Are you a tabletop gamer? Are you tired of playing games where you’re supposed to be captains of ships on the high seas, but instead you feel like you’re just cranking out spreadsheets and pushing wooden blocks around? Are you looking for an atmospheric horror game to play this Halloween, a game where you actually feel like you’re hunting down vampires?
Then I encourage you to take a look at Fury of Dracula.
Fury of Dracula is set roughly 10 years after the events in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The dark count has returned, and he is trying to once again extend his influence across Europe and exact his revenge. One player takes on the role of Dracula and attempts to increase his influence by maturing vampires and setting traps and generally harassing the hunters. All the other players - up to four others - play together as a team of hunters to find and kill Dracula. The twist is that the hunters move out in the open, while Dracula moves in secret.
The game is broken up into a sequence of turns, with each turn representing one day. First comes daytime, when each hunter has a chance to take an action. Actions range from things like move from one city to another, to resupply items and events, to searching a city for Dracula’s vampires. Then comes night, when all the hunters get a chance to take another action besides movement.
After all the hunters have moved, Dracula gets his chance to move. However, his move isn’t made out in the open. Instead, Dracula has a deck of city cards, and when he moves, he takes the corresponding city card, and places it faces down on the trail section of the board. He then gets to put an encounter in the city. Some of these will be the vampires Dracula needs to mature to extend his influence across Europe. Others will be traps to delay or injure the hunters. As the trail grows, the chances of the hunters finding Dracula increases, but the encounters also start maturing when the trail reaches a certain length. By looking to see where the card is on the trail, they must deduce the path that Dracula has gone, and trap him and kill him. But the hunters must work together to search not just the places where Dracula is now, but also the places where Dracula has been, in case he has left some vampires that would mature.
When the hunters find one of Dracula’s vampires, or the dark count himself, combat begins. Each hunter has some basic actions they can do, such as punch or dodge, as well as using the items they’ve acquired as they have been traveling across Europe. Dracula has his own set of dark powers, with things such as mesmerize, fangs, and claws. Each combat turn, each side picks an action, and the actions are revealed simultaneously. Some actions can cancel out other actions, leading to a rock paper scissors kind of guessing game, where you try to predict what the other side will do, and you play your own action that will counter them.
Overall, the game does a tremendous job of evoking the feel of predator and prey in 19th century Europe. While eurogames tend to strip away their rules to the smallest set possible, Fury of Dracula embraces little extra rules to advance the thematic feel. For example, the movement rules are different in western and eastern Europe, because during that time, the trains in eastern Europe were less developed. If you prefer streamlined mechanics, this will definitely feel fiddly. But if this doesn’t bother you, and you like deduction games, I think this game is well worth your time to try out.
This review is for the 3rd edition of Fury of Dracula. This edition has recently gone out of print, so if you’re interested, it’s probably worthwhile to pick up a copy relatively soon.
- If you have a mix of experience levels, try to have at least one experienced player on each side. If you only have one experienced player, that player should play Dracula. If all players are new, the Dracula player should read the rulebook beforehand since they won’t easily be able to ask rules questions with the other players.
- Hunters should try to acquire items and events early in the game, while spreading out and trying to find Dracula’s traps. Make sure to build a net to contain him, instead of having the hunters follow one after the other.
- If it’s your first game, you may want to play without “Wolf Form” or “Misdirect” power cards. The other power cards are pretty straightforward. “Wolf form” is also generally pretty easy to understand. But “Misdirect” can be pretty confusing to new hunters, especially with dealing with the gap in the trail. Similarly, consider not using the “Lairs” rule.
- Hunters: Remember that Dracula has a “Hide” power card.
- Dracula: Remember that Dracula has a "Hide" power card.
- Decide beforehand how you’ll work out rules disputes. This is actually good policy for any game, but due to the wide variety of event cards, this is probably more likely to come up than in some other games.
- Yes, the table talk rules are that the hunters can’t plan in secret or show their hands to each other. But if one of the hunters has a rules question and wants to show a card to another hunter to get clarification, no need to be a stickler about it.
Beginner teaching script
This worked fairly well for our group so I’m sharing it here. Explain the following points, in the following order:
- This game is one against everyone. The hunters try to kill Dracula, while Dracula tries to advance the influence track by maturing vampires.
- The game is played over 21 days. After 21 days, Dracula starts advancing the influence track very quickly and it will basically be over one way or another.
- On each day, all the hunters will take a day action; then the hunters will take a night action; then Dracula will take his action.
- For their day action, the hunters can take any action on their reference card. (Go through the card and explain what each action does. Most of them are straightforward.) At night, the hunters can take any action besides move.
- Additional notes for actions: The rail system is less developed in Eastern Europe, so use the smaller number on the train ticket. At night, drawing event cards has the risk of giving Dracula an event. But it can often be worthwhile to do this anyway; the event cards are skewed towards the hunters. When you get an event card, check to see if you need to play it immediately.
- After the hunters have taken their turns, Dracula takes his turn. He will slide the trail, and then place his next location at the end of the trail, along with an encounter. Some of these encounters will be the vampires that Dracula needs to win the game. Some of these encounters will be things that damage or delay the hunters.
- When the hunters move to a location on the trail, Dracula may ambush them with the encounter. If he chooses not to, the hunters may search for the encounter. If they encounter Dracula or one of his vampires, there will be combat. Combat will be explained later.
- If a location card with an encounter reaches the end of the trail and slides off - six locations long - the encounter matures. If it was a vampire, the trail will be partially cleared and Dracula advances his influence track. Otherwise, the encounter may have a “matured” effect which is generally a stronger version of the basic encounter effect. In either case, the encounter is then discarded.
- Special sea movement rules: When the hunters go to sea, they can’t double back. They’re on a ship and they can’t convince the captain to go back and forth. The same holds for Dracula, except he also has to pay blood for each turn. The running water weakens Dracula. And like two ships passing in the night, Dracula and the hunters cannot encounter each other at sea.
- Combat: (Work through the example in the rule book. Also, since it’s likely that combat won’t happen early in the game, I suggest only giving a fairly brief outline here, since you’ll want to explain it again the first time it happens in game.)
Enjoy the game!
Comparison with 2nd edition
The hunters now rotate moving, then rotate actions, instead of moving and acting in the same turn. For most groups, this means that your turn comes around more quickly.
The event deck has had some of its more overpowered cards removed. For example, the “Evasion” card is no longer in the deck. Depending on your point of view, this either makes the game more fair, by reducing the element of chance in the game, or it makes the game less exciting, by reducing the element of chance in the game.
The combat is more streamlined. The 2nd edition had a ton of modifiers for every combat action, and I think it’s possible that my group has never completed a 2nd edition game without forgetting the modifiers in at least some of the combat. I much prefer the 3rd edition combat.
Also combat related: due to the way hunters and Dracula move to engage in combat, a hunter initiated combat will take its first turn during night, and a Dracula initiated combat will take its first turn during day. This tends to encourage more evasion and less combat.
Instead of a series of day turns and then a series of night turns, the turns alternate day and night. I preferred the older system, as it allowed more setup and strategizing around the advantages of day and night. For example, it used to be possible to set up your moves so that Dracula could make multiple consecutive attacks on a hunter, or set up a vampire to mature at night. That added a more fearsome dynamic to combat and encouraged a bit more aggressiveness on Dracula’s part.
In general, the 3rd edition is more streamlined, will have less swings in game play, and tends to favor hiding and the chase over combat. I do give the nod to 3rd edition overall, but some play groups might prefer the 2nd edition.