So, what is Fury of Dracula? It's a boardgame published by Fantasy Flight Games and is set in Europe 8 years after the events of Bram Stoker's classic horror novel. It pits 1-4 'hunter' players (note that no matter how many Hunter players they always have 4 Hunter characters in play) against another player who takes the role of Dracula. The Hunters are a team and therefore have to cooperate against with each other to beat Dracula who's main goal is to evade the Hunters long enough to create enough vampires to allow him to throw Europe under a shadow of evil! Nice guy, huh?
The game board basically depicts Europe from the end of the nineteenth century and shows a number of cities that are all linked by a network of roads and railways. Each turn, Dracula secretly moves from one city to the next and then each Hunter takes it in turn to move likewise and try to find him. And it's the secret movement that really makes this game such a lot of fun. Basically, Dracula has a deck of cards, one for each city on the map and one for each sea zone.
At the top of the board (see above) there are six spaces for these cards forming a trail. Each time Dracula moves he slides any cards on the trail down one position to make a space at the head and places another city or sea card face down. The city he selects must be connected to the city that was just at the head of the trail, of course, so Dracula doesn't 'warp' around the board. Therefore, there is always a contiguous set of cards on the trail. If any Hunter moves into a city that is in the trail then Dracula reveals that card and the Hunters can then see where it is and can then try to work out where he went! Sea zones are the only exception as they aren't disclosed when a Hunter moves into one that Dracula has been in, although there are ways to uncover them. There are a few special powers that Dracula has to move differently (i.e. faster than normal in a wolf form or hide in his current city) but I won't go into that level of detail. Here's a (fabricated) shot of the trail where the Hunters have discovered the trail at Alicante, but Dracula has moved 2 cities since:
Of course, it's not as simple as just finding Dracula's tail! Oh no, the Prince of Darkness gets to leave a wee something for the Hunters in each city. Each time Dracula moves he gets to place an 'encounter' chit on the city, again face down. Whenever a Hunter enters a city that is on Dracula's trail and has an encounter chit on it, then the counter is revealed, resolved and in most cases discarded. These encounters range from mobs of peasants, armed minions to swarms of bats and newly turned vampires. And to add insult to injury, some of the encounters have special abilities if they 'mature', which means if the encounter is on a card that moves off the end of the trail. There are only a few, but they tend to be nasty and the New Vampire one, in particular, is a key strategy to Dracula winning the game. So the Hunters can't just focus on Dracula, they have to also keep the trail clear of encounters. As you can see below, the back of the encounter chits matches the centre of the back of the location cards, which is a nice touch (the bottom right encounter is the dreaded New Vampire!):
Now that we've covered encounters, it's probably appropriate to talk about how victory is assured for either Dracula or the Hunters. For the Hunters it's pretty simply! They have to catch Dracula and beat him in combat! Dracula starts the game with 15 'blood' counters on his character sheet and he is defeated when his last one is lost. There are a few ways that Dracula can lose blood; travelling by sea, using certain special powers and in combat. Some weapons that the Hunters can acquire on their quest cannot harm Dracula (pistols for example), while others are deadly (the ubiquitous stake!). So the Hunters simply need to tool up and catch Dracula! Simple, eh?
Dracula, on the other hand, wins by acquiring 6 victory points, called 'vampires' in the game. He gets these in 3 ways; surviving a whole day, defeating a Hunter in combat (by beating them up or biting them) and by maturing New Vampires. So Dracula can win simply by evading the Hunters long enough, although most Dracula victories will include a defeated Hunter or matured vampire. Winning purely by evasion would take a long time and the odds are that Hunters will find you eventually!
|Each turn a counter is moved clockwise round the day/night track and each time it crosses the 'A New Day' line , then Dracula scores a VP.|
|Some 'item' cards. Dracula has a set hand of these depending if it's day or night, but the Hunters must find theirs in cities by drawing off a deck. They can only have 3 at a time, though.|
|The 'event' cards. Again, Dracula's are on the left. As mentioned, they are drawn only by Hunters and from the bottom of a single deck, hence the different backs.|
|The plastic miniatures.|
|The character sheets. Note Dracula's 15 blood spaces and the Hunter's health tracks.|
What makes this game really good? Well, it's a game of two very different experiences if you're a Hunter or Dracula! The Hunters get to discuss freely their tactics while Dracula is very much on his own. In some respects it can be a bit like poker with Dracula trying to keep a straight face as the Hunters talk about possibly moving to his location. For the Hunters, it's a lot of fun to talk and strategise with your teammates and try to work out where Dracula went, especially as you start to reveal location cards. The Dracula player's fun is mostly spent trying to outwit your opponents or lay deadly traps while you sneak away. Both sides have their merits, but I would imagine that most people would say it's more fun to play Dracula, although Dracula has the hardest job by far! It can also be very tense when Dracula is encountered, particularly at night and victories are always hard earned!
What's not so good? Well, the fact that only one can play Dracula means that if two really want to play him then one loses out. Also, Dracula can't really ask questions without giving away elements of his plan and it's encumbent on him to keep his moves right so as not to spoil the game for everyone, so it's important that Dracula has read the rules and probably the FAQ. After all, it's a FFG game, so there are a few situations that can arise that aren't covered by the rules, or cards that can contradict each other. Also, the Hunter's victory, in the end, comes down to dice rolling, although the more you get him into combat then the more likely it will swing your way. That said, though, if you really don't like luck in your board games then this is probably not for you! Finally, this is a closed game. There are no expansions, so it's lifespan is perhaps a bit limited compared to, say, Arkham Horror. However, you can mitigate this by just playing it periodically as a change from the more oft played games in your group, or playing with different players. I've had it over a year and have played quite a few games and I'm not bored of it yet!!
All in all, I think Fury of Dracula is a very good game! I wouldn't rate it as highly as Arkham Horror but it I would still highly recommend it for any board gamer's shelf!