Fury of Dracula

Fury is ultimately a game of telling stories. They’re more funny than scary, but they’re always something different and always interesting.

Dusk falls over Budapest as Van Helsing and Mina Harker enter the city. As they walk through the deserted city streets searching for their quarry, the dark form of a vampire launches itself from the darkness at Helsing’s neck. As it flies forward at a terrible pace, Mina spins, expertly driving a stake deep into its heart.

As the decrepit form lays twitching in the rain soaked streets, the two shake their heads. This isn’t Dracula, but it’s one less lost soul preying on the weak, and one step closer to their ultimate prey.

The Hunter and the Hunted

Fury of Dracula is a 4 v 1 game where players will either play as one of four vampire hunters trying to kill Dracula, or Dracula himself, trying to gain enough influence across Europe to bring the continent under his sway.

As Dracula, you’ll be placing down location cards that become ‘hideouts’ along a trail on the side of the board as you move secretly around the map. On each hideout, you’ll also place down an encounter card which you can choose to ambush other players with. After each move, your old hideout moves up the trail spaces on the board, eventually reaching the very top.

Encounter cards can be anything from bats, which will waylay the hunters causing them to miss actions, to a sneaky spy who forces the hunters to reveal their secret cards. Most importantly, they could be new vampires. Vampires can fight hunters, but even better, moving them along this trail to the top allows you to ‘mature’ the cards, gaining large amounts on influence.

Dracula also has additional special powers at his disposal, which can allow him to heal, escape when cornered, and trick the hunters. He uses these instead of moving to a new location and can’t get them back until they reach the top of the trail again.

Meanwhile, the four hunters can move, search locations for hidden encounters, supply themselves with special events and items, heal, and gain train tickets. If they walk into a city where Dracula has been while the hideout is still on the trail, Dracula flips the card over, revealing his location and can choose to ambush them with an encounter, or keep it hidden, forcing the hunters to use an action to search for what could be a vampire, or a decoy.

Hunters all have special abilities as well (and a few weaknesses!) and players will play as all of them in every game, so in a 2-player game, one player would have their hands full controlling all of the hunters. They can also move across the board faster than Dracula using the railways on the board which, providing they have a ticket, can let them cross Europe in just a few turns. That’s critical when one of the hunters unwittingly stumbles into Dracula in downtown Prague at night and the rest of the gang are weapons shopping in Dublin.

Combat in Fury involves selecting cards from your deck and playing them against each other. Dracula draws from a permanent deck of cards, while Hunters start with only the ability to dodge, punch or run away – which are not hugely effective when fighting the Prince of Darkness. Luckily, many items they find on their travels such as weapons, garlic and crucifixes can supplement their attacks.

The use of 'Influence' feels slightly weak thematically, placing Dracula more in the role of a politician than a evil entity, but it keeps his victory clear and visible to every player

During a fight, Dracula and each hunter play a combat card face down every turn. If the hunters can match the symbol on Dracula’s cards, they cancel out his attack. For example, if Dracula chooses to ‘mesmorize’ a hunter, but that hunter has chosen to punch Dracula, Dracula gets swiftly knocked flat in the middle of his plan. If the symbols don’t match, Dracula attacks first, potentially doing considerable damage to a hunter as well as cancelling out weapons and reducing the overall options for the hunters.

Dracula is a powerful foe, especially during the night phase of the game where Dracula gets special combat bonuses. The key to beating him is numbers – Dracula can only defend against a single hunter in any combat. If other hunters are also in the same location, they can attack, and Dracula can’t do a thing to evade them aside from fleeing combat.

On the Trail of Darkness

First, let’s talk about playing the Hunters, as there’s a greater chance you’ll end up playing as one of them that the titular villain.

The hunter’s gameplay can be split into roughly three parts: sniffing out Dracula’s trail, chasing the sneaky fella across Europe, and trying to take him down in combat. It’s a huge risk to take on Dracula without effective weapons, but it’s also not wise to be walking around Europe covered in garlic and crucifixes asking the locals if they’ve seen anything suspicious whilst Dracula is up in Brussels creating an army of vampires which will eventually mature into influence points.

Each turn is split into day and night. Every hunter has one action each during these phases, but performing actions at night is more limited. You can’t move across the dangerous roads and unreliable railways of Victorian Europe by night. Even supplying yourself with powerful event cards can be dangerous: the same deck you draw event cards from also holds the risk of revealing cards that benefit Dracula.

During the day you search from the top of the event deck, discarding Dracula cards instead of gaining one of your own, but during the night you draw from the bottom of that same deck, unaware if you’re going to get a card for you or Dracula, leading to an excruciating slide of the bottom card as you reveal the icon on the back and the painful realisation that not only have you wasted your action but given Dracula a powerful card he can use against use in the future.

Eventually as the hunters move and Dracula’s trail becomes longer, you’ll run into a city Dracula has visited some time ago, and then the chase is on as you try to work out where Dracula could be going next. Dracula may have plenty of locations to choose from, but his movements are predictable. He must move one city at a time, can’t easily double back on himself, and can’t use trains. Travelling by sea is an option for Dracula but it forces him to take damage and is only usually used as a last resort. His powers are exceptions to that rule, but he must reveal when he’s using most of them, and can’t use them again for quite some time.

The hunters play a game of puzzling out what Dracula could be up too based on where he’s been. Is he heading for eastern Europe to hole up, or running for Italy to take a quick but painful boat trip over to Spain? Is he going to try and double back or will he use a special power to hide, tricking the hunters into thinking he’s running while he’s hanging out in Amsterdam doing… research?

Sooner or later, the Hunters will close in, cutting off escape points and forcing Dracula to make a desperate move. But it’s not all about that chase – they’ve still got to keep on top of all those ambushes that Dracula is spreading around, some of which might just trip them up, but others could be that last vampire Dracula needs for victory.

And what if they find Dracula but the only hunter in that area promptly gets their ass kicked and are sent to hospital, giving Dracula even more influence and losing all their items? What if you just need to stay in a town for one more night to secure a weapon you need?

On top of all this, the Hunters can’t conspire – everything must be said to everyone at the table, including the smug face of Dracula who knows all your plans. Only item trading can be done in secret, and that can only happen if two or more hunters are in the same city. It’s a great puzzle of risk, reward deduction and pay-offs. It can be incredibly tense as you stare Dracula in the face across the table and try to suss out what his next move could be.

But it’s also a puzzle that works better as an overall strategy than in individual player movements and turns. A group of hunters make an exciting play, a single hunter, less so. In a five-player game, you may be waiting five minutes to take your turn again, only to spend it moving an inch across the board to find nothing, and then do so again. As tense as Fury can be in its best moments, it has times that you can feel less like hunting Dracula and more like you’re waiting on a delayed Eurostar train to Paris.

It’s not a common occurrence at all, but it happens enough to make the five-player game feel a little like individual hunters aren’t always making an impact. We’ve played and enjoyed Fury more with three players, where each player control two hunters. This nearly eliminates the issue, with each player taking four actions per day and having much more control over that overarching hunt.

Fangs for the Memories

Playing as Dracula is going to be the same in a three or a five-player game though, albeit with a slight longer wait between turns. It’s a tense experience, not least because the game can shift so quickly, and events cards can totally sway the course of the game in a few turns. You could be utterly hidden, laughing internally and smirking externally at the hunters as they babble on about searching for you on the other side of Europe, and in a moment a hunter can draw a card that forces you to reveal one of your previous hideouts, setting the hunt afoot once again.

Vampire encouters are the key to a Dracula victory - but do you use them to fight the players in an ambush, or try to hide them in the hope players will ignore the card?

If you’re worried that playing Dracula might be boring, waiting powerlessly while other players take their turn and then simply moving: It isn’t. It’s vital to be keeping an eye on the hunters as Dracula can pick up cards that can not only cancel actions but force them to do the exact opposite of what they want to do. You also need to be very careful about making the right move, as breaking the rules by accident at any point will lose you a third of your health – a mechanic designed to lessen the impact of a confused Dracula player.

With all all of his advanced rules in play * tools, a skilled Dracula player can sometimes run rings around the hunters, but we’ve never had a game where one group has run away from the other; our victories were always closely fought and tense, the winning blow dealt in the last few moments before the other side would gain a victory.

One thing to note about playing as Dracula – you often feel less like a powerful, evil entity causing chaos across Europe and more like a fugitive, constantly on the run and wearing the hunters down over time. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s still great fun, but perhaps not a “Fury”.

Stakes, Garlic and Punching Dracula in the Face

Arguably, when Fury’s combat does happen, it’s more about placement than anything else. The ability to just wail on Dracula from behind while he attempts to defend himself from another hunter can reduce him to a pile of dust in a single round of combat, while even a well-equipped single hunter is going to struggle at night.

There’s a great deal of luck to the combat for both sides, but enough strategy to keep it interesting. Do you dodge, hoping Dracula things you’ll be an easy kill and wasting a turn, or do you fire your rifle only to have the card not only removed from that combat but weakening all your other weapons, too?

Dracula’s cards never change, but he draws from enough cards each round that you can’t really tell what he’ll play, while the hunters weapons and items can be revealed by other events to Dracula, and trying to co-ordinate strategy openly while Dracula sits politely watching you can be tricky and makes for fun moments where you’re strongly hinting about a special card or a weapon you may have, and praying that Dracula is going to defend against the other hunter and not your knife.

The minatures are nice to touch, but a little too small to make it obvious who is who at a glance

Combat is satisfying, but it’s the world map where I had the most fun in Fury. Solving that puzzle, getting happily frustrated when a clever combination of moves means Dracula slips your net, and working out the travel and equipment of each hunter is very engaging, at least with two characters to deal with. Playing as Dracula is equally fun, if not more so, and gives the player enough options to keep things fresh between games.

Fury is ultimately a game of telling stories. They’re more funny than scary, but they’re always something different and always interesting. The artwork and especially the game board really sells the experience, as does having Dracula as a real, tangible foe rather than a deck of cards or a faceless game mechanic. The rules are solid, with a alphabetical reference guide that neatly explains in bullet points all the questions we had during play and the artwork and minatures of a good, consistent quality, if nothing amazing.

It’s a faster, more exciting game with slightly fewer players, and three feels like the perfect number. However, it’s fun with any amount of players, and a worthy addition to anybody’s collection.