Gaming Unplugged: Fury of Dracula

October 21, 2010

In Fury of Dracula (designed by Kevin Wilson and Stephen Hand, published by Fantasy Flight), four protagonists from Bram Stoker’s immortal novel are in a desperate chase to find Dracula before he can return to his full power, although they don’t have a lot of time to do so and the vampire is incredibly cunning. Fury of Dracula is a cat-and-mouse style cooperative-competitive game; one player moves Dracula in secret while the rest must coordinate the hunters (Van Helsing, Lord Godalming, Dr. Steward, and Mina Harker) as a team to uncover his trail.

The game begins with each hunter being placed anywhere on the map; Dracula then chooses his starting position. As you might imagine, the strategy starts right away. Each hunter is initially equipped with  basic tactics cards (punch, dodge, and evade); Dracula has his own tactics, and which are available to him in a given encounter depends on the time of day. The hunters may be able to find additional items as they travel across Europe, although there is a limit as to how many they can hold. Additionally, there are also Event cards that can affect either side; they are drawn from the bottom of the stack and each one has a symbol on the back indicating whether it belongs to the hunters or Dracula. Dracula also has a hand of five encounter tokens, which describe what will happen to a hunter who uncovers that particular leg of his trail. It is important to note that certain encounters will earn Dracula victory points if they go undiscovered for long enough. 

A game round begins with Dracula advancing the time track one segment, then moving to a new location by playing one of his location cards on the track across the top of the board (shifting any existing cards down one space) and placing an encounter token on it (if no hunter is present; if one is, he must attack instead) before drawing back up to five tokens. Dracula also has some special power cards that can be used to throw the hunters off the scent, but the hunters will become aware if the vampire takes to sea travel by the color of the location card played. Traveling by sea can be an efficient way to Dracula to evade his pursuers, as there are almost always several potential landing sites from any given body of water, but it comes at a price; extensive movement at sea weakens Dracula’s strength (blood points) and the time track does not advance if Dracula began his turn at sea. Dracula cannot cross his own trail until a certain number of turns have passed, as he only has one card per given location. Also, unlike the hunters, Dracula can only move on land by road.

Once Dracula’s turn has ended, the hunters take their turn in a specific order (as indicated on their player cards). Each hunter can move along a road to the next city or town; alternately, they may attempt to move by rail, which is potentially quicker but not as reliable — a roll of a special d6 indicates how far the player can move, if at all. A hunter can also move to sea  as appropriate. After every move, the Dracula player must inform the hunter if (s)he has discovered his trail, revealing the corresponding location card — and encounter token (or Dracula himself!) — if applicable. If there is no encounter, the hunter has the option to draw one or two cards, depending on the type of city (and obviously nothing if at sea); alternately, the hunter may rest to recover health, but doing so draws to Event cards, and any Dracula Events that are drawn are played/kept as normal, with hunter Events being discarded. If any hunters share a non-sea location, they may trade items between them. Also, hunters may travel as a group if they feel the need to do so, usually when they are hot on the trail and looking to close the noose. This cycle of Dracula/Hunters continues until Dracula is defeated or until Dracula has accumulated 6 Vampire points.

Every time a new day begins (as indicated by Dracula moving the time marker from “Small Hours” to “Dawn,” usually after 6 rounds not counting sea travel or Events), Dracula scores one Vampire point and the hunters gain a single Resolve. Resolve can be spent by any hunter on their turn to achieve one of three powerful effects, but they share a mutual pool of it and only earn it as the days progress (and thus as Dracula nears victory) so it must be spent wisely.

Whenever the hunters encounter Dracula or one of his Agents, combat occurs.  Each player chooses one of his combat cards secretly, then they are both revealed. A single d6 is rolled, with the result being added to the chosen card’s initiative value; whichever player has the higher initiative is successful in his attack, and compares the card played by the enemy to his own to determine the result (ties are broken by the initiative value on the card). If combat continues, the players set aside the cards they just chose and select new ones for the new round; some cards are consumed in the attack, and the card will indicate this by having the opposing card listed in bold. Should a hunter fall in combat (either via reaching 0 health or receiving a lethal Bite), Dracula earns two Vampire points and the hunter regains consciousness at the Hospital of St. Joseph and St. Mary without any items or events and forfeits his next turn.

As mentioned, the game ends either when Dracula is defeated (0 blood) or when he has accumulated 6 Vampire points. How quickly this happens is largely dependent on how efficiently the Hunters deduce (or stumble upon!) Dracula’s trail, although it’s an uphill struggle the entire time. There are certain Event cards that can dramatically turn the tide of the game one way or the other, and it is often advantageous for the hunters to not draw cards if they are closing in on the vampire if the “Escape!” card has not yet been drawn (which lets Dracula move to any city on the board, regardless of distance and is a total morale-breake). Even barring a last-minute “Escape!” the game can still last several hours, as a skilled Dracula player can keep a group of hunters guessing for quite a while even in the face of several beneficial Events. Victory for the hunters is also greatly dependent on die rolls, as Dracula must almost always be defeated in combat. That said, a game of Fury of Dracula is often quite closely-contested unless the Dracula player gets extremely lucky on his encounter draws, and the experience is worth the time investment.

Fury of Dracula can be difficult to find in stores, but can be found online for around $50 if you look hard enough.