player, if I remember correctly). here's a write-up of one of my Fiasco sessions, if you are interested.

January 18, 2013 at 3:15 AM  
Blogger City Sister said...

It's kinda expensive, but sometime you can get a good deal on Ticket to Ride...add a few house rules such as all trains must have a locomotive...and you have a great time with some homemade cider...

January 18, 2013 at 6:14 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

The Settlers of Catan is a great game that takes some thinking and is never the same. Ticket to Ride is also fun. We also like to play Royal Rummy - it's a card game that we play on a board that my dad made over 50 years ago. Fast moving and you win money!

Thanks for telling us about Gloom. I'm going to go down to G Willikers in Saratoga and see if they have it in stock.

January 18, 2013 at 6:15 AM  
Blogger kwdiving said...

I think it sounds like a great fun. Right up our alley, thanks for the suggestion. Now to order it.

January 18, 2013 at 6:28 AM  
Blogger seagrrlz said...

in Newfoundland , we play 120's, it's almost like a religion here. It's somewhat similar to euchre and a little like bridge. There are trumps and bidding and the object of the game is to get 120 points to win.

January 18, 2013 at 7:25 AM  
Blogger rabbit said...

I got the farming game for Christmas-a friend recommended it-it was created by farmers on a tractor seat! You grow and harvest different crops throughout the year and purchase land etc, kind of like monopoly for farmers-it has cards too that mess things up.... It does have rules and pieces, and probably isn't something you'd necessarily want to play after a day in the field-but it's one that's under the radar for sure! And yes now I want Gloom.... I got a birthday coming up! ;)

January 18, 2013 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

Once upon a time my husband and I spent the weekend with two other couples at the Common Ground Country Fair in Maine (you would love it, I'm sure). We rented a cabin for a night, and we played Balderdash until the wee hours. The person who is "It" picks a card from a deck with a word on it, and everyone writes a definition of the word. (The person who is It writes the real definition.) The definitions get read by It and everyone votes on the best definition. The person who picks the right definition the most times wins.

I laughed until my face hurt. 'nuff said?

January 18, 2013 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

This sounds really fun. I love getting together with friends or family to play games!

January 18, 2013 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Helena said...

My family and I love to play "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night." It's a board game in which you guess the title or author of a book based on its first line. Sure it has some pieces to keep track of, but it's a great game for bibliophiles. Even more fun if players decide to allow obscure hints. :)

January 18, 2013 at 9:51 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

We love to play the Ticket to Ride board games by Days of Wonder. Highly addictive!

January 18, 2013 at 10:04 AM  
Blogger MIB said...

I watch TableTop all the time and actually got my cousin Gloom for his 10th birthday a couple of months ago--I thought it looked hilarious. Ticket to Ride is fun, too, and my WHOLE family are big fans of Apples to Apples, which is another portable(-ish) card game like Gloom.

January 18, 2013 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger Plushroom Soup said...

Second the Once Upon a Time and Ticket to Ride suggestions. Also Lunch Money. Another card game where you tell stories--about beating up school girls for their lunch money. Dark? Yes. But hilarious also, with the right crowd.

Agricola and Gates of Loyang are fun resource-management board games. You're a farmer, basically, trying to make sure your people stay fed and keep warm (Agricola) or that your customers are happy (Gates).

Could go on about many more games. Check out for awesome and extensive game reviews.

January 18, 2013 at 10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In our family, Christmas is all about games. We go away to a cabin in the Endless Mountains where there's no phone, no TV, no internet or cell signal, and all we do for a whole week is play games and read books. Each kid gets a new game as one of their presents and we play those.

This year the big winners were Clue, surprisingly (but we'd added a bit of a roleplaying angle to it) and a game called Pandemic. It's a great cooperative game where you play members of a CDC inspired research team, jetting around the globe to cure four debilitating diseases before they take over the world. There are more ways to lose than to win, but it's a lot of fun. Even my 11 year old love it! But then, she also loves Gloom, so...

And isn't Tabletop a great resource? Some of the games they play we already have (MUNCHKIN!!!) but some, like Pandemic, are new finds and such treasures!

January 18, 2013 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger Dee Anne said...

Gloom is so much fun to play with people who are unsure of the gothic/macabre element. They start out really tentative with storytelling, but there's a point where they just laugh and dive right in. I love this game! And I agree, you do get attached to the characters. Often the "Chastised by the Church" card comes up right after "Blessed by the Bishop" with the same character. That has inspired some hilarious explanation. Play on!

January 18, 2013 at 10:33 AM  
Blogger kwdiving said...

Just ordered it, have you tried the expansion packs?

January 18, 2013 at 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cards against Humanity!!!!

Its a large group game, and a dirty version of apples to apples. I LOVE IT!

January 18, 2013 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

Try "Guillotine!" (Card game) It's during the French revolution, and you're a guillotine operator. You try to get points by beheading the most important people. It's super fun, and the artwork on the cards is amazingly hilarious.

January 18, 2013 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Holly said...

We play lots of games in the winter (no t.v.)Candyland to Trouble to Monopoly. For Christmas kids got Snow-opoly where you play monopoloy in a snowman version as you also build snowman. Of course, Clue, Sorry, ...a new one we also got is Pass the Popcorn, a movie trivia game. Of course, we have to make homemade caramel corn too:)

January 18, 2013 at 12:34 PM  
Blogger kadfoto said...

Lots of good suggestions. European games in general are a great deal of fun; and there are many to choose from. You can't go wrong with Ticket to Ride, Guillotine, Stone Age or Dominion. All are relatively easy to learn. Munchkin is another card game, lots of fun with a big group of people. You might consider starting a boardgame meetup group. We joined one a few years ago - great way to meet friends and be introduced to fun new games.

January 18, 2013 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

That sounds like so much fun! I can't wait to play.

January 18, 2013 at 4:58 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

If you want to have a farming theme, try 'Agricola' - you need to build your house, feed your family, plant your fields, harvest your crops, but you need to hope someone isn't planning/needing to do the same thing on the same turn, because only one person can pick each option.

January 18, 2013 at 6:20 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

We had fun playing Carcassonne last Christmas. Lots of pieces to keep track of but you can opt to be a farmer! We had lots of fun with it. The dragon and fairy expansion kit is fun too.
I'll be ordering this game, sounds super fun.

January 18, 2013 at 7:27 PM  
Blogger Glyndalyn said...

Pass the Pigs. Two small, heavy plastic pigs are thrown like dice. The positions in which they land is how points are scored. For instance, a snouter is 10 points and a razor back is 5. For 2 or more players.

January 18, 2013 at 8:02 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

I'll be looking for that game! Fun!!

We play a card game called "Miles" which sounds similar. Each team tries to travel the most miles, but other teams can deal them speed limits, flat tires, accidents, etc...and you need the corresponding card that fixes it to get going again. Competitive and so fun!!

January 19, 2013 at 6:59 AM  
Blogger Jess said...

I'll be looking for that game! Fun!!

We play a card game called "Miles" which sounds similar. Each team tries to travel the most miles, but other teams can deal them speed limits, flat tires, accidents, etc...and you need the corresponding card that fixes it to get going again. Competitive and so fun!!

January 19, 2013 at 7:00 AM  
Blogger Pit Stop Farm said...

We love Pit. It's been around since the early 1900's. can get rowdy, but nothing more than a deck of cards.

January 19, 2013 at 7:59 AM  

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