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It can often be difficult to get together the five or six people that you need to really play a board game to it’s top quality.  This is the reason board game cafes are booming.  People are discovering these amazing games and the best way for them to play them is to go to a place where everyone is there for the express purpose of playing games.  But sometimes it’s genuinely worth the effort to get together with your friends and believe you and me reader, we’re going to be talking about one today.

WP_20160916_07_13_34_ProFury of Dracula is currently in its third edition which is a massive relief as for a while out of print copies could be found on Amazon at roughly £140!
Your first reaction on opening the box is likely to be simple pleasure at how stunningly pretty everything is.  Fantasy Flight have some of the best production quality in the business and it’s absolutely on display here.  The map of Europe that makes up the board is in beautiful muted colours, the five mini’s are gorgeous to look at and all of the artwork looks like it stepped out of a hammer horror film in the best possible way.  Then you do a little bit of math based on how many pieces there are and you remember that one time one of your friends brought out Eldritch Horror and you were confused for three hours before losing for reasons that weren’t entirely clear and you start to wonder what you’ve signed up for.

..Despite its myriad of pieces and the twenty minutes that you’ll have to spend explaining how things work to everyone, within ten minutes of starting playing you will know exactly what you are doing

Fear not reader, for despite its myriad of pieces and the twenty minutes that you’ll have to spend explaining how things work to everyone, within ten minutes of starting playing you will know exactly what you are doing.  Four players assume the roles of fearless vampire hunters, with a fifth player assuming the role of Dracula.

Dracula moves in secret, placing cards and leaving ambushes along a t
rack at the side of the board.  Each time he moves, he pushes the previous location card up the track.  When eventually they begin to fall off the bottom of the track, he can score points if he manages to conceal certain cards amongst his traps.  However, while the location cards are on the track, the hunters have a chance of stumbling over them.  If they move to a location that’s on the track, it’s immediately revealed, letting the player know where he was and more importantly how long ago he was there.  As soon as this information is discovered, the net begins to close around Dracula.

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I had played the game twice before with friends.  In both cases, we could only field three players.  This means my two friends each controlled two hunters. This is possible, but I wouldn’t really recommend it.  This is a game designed to be played with five players.  Last night, I managed to assemble a full game and put it to the test and my god, it is so much better with the full group.  This is a game about struggling to work as a team, exchanging information, thinking about how to communicate without giving anything away to Dracula.  It’s also a game about Dracula sitting and listening to his friends and considering how best to sneak through them.  Of course by turn 3 they were hot on my tail.

WP_20160916_07_16_28_Pro The game is heavily weighted in design against Dracula for obvious reasons.  Dracula may be hidden, but he won’t be hidden for long.  It takes a long time to start scoring points as well.  I’ve heard it said that Dracula will lose about 90% of games.  That doesn’t sound unlikely to me.  If the hunters can all attack Dracula at the same time, he will very quickly be punched to death (amusingly, this is an actual thing that can actually happen) but he can at least make them bleed for it. Dracula’s attacks are extremely powerful, and if he kills off a hunter, it can earn him points.  Occasionally, this can even let him win.

So it’s about turn 8 and I’m pretty much screwed.  There are hunters to the east and west of me and the other two moving in from the north to make sure they get me this time.  There are only two places I can move where they are not and they’ll easily be able to find me again. While I am close to my goal of winning through points, I know that my next scoring card is four or five turns away.  This leaves me with only one option.  Instead of fleeing I attack on of the hunters.  I’ve been very escape happy so far in this game, so this comes as something of a surprise.  I also create a vampire in the city to come attack with me.  Playing as aggressively as possible, I attack the hunter during the night and defeat him, banishing him to a hospital, earning me some more points and leaving only one hunter in my little corner of Europe.  I look at my score and do a little math.  Then I turn to the remaining hunter.

And I smile.

Fury of Dracula needs to be in your collection.  It will let you craft memories and stories that will stick with you for months.  It’s a game of bluffing, of stealth, of planning and deduction.  Beneath its myriad pieces and twenty minutes of rules is a very simple thrill.  It’s hide and go seek turned into a board game, but made entirely of that really awesome last five minutes where everyone looks for the last guy.  If you’re not into board games then you will find few better arguments for changing that position and if you are into board games then you’ll find this was exactly as good as everyone was telling you.

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Designer: Stephen Hand (Original) Frank Brooks (Third Edition)
Publisher: Fantasy Flight
Play time: 3 hours
Number of Players: 2-5 (difficult with 2, best with 5)
Complexity: Medium