Bury Goblins, Dragons, and Unicorns in Grave Digging Card Game Gloomy Graves | Casual Game Revolution

Bury Goblins, Dragons, and Unicorns in Grave Digging Card Game Gloomy Graves

Gloomy Graves

In an epic fantasy world, war rages and the bodies pile up. As a gravedigger, it's your time to shine!

In Gloomy Graves, players add cards to the communal graveyard as well as their private crypts, and score points for creating an organized, neat layout.

Gameplay

The game is played with a deck of cards, with each card divided into two halves and each half featuring one of five types of graves (dragons or unicorns, for example) or a gravedigger. For each of the five grave types there are four scoring cards numbered eight, ten, twelve, and fifteen with score values ranging from two to ten. Two cards are placed in the center of the table to form the communal graveyard. Each player is dealt five cards and chooses one to play in front of themselves to act as the first card in their private crypts. 

On your turn you must play one card to your private crypt and one to the communal graveyard. A couple of general rules apply: you cannot place cards underneath other cards, graves can cover graves but not gravediggers, and gravediggers can cover either but cannot be placed adjacent to each other. There are also some specific rules depending on where you are playing your card.

Your personal crypt can never be bigger than a three-by-three square and any card you add to it must either be adjacent to or covering (partially or completely) a card already in the crypt. There can also only be one gravedigger in any row or column.

In the communal graveyard, one half of the card you are adding must cover half of a card already in the graveyard and the other half must not have any cards underneath it, so that each turn the communal graveyard grows by half a card.

After you play your cards you may choose whether to score a grave type. When scoring one of the five grave types, you count the largest continuous adjacent group of that type in both your personal crypt and in the communal graveyard and add the two numbers together. You then take the highest unclaimed score card of that grave type, whose number is equal or less than the result. Each player may only score each grave type once per game.

Finally, you draw two new cards, one at a time either from the row of three cards next to the draw deck or from the deck itself.

The game end is triggered and the final round completed once one player has scored all five grave types or once a player is unable to draw two cards. Players earn bonus points for having three, four, or five score cards and the player with the most points wins.

Gloomy Graves

Photo by Erik Yurko (kalchio on BGG), licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.

Review

Gloomy Graves is a clever competitive puzzle game, with relatively simply card placement rules but intriguing choices and a fun balance of when to score cards and when to hold off and wait for bigger scores. The bonus for scoring all five grave types is generous and you have to consider that against scoring higher valued score cards.

While you are working on your own crypt, there is plenty of player interaction in watching what other players are doing, and balancing the cards you play to the communal graveyard between cards that are helpful to you and cards that will block off what other players are working towards.

The scoring system is interesting and provides some challenging choices. Do you score now and take a lower scoring card, or wait to try to grow a larger continuous group while risking that another player might score that grave type and steal the card you were after? This becomes even more challenging in games with a higher player count as there are fewer score cards to go around.

Gloomy Graves does have a unique theme but it is one that is going to turn some players off. It is dark and grim and the artwork features corpses of creatures. It’s not supposed to be taken seriously and the artwork, while bleak, is not gruesome and is certainly well done — but it is going to lose some players.

If you aren’t bothered or you enjoy the dark world of Gloomy Graves, you will find in it an enjoyable brain teaser of a puzzle that has you racing to solve it just a little better, and just a little faster, than your opponents.

Pros: Good puzzle, plenty of player interaction

Cons: Artwork and theme are fairly grim

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.