Hunt or be hunted...with fangs!
# of Players
Fantasy Flight Games
Fury of Dracula is a one-vs-many epic from WizKids, with the digital version being brought to us by Nomad Games. Players take on the role of either Dracula himself or a set of four Hunters who traverse across Europe trying to find and defeat the Fanged One. The game ends when either Dracula is defeated or if Dracula advances the influence track up to 13. This takes roughly 30-60 minutes, the wide variation being dependent on how certain games play out.
The four hunters in the game are Dr. John Seward, Mina Harker, Van Helsing, and Lord Godalming. These four play roles in the Dracula fiction, the details of which are yours to discover if you desire. The hunters begin the game spread out over late 19th century Europe. There are around 60 locations on the map, spread out by country and divided into large and small cities. These cities are connected by railway and roads, with bodies of water also in play.
The hunters’ nominal goal is to track Dracula so they can wound him in combat. Apply enough damage (15, to be exact), and they win the game. Hunters’ locations are known at all times to all players. Dracula, on the other hand, moves in the darkness and only he knows where he is at most of the game.
Playing Dracula has you moving a single space once per turn, leaving an event card on the city you travel to (in secret, of course). These cards have, typically, both an ambush event and a matured event. An ambush might consist of a vampire partner which engages in combat with anyone who lands on that city, for example. The matured events can range from simply blocking a route for the hunters or moving the influence track.
A queue of six location cards, max, at kept active at any given time. Each turn the cards get pushed down to the right one spot when a new one is added. Should a card expire, the matured event is activated.
Hunters get two phases each turn: Day and Night. Day is a time for travel and they can use railways, roads, or sea to travel. Should one of Dracula’s cards be sitting in the city they end up on, it is revealed. This had negative effects for the hunters, but it also provides a great clue to Dracula’s whereabouts. At night, hunters prepare for the next day by choosing from a few different actions. They may supply themselves which allows them to draw an item card which is something that may either help them in combat or provide some immediate effect. Other actions include resting to heal a damage, reserving a train ticket to allow railway travel, and searching if they are in a city with an encounter card. Searching allows them to ignore the more powerful matured effect. Finally, hunters may use special abilities if they are able. Mina Harker, for example, when in the same city as another hunter may use her ability to check if Dracula is currently in the same country as she is.
Drawing an item
If a hunter and Dracula are in the same city during dawn or dusk (two intermediate bookkeeping phases mostly meant for combat), combat occurs. This is a cat-and-mouse style combat where both players select their combat action in secret then reveal what they chose. Both sides have a set of basic cards always on hand for basic actions like attacking and dodging. The goal is to inflict damage on your opponent. Both sides will also have cards which allow them to attempt to flee if the fight isn’t going so well. Should Dracula reach zero health, the game is immediately over. Should a hunter reach zero health, the fight is over but the hunter lives another day by recovering at the nearest hospital.
Fury of Dracula is a classic example of one versus many and hidden movement. The core of the game is hunters trying their best to corner Dracula and fight him enough to deplete his health. Dracula primarily wants to stay hidden, but he can also instigate combat if there is a weak hunter nearby, a quick victory in combat yields at least two precious influence points. Enjoyment in the game comes from the thrill of the chase. The cities each have multiple routes exiting them, so finding a city Dracula was in just three turns ago isn’t necessarily enough to actually track him down. If you have your hunters bunched together and do this, it is much easier to track Dracula. Having your hunters together poses a big risk, however, if you aren’t anywhere near Dracula he will simply run out his encounter cards, allowing them to mature. Certain vampire encounter card matured events can provide up to four influence points.
It’s currently on its fourth edition, but the original Fury of Dracula was released in 1987. The game has obviously been iterated on a bit since then, but the core game still feels like a game from 1987. Whether that’s a positive or negative is purely up to you. Games can go one for quite a while if the hunters don’t have a good read on Drac’s trail. Dracula should be able to use matured events to win in this case, but there is some programming involved in getting those played efficiently that is easy to foul up. Also, Dracula has to draw those big influence point cards in the first place.
I have enjoyed my time with Fury of Dracula but it likely isn't a game I'll be returning to all that often in the future. It plays longer than I would like a digital board game to play, but the cat-and-mouse chasing around Europe is fun. I like playing as the hunters and trying to piece together the puzzle of where Dracula might have gone. However, I prefer playing Dracula himself, keeping those four clueless hunters guessing the whole time is incredibly satisfying. As is making it out when they have you nearly surrounded or even find you and engage in combat. The decision space is a bit more interesting on Dracula’s side, I think, as you have to consider the order of your encounter cards as well as more heavily weigh fight-or-flight when combat does come up. The appeal of trying for a total KO of a hunter is great, but is the hunter just baiting you into continuing the fight only to plan on escaping? This isn’t to say the hunters’ play mindlessly, I just think Dracula has a bit more breathing room for creativity and decision making.
Barrier to Entry
Fury of Dracula is primarily taught through an extensive series of tutorials. There are eight, in fact, separated into three categories; General, Hunter, and Dracula. The general tutorials are very brief, explaining the basics of the game. As you move along, the bulk of the teaching occurs in three tutorials: playing a Hunters’ turn, playing Dracula’s turn, and combat. These all do a decent job of laying out the very basics but don’t go much beyond that.
After completing the tutorial I was able to play a game as Dracula without too much confusion, but there were still plenty of small details I didn’t appreciate. During your first game(s) some text will popup at various times explaining what is going on, these appear to be pulled directly from the tutorials. Odds and ends which the tutorials don’t cover, such as the numbers above cities, pins on the map, etc… are not expanded on in the game.
The game also links to web-based PDFs for the official rulebook and rule reference book along with YouTube links should you prefer visual learning.
Look and Feel
Fury of Dracula carries over the theme of the physical game quite well, with nice Dracula artwork throughout. The menus are subtly animated to a nice effect. The game uses the larger real estate provided by a PC well, effectively providing all contextual details on the screen at once along with the main focus of the game; the map. This is definitely a game where the intent is to make you feel like you are playing the physical game, with cards looking like cards and hunter pieces looking like plastic figurines (albeit exceptionally well painted minis). It all works well, nothing spectacular, but nothing bad either.
The controls are click-and-confirm by default. I personally found this a bit intrusive to have to confirm absolutely every action I took, luckily I was able to turn off the confirm bit in the settings menu. This helps the games move at a quicker pace, with the obvious downside being that you can’t change your mind mid-action. My only major gripe here is that the animations for moving are quite slow. It’s a minor thing as the movement only takes a couple of seconds, but with four hunters potentially moving each turn this feels like it adds up to a lot of wasted time over the course of a full game.
Fury of Dracula may be played online in real-time games against one other player. Games are created and joined via a lobby system and you may invite friends to your game. I think asynchronous would be tricky for this game to pull off. In some situations, such as a normal turn for the hunters, it would work well as turns can be lengthy. In too many others, however, it wouldn’t be quite as smooth as battles require a constant back and forth exchange.
It would have been nice if the game allowed you to have multiple humans controlling the hunters. This would have required an extra chat feature to facilitate strategy discussion, but it would have been a welcome addition.
Fury of Dracula online is the place I feel most people will find themselves playing, should they really dive into the game. Firing up the game and going head-to-head against a friend is where the game shines. Online play works quite well in my experience, so those looking at this game for that purpose should like what they find.
Local pass-and-play (hotseat) is supported. This would seemingly be somewhat of a pain to actually play as the hunter(s) would need to turn around every time Dracula took their turn, but it is an option for those who are interested.
You get to choose between Dracula and Hunters. You are either all of the hunters or none, you can’t control any less than four and let the AI take the rest. This makes sense as the hunters require a bit of synergy to form an effective plan of attack, if you are doing your own thing while the AI is acting independently, it would likely lead to a highly ineffective game. There is no AI level in the game. I’ve found the AI to be somewhat lacking early on, but it is also an aspect that is actively being worked. The AI hunters, in particular, have made some baffling moves in some of my games which have allowed Dracula an easy victory.
Any local game you start will have its progress saved automatically so you can return later. This is a huge feature with a game like these where full sessions take so long.
There are a few Challenges to complete, these are things like “win 25 games” and “make 100 total moves.” Not very inspired choices, but it gives something to chase, at least.
Victory for Drac!
This seems like a good place to mention that the game, at launch time, has a known issue list. This is fairly common, but it is worth pointing out that there are some odd corner cases which may cause games to temporarily lock up or other undesirable behavior. Nomad has been all over these issues and I have full confidence they will be full squashed soon.
The Wrap Up
Fury of Dracula is a game I don’t love. This is no fault of the digital implementation, I just haven’t fallen in love with the prolonged cat-and-mouse chase the game offers. When the game is getting started you can have a lot of time pass without anything meaningful happening. If the hunters miss Dracula by a space or two, the game can take awhile to get going. Once it does, I enjoy the fights and trying to escape a tight spot as Dracula, but the experience as a whole doesn’t draw me in. Your experience, of course, will vary.
What I can say is that the digital version is well made. There are some minor bugs still lingering, but they should be ironed out soon. The AI can make some poor moves at times, but the primary draw of the game is the rock solid online play. If you enjoy the game, the digital version will allow you to play games with a friend online. I feel like that is the best use case here, but it also works well to allow you to try and learn the game.