Friday, January 8, 2010

Board Game Review - Dracula


Good two-player games are hard to find. There are lots of games that say they're for 2-4 players, but what they mean is that you should find four players, because the two-player version blows goats. And then there are two-player games that are decent two-player games, but you have to each build an army that will cost you a couple mortgage payments from collectible pieces that you'll use six times and then store in a box for the next ten years until you find them in the attic one day and try to sell them, only to find out that since the game is dead, the entire collection is worth less than the eBay fees.

But my wife likes to play games with me, and she likes to try new stuff, so I'm constantly on the lookout for a decent game we can play while the kids tie up the television with Mythbusters and Miley Cyrus videos. I got Dracula, and was thinking that it might be just the thing that my wife and I could enjoy for a quick game before she went to bed and I ended up playing Dragon Age until I fell asleep in the living room.

Sadly, Dracula is not a good two-player game, so that didn't work out at all.

In Dracula, each player is trying to find the five things that the other player is trying to keep from them. There's a grid of twelve houses, and each player puts six of their supply cards out, and you shuffle them together and hide them face down. Then Van Helsing and Dracula take turns walking around and looking at the cards. If the card is a woman, Dracula can eat her. If it's a coffin, Van Helsing can break it. When one of them gets five of the things they want, that guy wins.

To make things a little more interesting, Van Helsing and Dracula have both called in some backup. Van Helsing has nerdy guys with stakes who will try to spike the bloodsucking bastard, and Dracula has hot vamp chicks who will try to get Van Helsing's pants off before he can chop off their heads (this is why Dracula will always be cooler than Van Helsing - one is an ugly old guy wtih a chip on his shoulder, and the other scores an undending supply of freaky tail).

There are also barriers that the two foes move around the tiny little village (which is apparently the village of the damned, because out of twelve spaces, something like half of them could contain either fanged hotties or empty coffins, and half of the rest probably have half-naked dames waiting to get ravished by Transylvania's answer to Rico Suave). These barriers are virtually worthless, unfortunately, but they can slow down your opponent a little, so there's a marginal amount of strategy in where you place them.

Both players use action cards to move around, and these action cards might have special abilities, which is the only reason why the two players have even vaguely dissimilar powers. In terms of game balance, this works out, but if you're trying to get to the theme, don't bother. In fact, if Van Helsing and Dracula show up at the same house, there's no fight. They just show each other their leftover supply cards like lawyers at a discovery hearing. Yeah, these guys hate each other enough to want to kill each other, but if they could just sit down in arbitration, maybe they could work out their differences without having to go to court.

What ends up happening is that the entire game sort of devolves into a two-player game of Memory. Every turn you want to see cards that aren't yours - after all, there's not much point in Dracula visiting his imported undead booty call, except for some possible undead lovin'. And why Van Helsing would want to spend some quality time with his dorky assistants is beyond me - even if he were gay, those guys don't want to get busy with any old dude with that much unruly face hair. So you both sort of trip around this tiny village, visiting houses and looking for the cards you need to make the game end, thus allowing you to put it away and just go to bed already.

I can't honestly say that there's no game here. There is a kind of cat-and-mouse thing working, only you're both cats and mice at the same time. If you like games where you have to remember lots of stuff, you might like Dracula. I don't like to play games that rely on my ability to remember twelve different cards at a time, so Dracula isn't my bag. Plus so much of the game just seems almost predestined - you'll move as far as you can afford, check inside a house, and repeat until someone makes it stop.

I'm glad I didn't pay for Dracula, and I'm really glad my wife likes Dominion as much as she does. Because this way I don't feel the least bit of seller's remorse when I get rid of Dracula, and we still have an awesome game to play in the evenings when we don't feel like watching whatever latest TV show has us roped in.

Summary

Pros:
Fairly nice pieces and a cool wooden Dracula
Slightly interesting twist on Memory

Cons:
Not enough decisions to be interesting
I don't like Memory
Dracula looks like a gay singer in an 80's hair band

Probably there's somebody who likes Dracula. I don't, but someone probably does, and it's not so bad that I feel a need to link you to a picture of vomit or something. But then, it's dumb enough that I can't recommend you buy a copy, so I'm not going to link you to a store where you can waste your money, either. Instead, here's a cool picture of Dracula:
http://scrapetv.com/News/News%20Pages/Everyone%20Else/images-4/bela-lugosi-dracula.jpg

10 comments:

ninthdoc said...

There's something oddly ironic about a wooden Dracula...

Wind Lane said...

"Instead, here's a cool picture of Dracula:"

...in lipstick.

Fitzerman said...

To be fair, there's a significant bluffing element in addition to the memory aspect. The players have the ability to switch out any of their own cards that they come across, and there's plenty of opportunity for screwing with your opponent's head in doing so. For example, exchanging two cards, looking vaguely worried and setting up the barrier to block your opponent from the space. Half the time, they'll rush over and flip it, only to find a high-powered vampire hunter there instead.

My wife and I enjoy this one a great deal, but there's no question that the memory aspect throws a lot of people off. It can be frustrating until you learn some of the better strategies.

ninthdoc said...

A Dracula theme shouldn't be primarily about bluffing or memory. Dracula should be about intrigue and tension... even if Dracula does suck. :-P

Fitzerman said...

Bluffing *is* intrigue. And what's more Dracula-esque than tricking your opponent into stumbling into a trap?

I feel like this game gets a lot of flack that it doesn't deserve just because the memory aspect throws people off. It's unusual, for sure, but I tend to think that's a good thing.

ninthdoc said...

I don't know that I agree about bluffing in and of itself being intrigue. I can see intrigue incorporating or stumbling across bluffing to heighten the tension, but just plain bluffing is gambling and that's pure intrigue.

Enrique said...

Would you review Shadow Hunters? I just played it and I'd like to get your thoughts on it. It's like Bang!, but the theme isn't stupid, just childish and a bit perverted maybe. You know, typical anime stuff, impossibly big boobs that defy gravity...OK, so there's ONE chick like that but I thought maybe that would entice you to review it. Also, I think the expansion has more girls of questionable morals.

Matt Drake said...

I'll add Shadow Hunters to my request list. Good idea, Enrique.

Jason Smith said...

One thing is for sure Matt... that IS a cool picture of Dracula!

Buy Generic Viagra said...

I wonder from what time this game is because i never ever hear about it and also i born in the ages of video games in 80's and I'm a super fan of them, thanks for share, i'm pretty sure that the game is like gold.