Have Nomad Games bitten off more than they can chew or will they vanquish this beast of a board game?
Fury of Dracula is a hidden movement game based in the world of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It sees vampire hunters searching around Europe for the illusive Count Dracula as he spreads his influence, traps and new vampires across the land. These hunters must locate Dracula and vanquish him in combat before he is able to spread too much influence and win the game.
Playing as Dracula sees you moving invisibly around Europe attempting to avoid detection by the roving Hunters; while your miniature will not appear on screen Dracula leaves a trail behind him for the Hunters to pick up. This trail comes in the form of location cards which are played face down showing the city as well as how long ago Dracula was in the city; when a Hunter enters a location which appears on Dracula’s trail of 6 locations the card is flipped and the hunt begins. Luckily for Dracula, he has a few tricks up his sleeve and as well as placing a location card players will also include an event card which can either be triggered by Dracula upon the discovery of a location or alternatively be left for the Hunters to use one of their actions to search for and be triggered. Undiscovered or unsearched for event cards which fall off the trail of 6 cards will mature and their events will trigger, sometimes causing issues for the Hunters and other times, most importantly for Dracula, will cause new vampires to mature and increase his influence, taking him one step closer to victory.
Things may seem without hope for the Hunters however they themselves have a number of tricks in order to locate and vanquish Dracula before it is too late. The Hunters turn will consist of 2 phases, the day and night phases and within these, each Hunter will get a single action per phase, what they are able to do with these actions depends on whether they are in day or night. The day phase is the only opportunity that the Hunters will have in order to move around the map as it is too dangerous to move at night for fear of vampires. Players can move via a carriage for free however this will only be along local roads or via trains utilising tickets they have collected with another action. These trains give Hunters the opportunity to traverse long distances by discarding ticket and move along a network of white and yellow tracks based on the values shown on the ticket they discard. Movement is key for the Hunters as entering a location which Dracula is either in or has been in recently will flip the matching location card on Dracula’s trail, providing information about where Dracula has been and how long ago as well as potentially revealing an all important event.
As well as moving, players can resupply which provides them with items and actions they can use to aid them in defeating Dracula, heal any potential damage from combat, reserve a train ticket for use later or search for any unrevealed Dracula events in a city they are in.
The night phase for the Hunters offers an additional opportunity to take any action aside from movement however some of these come with additional risk due to Dracula’s power over the night. When using the resupply action during the daytime, Hunters draw cards from the top of the supply deck and gain the events or items into their hand, the supply deck is however made up of events for both Hunters and Dracula. During the day phase, if a Hunter draws a Dracula event, this is discarded however at night, Hunters will draw from the bottom of the deck blindly and instead of discarding Dracula events, these are given to the player and will come back to haunt you in your quest. It’s a minor change between the phases but offers an interesting gamble for players.
If and when the Hunters finally manage to track down the illusive Count, combat will occur. Unlike a lot of other board games, the combat system in Fury of Dracula is a very simple one; each player involved has a hand of combat cards which contain a number of symbols on each card, players simultaneously chose and reveal one card from their hand and compare the symbols. If the symbol on Dracula’s card does not appear on the card played by the Hunter then you would resolve the Dracula card which would either reduce the Hunters health, cause some sort of debilitating effect or allow Dracula to escape. If the symbol does in fact appear on the Hunters card then Dracula is neutralised and the Hunter’s card is resolved. It’s a game of chance and deduction, knowing when Dracula will try and fight to kill your Hunter (thus forcing them to waste their next turn recovering at a hospital) or will try to evade capture and disappear into the night. It is also the only way in which the Hunters can win, by vanquishing Dracula in combat, reducing his health to zero of the course of multiple fights throughout the game.
Fury of Dracula is at it’s core a hidden movement game with extra tools provided to players to help with each of their goals, it ebbs and flows as flurries of activity in the form of combat contrast the challenging and long search to pick up Dracula’s trail. Playing as the Hunters gives you the thrill in chasing down a player, cornering them on the map before trying to close in for the kill where as playing as Dracula has you revelling in slipping through the net and rushing to the other side of the map, leaving a trail of vampires and influence in your wake.
Fury of Dracula is a game which is dripping with theme and Nomad Games have done a fantastic job of bringing that theme to life on the screen, menus are animated and loading screens have a vintage Dracula movie feel to them. The art style of the physical game is here but has been ramped up to really bring these characters to life. As Fury of Dracula Digital Edition is currently only available on Steam is can take advantage of the larger screen available to fit in the myriad of cards, map, options and tracks on the screen however I would be interested to see how this changes with any move to the mobile space as frankly there is a lot to fit in on the screen.
Graphically Fury of Dracula has a 3D map on screen and 3D models for each player token, it’s an impressive feat to include so much texture on a digital board game design especially coming from a 2D medium and although it can be a little rough in places it is commendable what Nomad Games has achieved. However, one issue I have encountered on a number of occasions was some difficulty selecting specific roads or rails to take actions on, or selecting specific cites to move to where the camera angle has been a barrier to these selections. These are few and far between however have hampered some of my best laid plans on occasion. A final gripe I had with the game was the volume of confirmations I needed to make in order to take my desired action, clicking the action and confirming every step of the way got tiresome and extended the game length of what can already be a long playtime. While I understand the need for this kind of user interface especially for newer players to the game, as someone who has been playing the physical version for years I was confident in my selections and would happily risk a potential wrong click every now and then for not having to click ‘yes’ on every action.
Fury of Dracula has a number of options for players to play with more in development as we speak. There is currently online 1v1 available with one player taking control of Dracula and the other all 4 of the Hunters and in development is the ability to play 1v4, allowing up to 5 people to play together online at the same time. I’m interested to see how well Fury of Dracula fares online at the full 5 player count as there is a lot of work to be done by the Hunters to coordinate their efforts to stand any chance of locating Dracula. Offline you are able to play both 1v1 or alternatively solo against an AI which will take control of either all of the Hunters or Dracula depending on who you choose. The AI isn’t the most challenging and at times makes some baffling decisions, it is clearly a far better opponent when it controls Dracula than when it is trying to play as 4 Hunters and more often than not I can spend half of the game playing as Dracula being entirely undetected. Despite the AI Fury of Dracula is still a fun experience as a single player and this is due to perhaps the biggest selling point of this digital adaptation.
If you’ve read my guest blog over at Nomad Games then you’ll know that I’m a fan of the source material for Fury of Dracula, I enjoy that it is a hidden movement game with a little bit more going on than some of the other games in the genre as well as having a fantastic theme throughout every aspect. However it’s a game I can’t get to the table as often as I would like due to the inaccessibility for newer board game players but most importantly because the play time for a game can go up to 4 hours which is too much for many people. What Fury of Dracula Digital Edition has done is sped game play up to about 45 minutes to an hour, which while is a long time for a digital board game, finally makes Fury of Dracula feasible for many people. A previously inaccessible game can now feature as part of your digital game nights and not be your whole game night. This kind of speeding up of gameplay is the crux of what makes digital board games so appealing to many and I don’t think any adaptation to date (save for maybe Through the Ages) benefits more from this increase in play speed.
Fury of Dracula is a game I enjoy, I’m excited that I’ve been able to play more of it within the last month than I have been able to play the physical game in the last 5 years and the adaptation does a good job of bringing the look and feel of the game to life on my screen. While it’s a game that won’t appeal to the more casual board game enthusiasts it’s one that people who love games with hidden movement mechanics, asymmetric win conditions or simply who love to get lost in an immersive theme will want to have in their collection.