Dracula. A classic book of desire and triumph over a great evil. However, it is not the focus of this review. No, it’s just the inspiration for a board game made up of mystery and deduction, predator and prey. A game that will no doubt find its audience with a digital port. Which game do you wonder? Why, dear reader, nobody but Dracula’s Fury ($ 4.99).
While it is incredibly difficult to find a physical copy, Fury of Dracula still got into the hands of a few notable entertainers who first brought it to my attention. At the time, I was only interested in physically playing it at some point in the future. I have little room for a collection, and even a game as interesting as one about hunting down vampires and subjugating Europe since Dracula just doesn’t make the cut. Oh. Fortunately, it debuted on iOS, a platform that is much more convenient for the casual board game collector. With a high collar and securely stowed mirrors, I go on a journey to Europe in the 19th century.
Playable by two to five people (or even just one, if you don’t mind playing against AI), four players are vampire hunters and the fifth plays Dracula. Individually, hunters are far too weak to face Dracula directly. Unlike Dracula, however, they can acquire an arsenal of weapons, tools to fight the undead, and allies in tracking the monster … but they are on a clock. If they don’t find what they need, and quickly, Dracula’s shadow has spread too far to stop. Dracula, on the other hand, has all the time in the world – in the truest sense of the word. While Professor Van Helsing and his cohort must kill Dracula to win, Dracula just needs to evade his pursuers long enough for a handful of his many conspiracies to flourish.
Speaking of Europe: the game board includes England and most of continental Europe from the English Channel to the Black Sea. Movement is known to anyone who has played Scotland Yard (or maybe even Ticket to Ride) and includes roads, railways, or seas. Hunters can travel with any of the three and only need a train ticket to board a train. Dracula, on the other hand, can only travel by road or sea, with a high blood cost, to board a ship (trains, he says, are way too public). While the human gamblers can become active both day and night (albeit at a higher risk at night), Dracula can only conduct his affairs in the deepest depths of the night.
Should hunters find Dracula or his spawn in a town, or find a hunter, they will be immediately engaged in combat. The fight lasts up to six rounds, in which each participant selects a card to use and resolve. The more cards the hunters have, the better their chances are, as each of their cards can negate a number of Draculas in addition to other special effects. However, should a hunter be reduced to zero health, he will be defeated and taken to the nearest hospital. If instead they’re bitten … well, better off, they’ll be defeated.
While that’s a general look at the mechanics, actually playing them is a different matter. Playing Fury of Dracula means experiencing a delightful mix of RPG and social withdrawal, with a dash of strategy and Gothic brooding. Players are invited to enter a world of great evil and they – and only they – can stop it. Even have to stop it so that everything they know doesn’t succumb to it. Or they can be the great evil, sowing terror and evil across the land to pursue thralls and an abundance of food. Either way, the atmosphere – the feel of the game in progress, should the player indulge in it – is exactly what one gets when reading Dracula. It’s perfect.
As good as an experience is, it is not without its flaws. Most notable for people who just pick it up, and not exactly unexpected, it’s not a great game to play alone. The computer is little more than providing a patient opponent as you learn the general flow of the game, and possibly an occasional struggle to fill some time. It’s really best to play with some friends at a coffee shop or with family after dinner. Or you could jump into an online game even though I never got to see that in action.
More material for the gameplay, card movements are not only painful, but downright impossible. There are three (well, four, but functionally three) zoom levels, all of which focus on the token that is being rotated. There’s no way to peek at other cities, see where your allies are in relation to Dracula, or just pan around the map. Sometimes it’s really quite a problem if a map tells you where to put a blockade or an obstacle, or where to send a hunter, and you can’t even see all of your options.
Despite its shortcomings, iOS is probably the best place to play Fury of Dracula. Instead of being tied to the computer for game night, you can share the iPad or play on phones. Everyone has them, right? What about physical gaming? The less talked about trying to find a physical copy, the better. Finding a copy isn’t easy, and even if you can find one on Amazon or the like, it’s not cheap (try to find a copy for less than $ 200 – I’ll wait) so $ 5 for the mobile port are absolutely steal.
Whether or not it is worth buying something … for someone who likes board games, who has ample opportunity to play with friends or family who also enjoy board games, it is definitely a yes. You will have fun with it for at least several hours. For someone looking for a game that two, three or four other players may or may not find? Probably not. This is not a single player game, and while it can be played online, it is best played in person. But hey, it’s $ 5. If you’re not sure, this is an absolute bargain for a decent port of a classic game. Try it once!