The Fury of Dracula is no match for the fury of Mina Harker

, | Games

Four heroes are engaged in a struggle against unfathomable evil spanning the continent of Europe. Three of the hunters sweep into East Germany, having found what seems to be Dracula’s trail. The fourth hunter, Mina Harker, is traveling from Spain where she’s been following another lead. When she steps off the train, she is face to face with Dracula himself.

“Don’t worry,” I say to Mina’s player. “We’ll be able to surround him and get him in a few turns. Just do as much damage as you can before he knocks you out.”

After the jump, that’s not quite how it works out.

Dracula is eager to press the advantage of a nighttime encounter with a relatively unprepared hunter. But I don’t even get to take my turn. We watch helplessly as Mina’s unlikely combination of die rolls and combat actions take Dracula apart. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. It is great.

Fury of Dracula is a classic board game of hidden movement, harrowing hunts, and fiendish ambushes. One player is Dracula. The other players control the four hunters. Dracula must earn a number of points either by surviving a full day, leaving vampire spawn hidden in Europe until they mature, or defeating hunters in combat. If Dracula can earn a modest six points, he has regained his power and he will bring darkness to Europe.

I could describe a hidden movement game that may seem similar to Scotland Yard where the hunters act as the police, zeroing in on the criminal. That wouldn’t do justice to what’s going on with Fury of Dracula. Dracula tries to stay hidden and for the most part avoids direct confrontation, especially after the hunters acquire some useful equipment. But Dracula gets to lay ambushes along his trail. So while the good news is that you have found a vital clue to Dracula’s location, the bad news is that you’re ambushed by a knife wielding maniac or a swarm of rats.

Players use a day/night cycle to stage the best conditions for a confrontation. Dracula has more powers and is a lot stronger at night. His options are pretty paltry during the day, so that’s when the hunters will want to attack. If Dracula sees that a hunter is vulnerable, he might reveal himself for a nighttime ambush.

There’s a lot to this gem. Each side has a toolkit to apply in meaningful ways. Random events keep things interesting. Dracula will alternately stage clever traps and flee panicked across Europe. And you just might end up with a story of Mina the Vampire Slayer to rival anyone named Buffy.

Thomas McMillen is a game enthusiast who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His fiance and cat have tolerated his attempts to turn the house into a game store.