Gloom of Kilforth - Review

Simon Todd - 15th June 2017

In 25 days the land of Kilforth will have descended into gloom. Feeling fresh? It's time to save the world.

Gloom of Kilforth is a self-titled "Fantasy Quest" game where players saunter around a randomly generated 5x5 grid world, dispatching enemies, completing quests, foiling nefarious plots and, in my case, murdering strangers. Your character picks up a Race and Class straight from the fantasy textbook and within minutes is ready to set off from the safety of Sprawl City in search of poor dice rolls.

Days in Kilforth are a productive affair; adventurers begin with 4 action points to spend to conduct their world-saving business, spending them to move around the map searching locations for things to bludgeon. Once the action points have been frittered away it's time to make camp for the day, which brings on the terrors of the night. Here, one of the 25 location falls into gloom as (in most cases) something unsavoury appears. At its core, the game system is as simple as that. The perceived leisurely pace though is scuppered by the pressing issue of your characters' 5-part personal Saga, all of which has to be safely resolved before you can muster the courage to go after the games' final boss: The Ancient.

What to do?

The game lovingly gives you some loose direction right from the get-go by way of a personal 5-part Saga. Formed of 4 chapters and a finale, each is completed by acquiring certain assets (or rumours of assets). Whilst you're busy crawling around the world searching for the things you need, The Ancient wastes no time in enacting a series of rather unfriendly plots, all of which contribute to making the final boss even more tricky to defeat. The pull of all the different forces is tangible, and most turns are filled with tough decisions revolving around whether to try and complete your personal saga chapters (and thus level up), foil the plots of The Ancient (to make the final boss weaker), or go on the hunt for loot (to make your character stronger). Mix all of that together and 25 days is no time at all.

What not to do.

Against the clock, the game goads you into pushing your luck and making sloppy errors of judgement. Rather than sneaking around the map picking on manageable enemies it is all too tempting to stomp around incurring the (surprise, you're dead!) wrath of nasty things. Combat is something to be respected and feared in equal measure in Gloom of Kilforth; multiple times I have overestimated my own abilities only to find myself back at Sprawl City, minus all of my gold, nursing multiple stab wounds. Not only does death understandably cut short your day, it'll likely scupper your usefulness for the next couple of days too. It's a fantastically thematic system that all comes from the simple mechanic of beginning each day with a number of action points equal to your current health.

Of course, besides the ticking clock there are other incentives to wanting to constantly push your luck. The rewards in this game are fantastic, both in abilities and in art. Every single reward I have seen has been met with an "ooooooh" moment as I sink deeper into the theme and imagine my hero finding it. It has to be said, this is some of the finest art around, period. The uncluttered card design also seeks to ensure the focus remains on the immersion, not blocks of meta-stat boxes.

There is so much that is good about this game: the jaw-droppingly beautiful art, the rich focussed story progression, the lightning quick setup, the scale of replayability, the elegant simplicity of the fundamentals... and those are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. This time last year if I wanted a deep fantasy board gaming experience I'd have spent 45 minutes setting up a game of Mage Knight. Now though, there's Gloom of Kilforth.