Gloom – Even the name sounds dull and dreary, but there’s nothing dreary about this game!

The introduction to the game starts to give you a feel of the world of GloomThe world of Gloom is a sad and benighted place. The sky is gray, the tea is cold, and a new tragedy lies around every corner. Debt, disease, heartache, and packs of rabid flesh-eating mice — just when it seems like things can’t get any worse, they do. But some say that one’s reward in the afterlife is based on the misery endured in life. If so, there may yet be hope — if not in this world, then in the peace that lies beyond.


How to Play

In Gloom you control the fates and fortunes of a misfit family, your goal, a “Gloomy” one at that is to ensure your characters suffer a number of tragedies before they befall the ultimate tragedy and die.

To start the game you pick your family which consists of 5 cards each with one member of the family on it.  The rest of the cards are shuffled and placed face down, each player picks 5 cards which makes up their starting hand.

In keeping with the Gloomy theme the player who has had the worst day gets to start first!  On each turn you have two plays, you can either play or discard a card on each play (but you cannot play an untimely death on your second play) and then you pick back up to your draw limit from the deck.

Card Types

  • Modifiers – Modifiers contain pathos points either positive or negative.  As your goal is to give your characters a gloomy life on your play you want to play cards with negative pathos points on your own family and/or positive on your opponents family.  Some modifiers also have special effects such as forcing you to draw or discard cards.   Some of the modifier cards include Fell down the well, was tortured by toddlers, was swindled by salesmen and was driven to drink.
  • Event Cards – Event cards are discarded straight after play.  Some event cards specify they can be played at any time not necessarily your turn which can be used to reverse a play of another player – for example to prevent them from causing an untimely death to one of their family.
  • Untimely Death Cards – Death comes to us all but quicker it seems to the families of Gloom, once you feel your family have amassed enough negative pathos points you can kill a member with a sudden death card.

Gloom Cards


The aim of Gloom is to end up as the family with the lowest number of Pathos points.  To achieve this you play modifiers on your turn laying the transparent cards on top of your family.  Pathos points can appear in 3 different spots on the Modifier cards so by stacking modifiers on top of one another you can inflict even more misery on your family before playing an untimely death card.

Of course you could play cards on your opponents families.  Some cards have positive pathos points, so you may want to give your opponents family a happy life.

Once an untimely death is played on a family member no further modifiers can be played on top of it.

End of the game

Once all members of one family die, all pathos points showing on all family members (both living and dead) are calculated.  The family with the lowest number of points wins.

Game Details

  • 2 – 4 Players
  • 60 mins playing time
  • 8 years +


The joy of gloom is in the storytelling.  The game can be strategic on its own but where I have found the most fun is taking the game travelling and playing with different groups of people.  Rather than just playing a card, you tell a story, for examples when playing the chased by children modifier “Mr Giggles who was born into a family of circus entertainers had a terrible disadvantage, he is scared of childresn, this all started when a performance went badly and he was chased out of the town by children” if all players tell stories when playing cards it becomes a really fun experience and every game can be very different.

The game is simple to pick up and play, all the cards have clear instructions on them, although occasionally it can be confusing which special effects are in play (particularly if you are playing with expansions, but this doesn’t distract from the fun.

Other Reviews and Ratings

Gloom has scored 4.9 out of 5 with 39 reviews on Amazon.  In 2005 it won the Origins Award for best traditional card game.  Once again Geek and Sundrys Tabletop have produced a wonderful video of the game in play, if your on the edge of adding this game you your collection have a look at the below video which I’m sure will persuade you – It’s so much easier to understand any game by seeing it played!

Where to buy & Expansions

Gloom – The original game is available in all good local card game stores or you can shop online at Amazon

Gloom 2nd Edition – An updated version of the original game, it is the full standalone game, and it is backwards compatible with the original and all expansions.  The second edition has various tweaks that improve play and the game mechanic.

Unhappy Homes – Unhappy Homes is an expansion to the original Gloom which adds 55 new cards into the deck.  A new family the artistes of Le Canard Noir join in with the Gloom, and residence and mystery cards add new aspects to the game.  Residences give each family a home card which can add a new aspect to your story telling and Mystery cards can be laid onto these.

Unfortunate Expeditions – 55 Cards to mix with the original Gloom set including a new family which include Colonel and Lady Bumpersnoot and an Expedition Mechanic which add a game wide rule change depending which expedition is in play.

Unquiet Dead – 55 Cards to mix in with your Gloom set and introducing Stories, Undead, and Timing Symbols to the Gloom world.  Stories give you special benefits, but how long can you hold onto the stories cards?  The Undead allow a member of your family to become a vampire, mummy, ghost, ghoul, wereduck, invisible person, or haunted portrait – which are both living and dead at the same time.  Finally Timing Symbols can create effects which are instant, ongoing (until covered) or persistant for the rest of the game.

Cthulhu Gloom – Cthulhu Gloom is a standalone version of Gloom that doesn’t require the original to play.  If you enjoy the works of HP Lovecraft then Cthulhu Gloom could be the version for you as it combines Gloom with themes and characters from the Cthulhu world.

Unpleasant Dreams – Unpleasant Dreams is an expansion for Cthulhu Gloom adding another 55 cards into the game.  These cards also include a new family (so an extra player can play) and 2 new Unwelcome Guest character cards that add an extra aspect to the game.

Have your say

Have you played Gloom, leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments, own any of the expansions?  Which is your favourite?

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