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Count Dracula has left his home in Transylvania to travel by ship to London, where he plans to hunt for innocent victims. The famous Dr. van Helsing got wind of Dracula's plans and immediately caught the next carriage to London. It is a race against time! Van Helsing tries to find and destroy all of the vampire's coffins, while the count tries to find five victims. Will the horror end tonight or will the count's reign of terror continue?
I really enjoyed this game. The artwork (both board and cards)and Dracula/Van Helsing game tokens sets the mood in a fantastic way. I think that the elements of bluffing, memory and tactics provide enjoyable gameplay for light to medium range gammers tastes. Heavier gamers will probably be wanting more. Personally, I'm not always in the mood for an intense game of Puerto Rico, and a game like this one fits great for those 'light' quick gaming moments. Every time I've played this game it plays for around 1/2 hour. I've never heard of the author of this game before this one, but I'll be watching his name for future releases down the road. The multiple winning conditions force you to stay on your toes throughout the game. I liked it. Not the best two player game out there, but a fine piece of work that I'd recommend to others.
Dont let the box art scare you! Dracula is a new addition to the Kosmos 2-player line of games, and despite its theme, it actually fairly light and friendly to play. One player takes the role of Dracula, the other is Dr. Van Helsig, vampire-hunter extraordinaire! Players are racing around London trying to foil their opponent by withholding and hiding the target cards from each other.
There are 3 different victory conditions which adds a lot to both the tactics and replayability of this game. A player wins: when his opponent spends her last life point (each player starting with 4 life cubes); when he finds all 5 of his opponents target cards; when he can prove there are no target cards in the city (on the board.)
Gameplay is fairly straightforward: Move, play action card. The action card depicts 4 pieces of info which are resolved thus: make sure movement is covered by card movement points, resolve battle (if any), place barrier, take special action on bottom of card. Quite straightforward, but it keeps decisions interesting as player try and decide the most effective time to play certain cards.
The board depicts London but is essentially a 3 x 4 grid on which 12 encounter cards are laid face-down, 6 cards from Dracula, 6 from Dr. von Helsig. On a players turn, she may move any number of spaces, each move being orthogonal, and each space she moves she may choose to look at the card or not. If, at any time during moving and looking, she finds one of her cards, she may swap that card out and replace it secretly. If she finds the card of her opponent, she must flip it over, her movement ends, and she must resolve the card. Power cards inflict damage, opponent cards bring about a fight where the active player tries to play a card more powerful than the one she revealed, and target cards become instant property of the active player, and put them that much closer to victory!
Since cards are face-down, this game has a fair bit of memory in it not burn your brain memory, but memory nevertheless. With the face-down cards comes a neat dose of bluffing and hiding trying to swap in cards cleverly trying to trick your opponent , and to use barriers to make the path to certain cards much longer. The game is much lighter than it probably sounds, and is an enjoyable 20 minutes. The different victory conditions and the face-down cards remind me quite a bit of Hera & Zeus if you like one you should like the other but the games are still quite different, and so owning both is no problem. I am happy I have both of them.
It has been said that there is nothing new under the sun. And when game manufacturers give us the same themes over and over again (castles, knights, the New World), the game that is set somewhere different gives an added boost to the enjoyment of the game. Dracula probably could have themed any number of ways, but the Dracula theme and great artwork add something to the game: beautifully illustrated cards, with a dark, dusky, dimly-lit London adding much to the feel of the game. If vampires make you queasy, I wouldnt worry too much about it. This game is fairly light, not too confrontational, and allows for clever play. A very nice addition to the Kosmos 2 player line.
I like most of the Kosmos 2-player games, even the ones that are pretty simple, and love the theme and artwork of this one. But it just relies too much on memory (it's really ALL about memory). And with a changing board, it just feels like work. I've heard there's some strategy there, but I didn't see it, and I'm probably not going to go through the effort of playing again to try to find it.
Dracula is the latest in the growing range of very good, 2-player games from Kosmos that includes Lost Cities, Caesar & Cleopatra, and Babel (to name just my favourites). Better still, it has been reproduced in English by Rio Grande for the benefit of those of us whose feeble German is inadequate to deal with the limited amount of text on the cards. The story line is that Dracula has arrived in London in search of fresh victims, hotly pursued by his nemesis Van Helsing. What follows is essentially a race between the Count's hunt for his victims and Van Helsing's attempts to locate and destroy all of his enemy's hideouts.
The game box contains two card decks for each player, a wooden dobber each for Dracula and Van Helsing, various other wooden markers and a game board showing a birds-eye view of a vaguely Victorian street plan which shows twelve locations in a three by four grid.
The aim of the game is for each player to locate his opponent's five target cards before the same is done to him. For Dracula, the targets are five toothsome young ladies while Van Helsing has to find five coffin cards representing the crypts where Dracula sleeps away the daylight hours.
Each player takes their own dobber, a set of four energy cubes and two decks of cards. The first deck consists of fifteen encounter cards - the five targets mentioned above, nine allies (vampires or vampire-hunters) of varying combat strength and one special Symbol of Power. The second deck provides ten action cards for each player, one of which will be played each turn. Each of these is rated for the distance a character can move, fighting strength, ability to erect and move barriers, plus one of a range of useful but not over-powerful special actions.
To start the game each player selects six of their fifteen encounter cards which are shuffled together and distributed randomly and face-down, one to each of the twelve locations on the board. The rest are retained in hand and will be used to replace cards removed during the course of the game. You are free to select as many of your own target cards as you wish - though less than two could be very risky indeed as you will see later. Players then shuffle their action deck and deal themselves five cards to provide a starting hand, setting aside the second set of five cards for use when the first five have been exhausted. The Dracula and Van Helsing dobbers are placed in their starting positions in diagonally opposite corners of the board, and play begins with Dracula taking the first move.
On each turn a player may move his dobber to a new location and then must play an action card. You can move within the grid as far as you wish, but at the end of movement, the action card that you play must show at least the number of spaces moved - or you lose an energy cube.
At each location entered, a player may examine the encounter card that is present. If it proves to be one of your own cards, you may secretly exchange it with another card from your resource deck and then continue movement. This adds a crucial element of bluff and double bluff to the game as you may exchange a strong ally for a target, or vice versa, or just replace the same card. If the encounter card is one of your opponent's, then it must be dealt with, and movement for that turn ends. Target cards are automatically captured when discovered. ``Ally'' cards must be fought by comparing their combat strength with the combat value on the encounter card you played that turn. If you win, you remove that card from play and replace it with one from your own hand. If you lose, you lose an energy cube, and the victorious ally remains in place but is turned face-down again. If the result is a draw, the ally remains in place but you do not lose a cube. Should you find your opponent's symbol of power you take an automatic cube loss, and as the loss of your last energy cube is an instant win for your opponent, you will see that boldness must be balanced by caution. This is particularly so if the encounter cards you have in hand are weak for combat. After movement and combat you have an opportunity to place or move roadblocks which serve to inhibit movement - for example Van Helsing might want to make it difficult for Dracula to get to a particular location where he knows one of the victims is located - or equally he might try and bluff him by apparently trying to keep him away from somewhere containing a card that he actually wants him to find - the symbol of power for instance. The final action in a turn is to use the special power allowed by the action card. These generally convey some small advantage for the next turn such as a free move, recovery of an ally from the dead pile, or an increase in combat strength.
Play alternates until someone locates all five of their targets and wins the game. The only other twist is that whenever Van Helsing and Dracula occupy the same location, the moving player may decide that both players must show each other their encounter deck. If you then find in your opponent's hands all the remaining target cards that you have not already captured then you win instantly. Thus there is a nice tension between having your target cards on the board - where they are vulnerable in the normal course of play - or safe in your hand but risking a quick defeat if you are caught with all your eggs in the one basket.
Given the above, an instant win is possible from the very first move, but generally the game will take twenty to thirty minutes as both players gradually discover their opponent's targets, run out of energy cubes, and build up a mental picture of what is where on the board. Clearly, a functioning short-term memory is required, but there is hope even for Mike Clifford, as an apparent mistake may serve to bluff your opponent. He can never be certain whether your move onto a location containing one of your own cards was designed to switch something valuable to you or dangerous to him.
Dracula provides an excellent blend of bluff, cunning card play, deductive logic, and a little bit of luck. The rules are simple and intuitive, so you can play straight from the box. The theme fits the game like a glove, and it genuinely plays in half an hour leaving you wanting more. I have played Dracula more often than any other game acquired this year, and have yet to do so with anyone who didn't want an instant rematch. Highly recommended.