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Thames & Kosmos - “Adventure Games: The Gloom City File”


Photo above is property of Thames & Kosmos

Company: Thames & Kosmos

Game: Adventure Games: The Gloom City File

Country: USA 🇺🇸

Language: English

Type of Game: Tabletop Games 📬

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Date Played: August 27, 2023

Difficulty (based on 1 player): 4/10

Size of Team: 1-4 Players (Ages 16+)

Time: Approximately 4-5 Hrs.

Price: $19.95



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An invitation arrives summoning you to the local abandoned insane asylum to partake in a scary game night. Included in the envelope is a photograph of your deceased loved one. It’s a photo that could only have been taken by their killer. By dangling this new evidence in front of you, this unhinged party planner has guaranteed your attendance tonight. Even if you are walking into a trap, you are a cop (albeit currently suspended) and this is your chance to get answers.


Upon arrival, you discover that there are four of you, all with the same story—each currently suspended from the Gloom City police force and each having someone they loved brutally murdered by an unknown perpetrator. As the game begins, you learn that the stakes are even higher than you realized: three more people have been taken hostage and you are in a race against the clock to save their lives!

Video above is property of Thames & Kosmos


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The game has high-quality components and the level of polish you would expect from a mass market game. There are decks of cards, punch-out tokens used for tracking activity, stands for the four characters, location cards, and an adventure book that contains all of the narrative. The illustration style is dark and moody. Each location card sets the tone for the are you are in and is supported by a written description to highlight the items of interest.

Photos above are property of ESCAPETHEROOMers


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"The Gloom City File" is a cooperative board game. Players assume the roles of the four suspended police officer characters, and as a team you explore locations inside the insane asylum and around Gloom City (a city full of decay and corruption that generally lives up to its name). On each turn you read a numbered entry in a booklet based on a site or combination of items to hear the sinister story unfold.


When you discover a new place in the game, you’ll add an illustrated location card to the growing landscape on your playing surface. (Learn from me and start yourself on a large playing surface to avoid periodic rearrangements to prevent falling off the table.)


The full narrative is divided into three acts, each expected to take about 90 minutes to play, but you can start and stop at any point or play straight through. Please note, the subject matter is dark: serial killings, abuse, and bad things that happen in asylums. The game is inappropriate for children and not well suited to players that might not be comfortable with those topics.


For anyone that might complain about the amount of reading that is entailed (the Adventure Book is 91 pages of text), there is a Kosmos Helper App that will read everything aloud to you. It will also explain how to play so you don’t even have to read the instructions. For the entirety of the game, you can enter numbers and a professional narrator will read the relevant passages. I did encounter a few places where the audio tracks were misnumbered or didn’t play as expected, but with the printed booklet it’s easy to confirm what the correct clue is.


In some places in the game, you’ll get a different result on an action depending on which character does it. (I’d suggest playing with all four characters so you can glimpse each’s backstory along the way.) There are also areas of the game that are solvable in multiple ways. The game is at its best in these places where you feel like you have agency and there are consequences to your actions.


Although the game is not replayable, it can be re-gifted to someone else to enjoy as nothing is destroyed during game play. (By the way, thank you, Kosmos, for not packaging it in a box that’s way too big for its contents!)

Photos above are property of Thames & Kosmos


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Playing "The Gloom City File" is more about discovering the story, learning characters’ backstories, and understanding the killer’s motivations than it is about solving puzzles. There are a handful of puzzles to solve, but this is not a puzzle-centric game (look elsewhere if that’s what you are after). None of the puzzles are terribly devious but they are unevenly clued so if you don’t happen to recognize the puzzle type you may need to consult the hints or walkthrough, as is encouraged in the game’s instructions.

Photos above are property of ESCAPETHEROOMers


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"The Gloom City File" is one in a series of Adventure Game titles offered by Thames & Kosmos, and the first I have played. The strong storyline and player-driven selections initially reminded me of a choose-your-own-adventure story. But as I played the game, it seemed more like an analog version of a computer game. The players decide what to look at next and try different combinations in the hopes of unlocking new content. The plot of The Gloom City File feels like a TV show or movie, but I love that the board game format means you can sit around a table and engage without watching screens.



The game is easy to jump into. It adds gameplay mechanisms as you play and has terrific pacing, unlocking new areas to explore at just the right cadence. For 4-5 hours of entertainment at a very reasonable price point, the Gloom City Files is a scary good time!

 

Check out our interview with the creators to understand more on the development side of the game:

Video above is property of ESCAPETHEROOMers

(If you do decide to try this game, give us a shoutout or tag us on social media so we know you heard it from "ESCAPETHEROOMers"!)


Disclosure: We thank Thames & Kosmos for providing us with samples of the game. Although a complimentary experience was generously provided, it does not impact our opinion on the review whatsoever.


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