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Overview Fury of Dracula is a one against many cooperative deduction game in which the team are trying to find and defeat the one who i...

Fury of Dracula Third Edition Fury of Dracula Third Edition

Fury of Dracula Third Edition

Fury of Dracula Third Edition

Overview

Fury of Dracula is a one against many cooperative deduction game in which the team are trying to find and defeat the one who is playing Dracula.  To win, Dracula is attempting to prey on the weaker hunters and increase his influence throughout Europe.

The game is played out on a map board containing 70 locations in which Dracula can hideout and players can search and recover, amongst other things. The game has elements of deduction, bluffing and combat, all wrapped up in a deliciously-dark and thematic experience. 

You can watch my unboxing video of the Third Edition of Fury of Dracula from Wizkids below:



Gameplay

The game will be played over a series of rounds until either Dracula has been defeated/killed? (the players win) or he has achieved a total of 13 influence points (Dracula wins).  Players' primary method to defeat Dracula is through finding his current hideout, fighting and wounding him. Dracula can be quite vulnerable and will take significant damage when multiple hunters attack him. However, Dracula's influence comes from a variety of sources which also includes fighting hunters.  There is a delicate balance for both teams (the hunters and Dracula) to consider in this game.
Game ready to play
The game consists of a Hunter Phase and a Dracula Phase until the victory conditions have been met. During the Hunter Phase, players will all take a day action, and once the day is over, they will take a night action. Effectively each hunter has two turns in which to prepare for the Dracula phase, in which he simply moves to a new location. 

Every time Dracula moves, he places a new Location card i.e. where he's moved to, and an Encounter card onto his Trail. From the start of the game, the trail will grow from just 1 location to 6 locations indicating where Dracula has been and currently is. If the Hunters haven't found the first location placed it will slide off the board and the encounter card will 'mature'. A maturing vampire encounter card will cause Dracula's influence to increase by 2.  
'Learn to Play' book
Every time a hunter travels to a location which is on Dracula's trail, Dracula may immediately Ambush the hunter by revealing the Encounter card in that location.  This will discard the encounter card and prevent it from maturing later. If Dracula doesn't Ambush the players may surmise that it is a baby vampire and searching for it will prevent Dracula's influence increasing at a later date. However, Dracula has lots of opportunities to dupe the hunters in how he reacts to his trail being revealed. 

If the Hunters are ever in the same location as Dracula, they will have a combat round. Combat is resolved after the Hunter's Day actions have been completed and then again after Dracula's actions have been completed.  The timing of the combat rounds needs to be carefully considered for when players elect to supply, rest and move.
Three rounds of combat, Dr John Sewards combat card has been blocked by Dracula (matching icon) another combat round will begin.
Combat is resolved similarly by both sides; they take a certain amount of combat cards into their hands and reveal one card. If the icons on the revealed cards don't match then Dracula will perform his cards action, and then the hunter's action will resolve. If they match then only the hunter's card will resolve. Dracula will never stand toe-to-toe with a hunter for long though, eventually, he must escape from combat, unless he is going to defeat the hunter else he will lose the game

There are a myriad of extras rules that I could explain but this review would get far too long without actually reviewing the game.  The gameplay does suffer a little bit from a slow-burn at the beginning but once it gets going it is one of the most cinematic experiences I have ever had with a group of players playing a board game.  The tension inexorably ramps up to the endgame which, in my plays up to now, have always been very tense, due to the fact that Dracula or the Hunters had victory just within their grasp.
Where is he?
There is a fair bit of downtime for the Dracula player between his turns but as the Hunter players are openly discussing their plans it is not really downtime. In fact, it is a perfect opportunity to listen and goad the Hunters as they stumble around the board.  There is as much gameplay off the table whilst discussing plans as there is on the board. Many cooperatives have this feature but I have never played one in which I found myself pseudo-roleplaying my role just a little bit. That is a testament to the high-level of immersion that this game has.

Components

The fourth edition is printed by WizKids and comes with painted miniatures which as far as I can tell is the only difference between the third and this version.  

Any time a Hunter takes a supply action, a card is drawn from the item deck. During a day supply action, this is from the top of the deck where players will see whether it is a Hunter card or not. If it is a night action the card is blind-drawn from the bottom of the deck. If it is not a Hunter card then the card will be given to Dracula and may also resolve immediately. There is an element of push-your-luck as well in this action and it keeps the Dracula player involved even more during the Hunters turns. However, in my copy, the backs of the two card-types have vastly different colours so we needed to keep the cards very neatly stacked to prevent the Hunters from seeing which card type was on the bottom. 
Should be the same colour
The rulebook comes in two parts, a Learn to Play and Rules Reference which I do like. I think you can get up and playing much quicker by having rulebooks like this. The Learn to Play is very nicely illustrated with a large number of examples included.  The reference book is just dense walls of text but it is perfect for looking up edge cases not covered by the rules.  I can't think of any time that a gameplay question wasn't resolved by either the learn to play (most commonly this) or the Rules Reference (mostly just for clarification).

The artwork throughout the game and all components are nicely thematic and if you're a fan of the original novel or the vampiric-genre then you should appreciate not only the artwork but the chosen Hunters and their special abilities. Van Helsing is included and he is the Hunter's primary damage dealer; Mina Harker is also a hunter but should rarely be in combat against Dracula but her special ability lets her work together i.e. in the same location as another hunter, to quickly whittle down the possible locations of Dracula.
Cards and Components

I also had a printing error on the player's boards regarding their hand size, but this is easily remembered.

Criticisms

The game can drag for the first few turns. This is when Dracula is still building the Trail and there is little for the Hunters to work with without an element of luck. What makes this game really shine is tension, which is largely absent for the first 20 minutes or so. There's still plenty of things for all players to be doing, i.e. collecting item cards, getting tickets, incubating vampire babies etc. but in the first game I played with a new group they almost bailed before it got going. They were glad they didn't/I forced them not to.

The game does stay on the table for a while. If both the Dracula and Hunter players are familiar with the game, it will probably take the full three hours with both teams finishing within one point or so of each other. If one side doesn't know what they're doing it will probably still take three hours but finish much earlier in game-play terms i.e. early on week 2 instead of week 3 or later but after three hours have elapsed.

Conclusion

There is a reason this game has had three reprints after the original release in 1987. It is an excellent game that combines many popular boardgame mechanics into a finely balanced gameplay experience that plays best with 5 players.  It is also good with 3 players and playable with 2.  I didn't like it as much with 4 players though as one player is controlling more Hunters than another which unbalanced the game a little. 

Lots of games have tense endgame but I haven't experienced one as dramatic as this one. Often in a standard 'euro game' the tension comes from adding on your Victory points and bonus VPs on the score track at the end of the game. In this game (definitely not a euro game) the tension starts about 30 minutes in and steadily ramps up to the conclusion 2 and a half hours later.  It is an intense experience. I would even say that it is a high-stakes game...

The game arguably provides a more cinematic experience than going to the cinema and more suspense than any whodunit novel. It just may be a perfect blend of board-game where you're constrained by rules which tells a story without any narrative.  After you've played you will feel exhausted just as you would having traipsed across Europe for the last three weeks hunting and being hunted by Dracula.

Most game-stores will have a copy of this game in and even if you're not interested in this game, you can use this link http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/ to find your nearest game store.

Publisher: Wizkids
Website: https://wizkids.com/fury-of-dracula/
Players: 2 - 5
Designer: Stephen Hand
Playing time: 2 - 3 hours

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