(image by ColtsFan76 @ BGG)
I’m relatively new to the board game scene so I missed out on Avalon Hill, Milton Bradley, Games Workshop and others in their prime. Thankfully many classic games from that era are finding their way into reprints and redesigns by new publishers, giving new gamers like me a chance to see what all we missed out on!
Fury of Dracula is Fantasy Flight’s reprint of the 1987 game of the same name. One player is Dracula, running around Europe hiding from the team of hunters trying to bring the Count down. Dracula will forever disappear if the hunters take too long, but defeating him is no easy task – especially once the sun sets. The hunters will need to work together to pick up Dracula’s trail and have the strength to defeat him. Dracula, on the other hand, will need to be crafty in his movements and use his available tools wisely to set traps for the hunters and throw them off his trail.
Dracula may be looking for fresh blood, but not everything about this game sucks:
+ Hidden movement – I love the mechanic of hidden movement. Playing as the hunted is usually the most entertaining as you try to outsmart your opponents, but it’s also fun for hunters to work together and try to give Dracula as few escape opportunities as possible. The game’s length and difficulty does hinge around the Dracula player, though; poor play or mistakes can make the game incredibly easy for the hunters.
Fury of Dracula also uses a pretty clever card system for tracking Dracula’s movement. The Dracula player has a deck of cards representing all of the location on the map. Each turn they put their next destination face down and also place an encounter marker on top of the card. The movement track is eight spaces long so Dracula essentially keeps a history of his last eight movements. This gives the hunters a chance to pick up Dracula’s trail but will have to encounter the token Dracula placed on that location card. It also means Dracula can’t double back on his trail (without the use of some special cards) as he only has one of each location on the map. It’s very clever and a great way to handle Dracula’s hidden movement.
+ Gorgeous map – I’m a sucker for maps and Fury of Dracula has one of the nicest maps I’ve seen in a board game. The design is clean and clear and I love the color palette. It is bound to turn some heads when set up.
+ Event cards – On their turn the hunters have the option of drawing an event card. Unlike most decks, they draw from the bottom because the card back designates if the event card goes to that hunter or to Dracula. It’s a clever risk-reward system as the event cards give the hunters some nice bonuses and abilities but they risk giving cards to Dracula to make him more powerful or easier for him to escape.
Unfortunately in some ways I find the concept of the game better than the actual implementation:
(image by Filippos @ BGG)
– Event cards – While there’s a fun risk/reward system for the hunters in drawing event cards, they can take some of the fun out of the game depending on the timing of certain events. For example, some events allow the hunters to scout out areas on the map without moving there. If they get lucky and pick Dracula’s hiding spot early in the game the hunters can quickly mob Dracula, resulting in a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion.
– The hunt – Trying to pick up Dracula’s trail or trying to avoid the hunters is a lot of fun. Unfortunately once the hunters pick up Dracula’s trail the game can often turn into a big of a slog as they chase him down. Dracula has some tricks up his sleeve during nighttime but during the day it’s not too difficult for the hunters to corner. Yes, it will take several rounds of combat for the hunters to ultimately defeat Dracula but it often feels like just a matter of time.
– Combat – I’m really not a fan of the combat system. Ultimately it is functional but highly unintuitive and I generally have to relearn how it works each time we play. There’s essentially a rock-paper-scissors style element with card plays and some dice rolling to determine which player wins the battle. My main complaint is that between the charts, symbols and text used there’s no way you can just look at a card and even begin to guess how the combat system could possibly work. Once you understand it there’s actually some subtleties and I do like that Dracula is far more powerful at night, but I do find combat to be the least interesting part of the game.
– Length – Often running a solid two hours I feel like the game can outstay its welcome. Mostly this comes towards the end when it’s fairly clear the hunters will win. At that point Dracula could just toss in the towel but that takes away some satisfaction the hunters get from finally capturing their nemesis. The length can also be highly variable based on how quickly the hunters manage to track down Dracula, which isn’t always a fault of the game but can still result in an unsatisfying experience.
Fury of Dracula is at its best when Dracula manages to elude the hunters for a couple of days, giving him time to run around and force the hunters to really stretch themselves thin and cover as much ground as possible. When you get that fun game of cat-and-mouse going the game is fantastic. Unfortunately my last couple of plays have been pretty unsatisfying with Dracula getting revealed early via event cards, ending the game long before any buildup happened.
In the end I think Fury of Dracula is good to pull out from time to time for the fun of the hunt but doesn’t have quite enough going to keep it hitting the table on a regular basis.