Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kosmos Two Player Game Series - Dracula by Michael Rieneck

Oooh! Scary!  Dracula was a new acquisition, purchased after we started this series. In Dracula, completely unsurprisingly, one player plays Dracula while the other is his nemesis, Dr. van Helsing. Dracula's goal is to find all five Victim cards, adding them to his undead horde, while van Helsing is searching for Dracula's five Coffin cards. You also have four energy cubes which represent your life points. Lose your last energy cube and you lose the game. Carol played Dracula and I played van Helsing.

Each player has his own unique set of fifteen Encounter cards and ten Action cards. The Encounter cards are played face down on the board throughout the game and when one of the players moves onto the card, he may flip it up and encounter it. In addition to the Victim and Coffin cards, there are Vampires and Vampire Hunters (Companions) who will battle the other player and Symbols of Power which will damage the other player. 

The Action cards are played from your hand and determine how far your figure can move on the board, your combat strength in that turn, which color barrier you can place and may give you a special action (like taking an extra turn, picking a card out of the discard pile or giving you a bonus in combat). You only play one Action card each turn.

The board is a four by three grid depicting the streets of London with Dracula starting in the Harbor in one corner and van Helsing in the Carriage House in the opposite corner. Each player secretly selects six of his Encounter cards, puts all twelve cards together and shuffles them, randomly laying the a card face down on each space on the board. Then, each player draws five of his Action cards and you're ready to play.

On your turn you may move your figure as many spaces as you want, but the Action card you play must have that many movement points or you lose energy cubes for the excess. Once you stop on a space, you look at the Encounter card there. If the card you encounter is one of your own, you pick it up and may swap it with one of the Encounter cards not in play. You may then continue moving. If you encounter one of the other player's Companions, you fight the goon by playing an Action card and comparing combat strengths. If you win, the Companion card is discarded and replaced with one of yours. If you lose, you give up an Energy Cube. After you've moved and played your Action card, you may move one of four colored barriers which restrict movement to help you steer your enemy into dangerous areas.

The multi-purpose Action cards are an interesting twist. You may start the turn intending to play one with high movement points or a particular special action, but once you arrive, you find you need a higher combat strength in order to defeat the Companion on the space. Do you play a different card with fewer movement points and lose the energy cubes or be forced to play a different special action? There's also a heavy memory component as you need to remember where your opponent has played certain cards so you can avoid them and track the target cards.

Despite each player having unique Action cards, the game seems pretty balanced. Carol and I jockeyed back and forth for position, trying to find our target cards without getting beat up by the Companions. I was more successful in hunting down and defeating Carol's Vampires, but stupidly encountered Dracula's Amulet twice, losing two energy cubes in the process. After another encounter, I was down to one energy cube. I had found three of Dracula's Coffins and Carol had found three Victims when I stumbled on another of her Vampires. None of my cards in hand could win the combat, so I lost my last energy cube and the game.

All the cards turned face up after the game.

Coming up:  Dueling nightclubs compete for patrons in Times Square.

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