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The Fury of Dracula—the Best Horror Board Game Ever Published

by Michael Barnes (10/30/12).

Thick, comic-style line art juxtaposed with a more painterly style- that theme carries through everything in this original box top for Fury of Dracula, considered by many as the best horror board game ever published.

For part 2 of our WorthPoint Halloween board games spook show (read Part One here; last year’s article here), I’m giving you a round-trip ticket to Transylvania to check out what I think is the best horror board game ever published. The good news is that it’s not some extremely expensive and impossible to find collectible, although it was up until it was reprinted in 2006 in an updated and, some would say improved, edition by—of course—Fantasy Flight Games.

The game is called Fury of Dracula, a thrilling vampire hunt wherein one player controls Count Dracula and the remainder are travelling through England and all of Europe in a cooperative attempt to thwart the vampire’s nefarious schemes, henchmen and evasive maneuvers. It’s effectively an extrapolation of Bram Stoker’s novel, a kind of “what if” scenario where Van Helsing and company more aggressively take up arms against the forces of the Undead.

Fury of Dracula was originally published in 1987 by the U.K. company Games Workshop, a firm better known for its Warhammer line of tabletop miniatures games. Designed by Stephen Hand, it was a compelling game that borrowed a few mechanics from the classic deduction game Scotland Yard but embellished them with some elements cribbed from role-playing games and a much greater sense of thematic detail. The Dracula player had a mat hidden by a screen where he or she tracked the Count’s movement across Europe’s major cities, leaving behind Gypsy retainers, wolves and other traps. The vampire-hunting players were tasked with deducing where the Count was travelling, effectively looking for traces of his pacing and eventually tightening the net around his location. And there’s always a chance that Dracula might just attack a hunter out of nowhere. Suspense, drama and mystery are effectively conveyed in a fairly simple set of rules.

Fury of Dracula remains one of the best-looking games ever published, with Games Workshop’s distinctive comic book-style artwork mingled with a more antiquarian, Victorian look. The production is evocative and atmospheric, perfectly expressing the subject matter. The box is usually seen with a sticker on it touting limited edition metal miniatures for all of the player figures, but I have never personally seen a copy that didn’t have these supposedly limited pieces.

The original 1987 edition developed quite a cult following and was fairly available during the late 1980s and even into the early 1990s. But as copies sitting on hobby shop shelves disappeared, the value skyrocketed as the game became recognized as one of the classic games of its era. By the early 2000s, complete copies in good condition were commanding up to $150. For many game players and collectors, it became something of a “holy grail” item. I lucked into a copy myself around 2004 in a trade, and being both a Dracula fan and a board game player, it remains one of my prized collectibles.

The 1987 edition’s map was solid, printed on cardboard cut like a puzzle, to fit into a bookshelf-sized box. This was cheaper to produce than a quad-folded, mounted board.

In 2005, Fantasy Flight Games licensed several board game titles from Games Workshop for republication and one of the first ones it reproduced was Fury of Dracula. But it wasn’t a straight reprint. The artwork was completely redone in a more modern, consistent style but still rich in Gothic atmosphere. Changes were made to the gameplay including the scuttling of the easily exploitable and cheating-prone hidden movement mechanic. In the new edition, Dracula effectively creates a trail of his stopovers through a deck of location cards. More detail was added, including a more complex day-and-night cycle, more equipment, more adversaries and all-new abilities for the Dracula player to use to obscure his or her movement. A fifth vampire hunter was also added, Mina Harker. The redevelopment was handled by Kevin Wilson, who was also responsible for the revitalization of Arkham Horror.

As to whether the new edition is better than the 1987 classic, it’s up for debate. The greater detail means more complexity, and there are some changes made that make the game notably easier for the vampire hunters. But the new edition has a greater sense of balance and the concept of tracking Dracula by gathering information is strengthened. For my part, it’s a toss-up. I rarely keep two editions of a reprinted game on my shelf, opting for the one I like the best. But I have both versions of this game and wouldn’t part with either.

A black coach, gaslight lanterns, billowing capes and a moonlit castle grace the cover of the reprint. Yep, it’s Gothic horror, all right.

That’s Mina Harker, new to the 2006 edition, looking for Dracula in Bucharest.

The new Fury of Dracula is a currently in-print $60 game, but online retailers usually list it around $40. It’s not likely to go out of print in the near future, but because it’s a licensed property from Games Workshop, there is always the possibility that the license won’t be renewed. If this were to happen, I would expect the value of this game to increase considerably. As for the original edition, the reprint obliterated both demand and its value but it still manages to fetch around $40-$50, still more than its original retail price.

Michael Barnes is a lifelong game player, collector and enthusiast. He has parlayed his passion for games into several successful ventures, including a retail hobby store, two popular gaming Websites, and 10 years of widely read commentary and criticism about both tabletop and video games.

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