As I was preparing to write this article, I asked the Cardboard Carnage crew for a list of games like Fury of Dracula; games of deduction with a hidden role. There are a lot of deduction based games and of those of few with some sort of hidden role. Games like Slueth, Spector Ops, Scotland Yard, Letters to Whitechapel and Nuns on the Run. And there are even more if you don’t count a hidden role. Betrayal at House on the Hill was even mentioned since there is a hidden player but no one knows its them until the Haunt is revealed. Of all the hidden role deduction games that I have played, Fury of Dracula might just be the best of them all; in my opinion. In this article, I’ll attempt to explain why.
First, I want to cover a little bit of the history with Fury of Dracula. The game was first published in 1987 by Games Workshop (GW) and didn’t see a second edition until 2005 when it was republished by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG). In 2015 FFG published the third edition (and best edition). Then in 2016 the relationship between FFG and GW changed and the license went back to GW who has yet to run another printing of the game. So unfortunately, as of today, I’m writing an article about a terrific game that is out of print. There are still copies floating around but the least expensive I’ve seen in around $80 USD. With that out of the way, on to why Fury of Dracula might just be the best hidden role deduction games available.
Maybe the most obvious reason Fury of Dracula is the best lies in the name itself; Dracula! No, not some sparkly no fangs teenage version. We’re talking about Dracula; the king of all vampires. The true and only real vampire. Not only that but you can be Dracula. The entire premise of the game is Dracula is trying to increase his infleunce throughout the land and the hunters are trying to kill him before he can. At its core the game is fundementally about Dracula and the literary hunters out to get him. The game is thematically dark and horror driven and emerses the gamer in the late 1800’s time period. If this alone doesn’t make you want to play Fury of Dracula, you’re dead inside; wait, maybe you are Dracula.
In most of the other games I listed at the beginning of this article, the “good guys” are pretty nameless. In Scotland Yard, for example, you’re basically police officers. In Fury of Dracula you get to be known figures depicted in the books, stories and film that actually do Dracual justice; Van Helsing, Dr. John Seward, Mina Harker and Lord Godalming. I will say that Mina’s Psychic Bond is the only Hero Ability that actually resonates throughout the game. The other three Hero Abilities just feel a little tacked on. I’m unsure how Lord Godalming’s ability to take two train tickets instead of one at a time is thematically and literarily accurate. But that is a small critique in the grand scheme of things. Van Helsing for crying out loud!
Day and Night
Fury of Dracula’s turn sequence is unique in the genre. A full round technically constists of a day phase and a night phase. The day starts at Dawn which can trigger certain event cards. Then it turns to day. During the day, Hunters can do one of several actions including move. Because it is day time, Dracula does nothing. After each Hunter has taken their turn it turns to the Dusk phase; again, potentially triggering certain event cards that can be played. Then at night, each Hunter takes another turn doing a single action except for movement. The roads and railways are too treacherous at night with Dracula and his evil minions about so the Hunters lay low. After the Hunters perform their night action Dracula gets to move, secretly, without the Hunters knowing from whence he came or to whence he goes; mostly.
The Hunters must make precise use of the day phase to sniff out Dracula’s path and find his current location because each night, Dracula scurries off into the dark while the hunters remain still but restless wondering where Dracula might have gone and what traps he might have set; one step closer to increasing his influence and potentially winning the game.
It would seem overpowerd for Dracula to simply move around the board secretly while the Hunters just randomly move around hoping to find him. Dracula’s movements are actually pretty constrained but the mechanics of it make decisions highly strategic and often times risky for both Dracula and the Hunters. I’ve tried a few different approaches to moving Dracula around the map. Even though it seems like it would be a good idea to kill the Hunters, not being found is actually your safest play. Dracula is pretty good one-on-one against a Hunter; especially at night. Day time against multiple hunters is a different story. So the trick to not being found is to understand how Dracula moves and what effects can aid in allowing him to back track.
Dracula has six spaces on the board which represent his current location and then up to five locations he was at previously (I’m ignoring the Hide and Misdirect cards for now). Each time he moves the cards are shifted from left to right and eventually off the board. That means that, generally, on every seventh night phase, Dracula returns a location to his deck that he was previously at which means two things:
- He no longer has to reveal that location if the Hunters stop there
- He can go back to that location
This is a huge part of what makes this game better than the other games in this genre. It’s not simply avoiding the Hunters. It’s Dracula thinking 7 moves in advance and trying to convince the Hunters that he’s headed in one direction when in reality, likely headed in a completely different direction. Even better, getting the Hunters to think he’s going in one direction and then actually going in that direction because the Hunters then think there’s no way Dracula would do that! It’s a mind game and bluffing is a key part of movement.
Most of the other deduction games don’t really have a full on battle mechanic. Fighting Dracula or any of his vampires is often times a painful necessity but also, killing Dracula is the only way the Hunters can win. Strategy tip: don’t fight Dracula alone. Fighting is simple enough to learn and not deep or complex which in turn makes it very cohesive and flow very well within the game. And you’re limited to 6 rounds of combat per fight so it can’t drag on forever. Fury of Dracula is not really a game about fighting; it is just a side effect of the win condition and something that happens so it feels very much a part of theme and flow of the game.
These are just the primary reasons I personally think Fury of Dracula is the best hidden role deduction game currently available. I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts and opinions. What is your favorite game in this genre? Do you agree or disagree and why? Feel free to let me know on our Board Game Geek Guild Forum.