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Games: Fury of Dracula

After a decade of obsession with "European" boardgames, I have a rekindled interest in American-style fare, games steeped in theme, more confrontational than their cordial cousins from abroad, and requiring several hours to play. Part of it is just the swing of the pendulum, part of it is spill-over effect from my (continuing) infatuation with Twilight Struggle, but a lot of the credit (or, from a financial standpoint, blame) goes to a single game company, one that has released a tsunami of awesome titles onto the market: Fantasy Flight Games. They are responsible for the aforementioned (on this site) Doom: The Boardgame, Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, Descent and War of the Ring. And my latest FFG acquisition, Fury of Dracula, has rapidly become one of my favorites.

When I introduce Fury of Dracula to new players, they often exclaim, "hey, this is like Scotland Yard!!" I am always gratified to hear this, because (a) it's nice to know that so many folks were exposed to that great game as kids, and (b) it greatly simplifies the explanation of rules. As in Scotland Yard, players in Fury are divided into two teams, with one player as the hunted and the rest as the hunters. Here, the hunted is Dracula himself, while the Hunters are composed of the characters from the book who sought Ol' Toothy's destruction: Lord Godalming, Dr. Seward, Van Helsing, and Mina Harker.

The board shows a map of Europe, with cities connected by a web of roads and rails. Each Hunter starts in a city, as shown by the initial placement of the corresponding figures; Dracula also begins in a city, but his location remains a secret. The Hunters careen around the countryside, searching for clues as to his current whereabouts; once they have located Dracula they move in for the kill, hoping to reduce his "blood" to zero and win the game.

But although Dracula spends much of the game on the lam, he is not without a few tricks up his sleeve. The game is divided up into "day" and "night" rounds (three of the former followed by three of the latter); as you would expect, Dracula becomes an exponentially tougher foe once the sun goes down. In fact, the Hunters typically spend the days trying to corner and kill Drac, and the nights fleeing for their lives. All this makes for a tense game of cat-and-mouse, with the roles of feline and rodents swapping at regular intervals.

Dracula can win the game by amassing points; he does so by "defeating" Hunters (they are never entirely killed, instead limping off to a hospital to recuperate from their wounds), creating new vampires, and simply surviving from day to day. The longer the game lasts, the more likely Dracula is to win--and the more desperate the Hunters become to stop him before he does so. This gives the game a narrative feel, with a distinct beginning, middle, and end.

Fury of Dracula takes three to four hours to play. The rules are so Byzantine that you will refer to them constantly during your first (and second, and third) game. And the match is lopsided, with Dracula getting his goose cooked more often than not. In other words, this is not your elegant and scupulously balanced "European" game, and will therefore not be to everyone's liking. But if you are willing to buckle down and master the rules, if you can talk a few of your friends into joining you for a looooooong game, and if you don't mind an "unfair" fight, you are in for a treat. Fury of Dracula is a showcase for all that I love in "American" style games: a clever system married to a superb theme, one that so immerses you in the atmosphere that you feel as if you are not just playing a game, but living out the sequel to Stoker's classic novel.

Posted on June 27, 2008 to Games


I agree with your review of this game, especially the immersion that it brings. Love it. I find myself recommending it to folks who enjoyed Shadows Over Camelot because of that, I think.

Sadly, my regular gaming group doesn't love it quite as much as I do and so it rarely gets to see the air. Nuts!

Posted by: bristlesage on July 1, 2008 6:28 AM

I'm not much for cooperative games but would like to give this one a try. One coop game that is now a favorite is Pandemic, which I HIGHLY recommend.

Posted by: Dave Lartigue on July 1, 2008 7:16 AM

I'm not much for cooperative games but would like to give this one a try. One coop game that is now a favorite is Pandemic, which I HIGHLY recommend.

Posted by: Dave Lartigue on July 1, 2008 7:18 AM

I noticed in your list of fantasy flight games that you didn't mention Arkham Horror. Who can't get a fuzzy feeling inside for a coop game where you work together to try to prevent the Great Outer Gods from returning and destroying (or enslaving or feeding off) the entire world? Each player is an investigator with certain skills attempting to gather clues and close gates to other dimensions before the Old One awakes. But if he does, you can have a climactic battle that you might win (about 50-50 depending on the Old One).

Posted by: Jason on July 1, 2008 8:49 AM

Up until i read this post i thought i was the only one who owned *and liked* Scotland Yard. Unfortunately I was an only child and few of my friends ever wanted to play it. I'm going to dig it out of my closet and get a game night going!

Posted by: narineh on July 1, 2008 12:06 PM

Don't know if you've ever played, or even heard of, the Games Workshop original version. I've only played that one, and have loved it for years. It's also a game my kids will ask to play, so that's good news. I've read the FF rules once, and found several interesting changes from the original. I'd love to try the new one to see how it compares. I'm also amused by the fact that this game, which certainly has an American feel, was designed by a British game company! A classic.

Posted by: ahtitan on July 1, 2008 1:14 PM

I own both the old GW version and the new FF version. I loved the GW version, and played it a lot. The new version, IMO, is even better. I highly recommend it, even if you've already got the old one.

Posted by: Jake Boone on July 1, 2008 3:36 PM

I used to love Scotland Yard. I still have my old copy from 25 years ago somewhere. I wish I still had a gaming group to play games like this with.

Another great FF game is Runebound. And you don't even need a group to play it (although it makes it much more fun).

Posted by: Sam on July 2, 2008 1:43 PM