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Author: Michael Rieneck

Publisher: Kosmos 2003

G@mebox Star



A game I was rather eager to playtest was Dracula from KOSMOS' rather successful series of two player games. Knowing the old GAMES WORKSHOP classic Fury of Dracula, my curiosity was roused whether the new game could stand a comparison as far as gameplay and playing depth are concerned.

The first striking factor about Dracula is its appearance. The Box is held in black with bloody Vampire-fangs on the front cover, but upon opening the game I was quite taken by the high quality of the included playing materials. You get a nice map for some dark part of London, two decks of cards with excellent graphics, two wooden playing figures and Energy stones and 4 coloured barriers which can be placed on the gameboard.

Now to the rules: In this game one player takes up the role of Count Dracula, whereas the other player assumes the rule of his sworn enemy Professor Van Helsing. Dracula has come to London in order to spread Vampirism in England once again, and Professor Van Helsing must try to locate all of Dracula's Vampire-Tombs before Dracula can find all of his victims.

At the beginning of the game, each player receives a deck of 10 action-cards and 15 location-cards. The action cards are mixed up and each player receives 5 random action cards from his deck as his hand while the other 5 cards are placed aside - the players will get these when they have used up their first hand of 5 action-cards. Each player also secretly choses 6 of his location cards, and these cards will be mixed together and randomly placed face-down onto the 12 different locations on the gameboard. Finally, each player receives his 4 Energy tokens and may place his playing figure on the starting position on the gameboard (opposite corners).

A player's turn consists of two actions - moving his playing piece and afterwards playing an action card. The players may move their playing piece between adjacent locations, and whenever they have reached a location they may decide whether to look at the location-card which has been placed there. If a player decides to look at the card and finds a card from his own hand of location-cards he may put the card into his hand of location-cards and exchange it for any other card from his hand (or do a bluff and put down the same card again. However, if a player finds the card of the opposing player, then he has no choice but to end his movement, reveal the card and to act on the shown event.

Basically, a location card can show one of three different events. The most common event is that the player has discovered a Henchman of the other player (i.e. a Vampire or a Vampire Hunter). This Henchman must be fought by the player. The next possibility is that a Symbol of Power of the other player is revealed, and this means that the player has to loose one of his Energy-tokens. The final option is that Dracula discovers one of the 5 victims or that Van Helsing finds one of Dracula's 5 Vampire Tombs. Finding these cards is the aim of each player, and the first player who has found the complete set of 5 cards will have won the game.

After the player's movement has ended (and after possibly revealing the location card on which he stands) the player now must play an action-card from his hand. The action cards had 4 different attributes which are printed on each card, and each of the attributes will come to bear when a card is played. Thus, the first attribute of a card is that it shows a player's maximum movement allowance. Here it must be remembered that the action-card is played after a player's movement, so that a player's choice of action cards is narrowed down the farther he wanders. The next attribute on the card will be the fighting strength of the player. If he had discovered an enemy Henchmen at the end of his movement, the player now will compare the Henchman's strength with his own strength as printed on the action-card. If the player is stronger, he can discard the henchmen and gets to put down one of his own location cards at that location. If the player is weaker, he will lose one of his Energy tokens (if a player looses all of his Energy tokens the game is over for him). If the player and the Henchman tie nothing will happen. Next, as a third attribute each card also contains a special action, and these action will influence the rules in some way to give the player some minor advantage. And as a final attribute, there is a symbol on the action-card showing one of the four coloured barriers. The depicted barrier may be placed or moved on the gameboard, restricting travel between two neighbouring locations.

Once again I must confess that I am quite taken by the quality KOSMOS puts into its series of two player games. To my mind Michael Rieneck's Dracula offers a perfect set of rather well playable rules, and my overall good impression of the game is strengthened even further by its appearance. The game does not need to shy away from a comparison with Fury of Dracula. This older classic offers for a longer and somewhat deeper gameplay, but the new Dracula simply is perfect entertainment at a slightly lower level of complexity. A definate MUST-BUY!

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany