Author: Norbert Proena

Publisher: ZOCH 2005

Awards: none



Considering the increasing tendency that successful boardgames tend to be followed by either a similar successor or by an expansion, it certainly was no surprise that the award-winning Dicke Luft in der Gruft from ZOCH would be followed by an expansion set. Thus, in fall 2005, Zoch released with Frische Luft in der Gruft an expansion set which now enlarges the scope of the game and increases the challenge for the players by introducing some new rules.

Most imposing in this new expansion is His Excellency Count Rucola, Honoured Lord of the Vampires, who has come to the graveyard to observe the struggle of his subjects to find empty graves. At the beginning of the game, the figure of Count Rucola is placed on his pedestral at the center of the gameboard, but during the game he may climb down from his pedestral and aid players in their search for an empty grave.

Thus, the question now is how a player may qualify for Rucola`s help and claim his figure. Easy said than done, a player may enlist the Count to his ranks if he succeeds in placing three vampires from his vampire-row into fitting graves in just one turn. If a player succeeds in doing so, he may claim the figure of the Count plus the pedestrial and put it in front of himself. Once the player`s turn comes to its end, the player`s final action will be the placing of the Count onto a grave on the gameboard without looking into the grave (the pedestrial is kept by the player to indicate that the Count is assisting that player at the moment). The grave with the Count is considered to be reserved for the player who has placed the Count, and at the beginning of his next turn that player will be allowed to open the grave and check whether it is still empty.

Here you must note that the colour on the downside of the tombstone is not of importance at this point. If the grave is empty, the player just puts one of his vampires into the grave and then he places the Count onto another grave in a different quarter of the gameboard so that the player may use the Count again in his next turn. After dealing with the Count, the player then is allowed to begin with his normal turn, opening graves and placing vampires as normal. However, if the grave is occupied, the player`s turn is directly over and he looses the Count and the pedestrial to the player to his left. Still, as a last boon, the Count prevents greater damage since the player only has to end his turn but has not to take a wooden stake or additional vampires.

But what would a Count be without his minions? Thus, Count Rucola has not come alone but instead he has arrived accompanied by his loyal bats, and so each player has received two colour-matched bats at the beginning of the game. Each of the bats may be used once during the game, and a player may use a bat when he would usually open a tomb on the gameboard.

Instead of opening a tomb, a player may choose to put a bat on one of the tombs and announce the assertion "This tomb is empty!". In order, the other players now have the option either to believe this assertion or to challenge it. As soon as a player challenges the assertion, the player of the bat will have to open the tomb and check whether it is really empty. If it is empty indeed, the challenger will receive a wooden stake for his doubts and the player of the bat will be allowed to place one of his vampires into the grave (regardless of the colour of the tombstone). However, if the grave should be already occupied by another vampire, the challenger may remove that vampire from the grave and place one of his own vampires into it, handing the removed vampire to the player of the bat. As a third option, there may be garlic in the grave, and in that case the player of the bat will be given a vampire by the player of the garlic.

However, it might also be possible that no other player will challenge the placement of the bat. If that should be the case, the player of the bat will be allowed to place one of his vampires into the grave regardless of its contents. Any vampire or garlic in the grave will be removed and is either handed back to its owner or a player at the choice of the player of the bat.

Although the main playing mechanism remains virtually unchanged, the new expansion adds a whole new dimension to the rules of Dicke Luft in der Gruft which demands of the players to remember the proceedings on the gameboard with even greater care. The possession of Count Rucola gives a player a great advantage due to his ability to reserve a grave, but usually the Count is not kept too long by a player since the number of 60 graves available in the game tends to be simply too much to keep everything in mind to use the Count for several consecutive turns. Thus, the Count`s benefits a spread fairly even between the players, and here it becomes visible how important it is that an expansion set does not throw a game off balance. Quite the opposite, Frische Luft in der Gruft really brings a blast of fresh air, revitalizing the game and once again challenging younger and older players alike with a funny and interactive memory contest.

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany