Published on March 6th, 2009 | by Greg0
Geek Week: Mad Scientist University and Gloom Card Games
This marks the end of our unofficial Geek Week, a week that saw Watchmen released (book review coming soon), and our reviews of Wondercon and four pretty excellent games. Next week, we’ll be back to our usual selves, with some interesting chocolates and teas.
But for now, we want to delve into our review of something even geekier than video games, or even board games: card games. Atlas Games makes some truly excellent games, but this was our first time playing Gloom or Mad Scientist University, both games with awesome art and interesting, quirky gameplay, for ages 8 and up.
Gloom, for 2-4 players, features nifty transparent cards, Edward Gorey-style art, and the stated goal of making your “family” as miserable as possible. What could be better? Cards have a variety of miserable effects, and the game is fairly simple to learn, though not that deep. It’s fairly unique, and hard to think of anything else that is that similar, but the strategies are easy to pick up and by the third or fourth game you may want to pick up the expansion pack for more variety. Of course, a lot of the fun is in the widely varied cards (“Pursued by Poodles”) and art, and it’s pretty easy to mix up the game among experienced gamers and newer folks (randomness plays a big factor). $22.
Mad Scientist University handles 3-7 players, and if Gloom is a game where you can tell a fun story, MSU almost requires it… and a fair amount of beer as well. This is a “judgment” game, where one player serves to rule on the other players’ wacky and imaginative ideas (in this case, solutions to “insane assignments” that utilize their drawn “unstable element” cards. Think “Apples to Apples” but with “lawn gnomes”, “ninjas”, and plenty of other craziness. So, MSU works best as a social/party game, among folks who are willing to invent some crackpot schemes and run with them. It fits us at TrulyObscure quite well (ruling from obscurity since 2006), but it won’t be for everyone. Simple, straightforward, and pretty funny in the right crowd. $25.