Many of the original fairy tales lacked the happy ending Disney gave them. (Little Mermaid, I am so looking at you!) Even those that did often went dark places, like Cinderella’s step-sisters cutting at their feet to make them fit into the glass slipper or the macabre death of the forty thieves at the hands of Ali Baba’s slave girl (who is, arguably, the real hero of the story). If you’re the sort who prefers your fairytales full of doom and gloom, or just enjoy mixing them with inspiration from Eds Gorey and Poe, then you should check out Fairytale Gloom.
Fairytale Gloom is a non-collectible card game and part of Atlas Games’ Gloom line of card games. You start with four fairytale characters. Your goal is to reduce their self-worth below zero before whacking them with an unhappy ending. You do this by playing events and modifier cards. These cards are clear plastic so that you lay them directly on top of the character you’re using them on. This modifies the values of the character’s vital statistics (most especially self-worth). There are also two story cards sitting beside the play area. Any player can claim the story cards but only if they meet the conditions listed on those cards.
There’s a neat wrinkle at the end of the game. As soon as one player has given all four of their characters an unhappy ending, you add up the (now negative) self-worth scores of all the characters you’ve given an unhappy ending to. The player with the lowest combined score wins. This gives you two paths to victory: either swiftly moving to end all four of your characters, or attempting to pile as many negatives on a few characters and letting the other players spread out the misery across all four of their characters.
The game is delightfully compact, and the box will easily fit in your pocket or purse. Up to five players can play, and games tend to last less than an hour. The cards are amusing, with colorful but still Gorey-esque illustrations and clever writing (Baby Bear is a “porridge enthusiast” who’s slogan is, “Nobody puts Baby Bear in a corner!”). The see-through cards are a neat way of keeping tabs on your score without needing counters or tokens, and gives the game a memorable and unique quality. The real fun, however, is the humorous schadenfreude of the stories you’ll weave as you pile misfortune after misfortune on your poor characters while inflicting happy moments on your opponents. Fairytale Gloom is completely compatible with the Gloom core set and all the expansions, including Cthulhu Gloom and Unhappy Homes. If you like your humor and little dark and enjoy entertaining your friends with a bit of card-inspired improv, you’ll definitely want to give Fairytale Gloom a try.