I enjoyed the 2nd edition of ‘Fury of Dracula’–but my non-gaming partner did not. ‘Boring and complicated’ he said. I kind of agreed with the latter, but it was one of those games where the theme made me forgive the regular rule checks. So it languished on the shelf. Neglected. With a 3rd–streamlined and apparently improved–edition released and my partner now worn down into a gaming partner through overexposure to cards, dice and tokens, I thought it was worth seeing whether Dracula had improved and could seduce my skeptical husband…
‘Fury of Dracula’ by Fantasy Flight Games is a board game for 2-5 players, it is set after the events of Bram Stoker’s Gothic horror novel, throwing players into a chase across Victorian Europe. The Dracula player is trying to spread his influence without revealing his location, and the band of hunter players trying to find his trail, undo his work and kill him. It’s a game of hidden movement and deduction, with the Dracula player using cards kept secret from the player to determine his location, and the hunter players travelling from city to city hoping their location will be one from Dracula’s trail–which Dracula has to reveal. Both the Dracula player and the hunter players gain cards through the game which can grant advantages or special actions to help hide or search respectively.
Having missed the point where the out of print 2nd edition could command a triple figure sum on eBay (who would’ve thought it!), I flogged my old copy for cost and grabbed myself a copy of the 3rd edition. Having read through forums for opinions on this new version, I was a little wary–there is a lot of butt hurt from those that have missed the 2nd edition, and criticism of the change in artwork, especially the box art. True, there has been a change from the Gothic art of the 2nd edition to a cleaner more crisp presentation in the 3rd, but I prefer it. The art of the old cover was good, but it was a little murky and like some pulp 60s horror novel cover, which perhaps wasn’t so inviting for the uninitiated. The new art is bold, and with a smug and scheming Bela Lugosi looking Dracula on the box it taps into the most common Dracula take. Also, I can’t fault the design and the artwork within, which does break from this modern presentation and provide the more expected Gothic air. The 2nd edition box art is actually on the cover of the rules anyway. I think the original board looks drab in comparison with this new one. It’s essentially just a map, but it’s style sells the era. Much of the art work on the cards, some of which has very little exposure on the table in the game, is stunning and a welcome indulgence. It’s amazing how so much work goes into cards which might languish buried in a deck and just get a few moments exposure to the whole group. Note of caution though, there is some biting and bloodiness depicted, so while I don’t think this game will appeal to the young, you might not one any young and impressionable kiddies looking this one over.
Aesthetics aside, it played much more smoothly than I remember from my limited time with the 2nd edition. The rules do take a little figuring out, and there aren’t so many YouTube play throughs for the 3rd edition. The rule book is now accompanied by an A-Z reference guide of terms which is really helpful when you want to check something. Fantasy Flight usually does a good job with their rules, providing a quick play and advanced play set of rules, all on glossy colour pages. But for me though, I prefer to get to grips with the game as it should be, which is use of all the rules–I tend to find learning a game one way and adding rules later a little confusing, and with the rules split up between quick and advanced play there is some flicking back and forth to mesh the two together into the proper game. After a quick trial play to get the feel of a turn and to test out some of the mechanics we felt pretty confident about getting into a game. There’s actually very little set up and tear down to this game, which is nice after games like Fantasy Flight’s fiddly ‘Eldritch Horror’ and Star Wars miniature games.
We played four games in as many days. I think the non-gaming partner is now a gaming partner. My other half really enjoyed the game. Probably because he won 3 of them as Dracula. As much as losing was frustrating, I enjoyed having my other half on board with a game which I thought would be replacing the 2nd edition in gathering dust on the shelf. It’s a great feeling to share a passion with someone. Once the rules are understood it has light mechanics which don’t overpower the theme, with it being successfully evocative of the chase within the last quarter of the original Dracula novel.
The Dracula player is going to need to be pretty sure of their role and the rules, as checking rules with other players might give away their plans, but it’s a great feeling to be hiding away in Europe setting traps, bluffs and plans to build your influence, while also being tense when hunters unknowingly get close to your location. The hunter players will likely feel daunted by the task of having to find Dracula within such a huge map, but will hopefully have the joy of working together to devise plans, and will feel the thrill of finding a location which helps narrow the search down–usually at a point the party is scattered so everyone will be racing to that area to try and cut off escape routes. Discovery seems terrifying as Dracula, but combat, while taking a little while to figure out, can result in Dracula leaving a hunter on the verge of death before escaping–which makes up for the sense of always being on the run. This is a good point to comment on the combat. I remember it being complex before in the 2nd edition, but now it’s essentially the hunter player and the Dracula player using combat cards with a rock, paper scissors style cancelling out of symbols. It takes a little getting used to, but there’s no chancy dice throws and some light strategy in getting good combinations of weapons and move cards and trying to guess the others’ tactics and resources.
I was on my own playing all 4 hunters, so some of the fun of the chase was lost as I didn’t have anyone to scheme with, and I did think the game should be called the ‘Frustration of Vampire Hunters’ at times. The way a hunter turn runs is that (barring special rule card effects) each hunter character has a set order to take their turns, and can take only 1 action. While there are a range of actions you can take some are limited depending on the turn or what’s happening within the game–you will only search if it’s a location from Dracula’s trail which Dracula has left an encounter on, you can only move in the day, you can only supply an item in a big city, and supplying at night runs the risk of giving an event card to Dracula which that player can use against you. In fact, from the event cards I got to draw it quite often seemed that every gain had a cost. There were some turns where I was very limited in what I could do, with some characters doing nothing. I’m pretty risk averse though, so that could be through me playing it safe. While I would love to play it with more people, I would likely only have just one character and if it was a round where it would seem to be safer to do nothing, then I might be passing over my turn and there’s going to be some downtime just watching others before it gets back to me again. Getting ‘delayed’–experiencing an encounter which causes you to miss a turn–would suck even more than it did for me on my own playing 4 characters.
That being said though, it’s a game where the moments where the search might be overwhelming for the hunter players or the Dracula player is despairing at how they can evade discovery through being close to a hunter location, can suddenly give way to the thrill of the hunters picking up the trail or Dracula managing to be missed or to slip by the hunters and watching the hunters head in the wrong direction, and then you’ll have the moments where the hunters and the Dracula player will suddenly encounter each other through a minion or Dracula himself is discovered and it all kicks off. At the end of the game there will be conversations about the game play, ‘where were you at when we went there?’ or ‘do you know how close you came to finding me?’, and when you consider the action of cornering Dracula in Spain only to have him slip by in wolf form and escape into France (it happened to me *grrrr*) it is almost dramatic–cinematic if you have any imagination. It’s great fun, and a game more people should know about and play. It’s criminal that games like this can go out of print while the empty chore that is Monopoly gets endlessly commercially re-skinned and is the go to idea of a game by the seasonal family gamer. I would give with this 4 bites out of five.
As much as I don’t want Fantasy Flight to make any more grabs for my money, I’m kind of hopeful this gets the expansion treatment that ‘Eldritch Horror’ has received. Perhaps with different encounter decks, different objectives for both the hunters and the Dracula player, or expanded board sections which add a little more narrative to the gaming. Although perhaps I shouldn’t give them any ideas in how to get more money out of me…
Give it a go! If you’ve played this then let me know what you thought, or if you know of any games you think I might like.