What Is Fury of Dracula?
Fury of Dracula is a 2015 board game made by Fantasy Flight Games that updates 1987's The Fury of Dracula. It's a heavier game that takes time to learn, but willing players are rewarded with an engaging cat-and-mouse hunt. One player controls Dracula as he hides in various European cities, while the other players control four hunters who must search him out and reduce his life to zero before he gains 13 influence over the region.
While perhaps not the best fit for casual gamers, Fury's rules aren't as intimidating as they first seem, and it supports anywhere from 2–5 players. Reviewing the rules will help determine whether it'll work well with your own gaming group; without further ado, here's how to play (and some tips for mastering) the Fury of Dracula board game!
Setup of the Game
In the basic rules, there are suggested cities for your four hunters to start in, but you can adjust them if you like. Once all hunters have picked an opening location, Dracula selects his starting point. He'll place its location card face-down on a track that spans up to six cards; whenever a player enters his current location or one from his trail, he'll have to reveal it, giving clues about where he's hiding.
Shuffle all tokens and cards (we'll tackle them later), have Dracula draw five encounter cards for his opening hand, and set the time track to Monday morning. You're ready to start your first day phase!
Day and Night Phases
All hunters will take one action (which we'll cover soon) in the day phase, then they'll all take one at night, and they must activate in the order listed below:
- Lord Godalming
- Dr. Seward
- Val Helsing
- Mina Harker
Night phases have some restrictions about what types of actions you can perform, so plan your moves carefully to take advantage of your freedom in the day phase. You can communicate with other players about your intended moves, but unless you're taking the trade action (which allows secret communication), Dracula is allowed to hear your conversation.
Each time a week passes in the game (when you move from Sunday night to Monday morning), you add a despair token to the despair track, which increases the power of certain Dracula abilities—so move quickly.
You can travel the board with move actions only during the day. Using roads, you can move from one city to an adjacent city. If you have a train ticket, you can instead move through railways (which are much faster) by as many spaces as the ticket states. Pay attention to color, as train tickets will restrict you to either white or yellow tracks. You can also move into sea zones from port towns (which have anchors); however, you have to pass if starting a night phase in sea and must continue moving if beginning a day phase in one.
Items are crucial to your inevitable combat with Dracula. Using the supply action in a large city (which has a special icon) lets you draw both an item and event card; supplying in a small city only draws an event card. During the day, you draw both from the top of the deck, and if the event card has a bat symbol, you simply discard it, no harm done. However, if you supply at night, you draw your event from the bottom of its deck, and if it has a bat symbol, you must hand it to Dracula (who can use its powers), so think carefully before supplying at night. Some events have immediate effects; others are saved for later.
To move by train, you'll need train tickets. Taking this action lets you grab one from the face-down supply, but you won't know what numbers it has (indicating how many squares you must move) until you draw it, and each hunter can hold up to two at once. Try performing this action at night when you don't want to risk a supply.
Simply enough, this lets you recover one health (two if you're in the same city as Dr. Seward) and is another prime action to use at night. However, you can't gain health past your starting total.
While in the same city, you can perform a trade with another hunter to swap items as you see fit. You can also have secret conversations regarding strategy that Dracula can't overhear. Only Van Helsing can trade event cards (more on that later).
When you move into a city Dracula has visited, he may or may not play the encounter card he nestled there; searching a location forces the encounter to take effect. This helps prevent the powerful "matured" effects that occur when an encounter card is pushed to the end of Dracula's trail.
After each hunter has completed their day and night phases, Dracula activates. He moves to an adjacent city or sea zone, and he can't use railroads. He then puts his new location card face-down on his trail, shifting all previous cards one slot further down the track. He also places an encounter card (and draws back up to five) face-down on the location unless his position is currently revealed or at sea.
When a card is pushed past the sixth slot on the trail, it matures and activates a powerful effect, often increasing Dracula's influence (remember, he wins after collecting 13). Thus, when hunters find your trail, and you're forced to reveal your past location, it might be better to delay your encounter cards and hope they reach maturity, although hunters can potentially search the area to trigger them.
Basically, as Dracula, your goal is to run from the hunters and keep them guessing as to your current location. Also, note that if you enter sea from land, you take two damage (one when moving from sea space to sea space), and a special-backed card is placed onto the trail, letting the hunters know that you're moving through water. Like the hunters, some effects give an ally that grants special abilities, but you can only have one in play at a time.
When Does Combat Begin?
If one or more hunters are on the same space as Dracula at dawn or dusk (the start of the day and night phases), combat occurs. The hunter adds one Punch, Dodge, and Escape item card from the hunter combat pile to their hand; together with any items they've acquired, these form their potential combat options. Dracula draws five cards from his combat deck.
How Does Combat Work?
Players in combat each pick one card from their hand and simultaneously reveal them. The hunters want to match the symbols on Dracula's card because if they do, they negate it, and only their effect activates (when facing multiple opponents, Dracula chooses a hunter each turn, and only their card can negate his plays). If they don't, Dracula's card resolves, then the hunters'. The hunter cards just played stay on the board and are unavailable for the next round of combat but will return to the hand afterwards; Dracula draws a new combat card each round.
When Does Combat End?
Combat continues until Dracula has played six cards, won the game by advancing influence to 13, lost by losing all his health, or escapes using certain cards. It also ends if all hunters involved are bitten, defeated, or have escaped. Hunters should try to fight as a group during the day and with items in hand, as their three default combat cards aren't particularly strong.
What Happens if the Hunters Are Defeated?
Hunters can't permanently die, but suffer penalties if their life hits zero or if they receive more bite marks than they have room for (see below). Dracula gets to move them to the nearest hospital location (his choice in a tie), where they recover all damage and bite marks, but have to discard any items and events they had. He also adds two influence to his track, plus one more for each despair token on the board.
How Do Bites Work?
Whenever a hunter suffers a bite in combat, they place a bite token on the appropriate slot of their character sheet. A character with one or more of these tokens is "weakened" and has to keep one item and one event card revealed at all times. If a hunter suffers more bites than they have room for, they are defeated as if they had lost all life, and Dracula moves them to the nearest hospital. Note that Van Helsing can take more bites than other hunters, and Mina begins with one bite token already in play.
Several tokens can help or impede the hunters, and they'll come into play through various event cards. Here's a quick summary of their effects:
These are placed on hunters through certain vampire effects and let Dracula move the player to an adjacent city of Dracula's choice as their next action. Then, the token is removed.
Consecrated Ground and Heavenly Host Tokens
If placed into a location on the trail, these tokens stop Dracula from moving through that spot (or force him to move next turn if he's currently on that location). Ground tokens are permanent, while Host tokens are removed at the next dusk (start of the hunter's night phase).
Hunter cannot search in, pass through, or move into or out of cities with fog tokens. They also allow Dracula to avoid combat in that location if he wishes. At the end of each dusk, one fog token is removed from all cities that have one.
Hunters cannot use roads or railways that contain these tokens. At the end of each dusk, Dracula removes a single roadblock token from the board.
Basically, storm tokens are roadblocks for the seas, preventing hunters from passing through ocean areas that have them. Dracula removes one from the board at the end of each dusk.
Hunter Special Abilities
The four hunter characters each wield their own unique powers to thwart Dracula, which helps each player adopt an important role, and some items/events can only be used by certain characters Here are each hunter's traits:
- Lord Godalming: Draws two item cards (and still just one event) when supplying in a large city. Also draws two train tickets rather than one (but you can still only hold two) with the ticket action.
- Dr. John Seward: Lets himself and allies in the same city heal two damage rather than one when taking the rest action. Can hold up to four item and event cards (rather than just three).
- Val Helsing: Can trade event cards with a hunter in any city; however, you can't trade items when you use the action this way. Has two bite token spaces rather than one.
- Mina Harker: If in the same city as another hunter, can take an action to force Dracula to reveal whether he's currently in your region. However, Mina always has a bite token and is thus constantly weakened, forcing her to keep one item and one event card in her hand revealed.
Tips for Hunter Players
- Supplying at night is sometimes necessary, but be frugal, as the cards you can potentially give Dracula are very powerful.
- While I have more fun with more players, if a single player controls all the hunters, they won't need a trade action to share information privately.
- Use Mina's psychic bond to narrow your search. Some house rules allow her to select any region (rather than just her current one) when using her power.
- Try to enter combat in groups rather than individually.
- Sometimes you'll want to devote hunters to clearing old locations from the trail with the search action simply to prevent their matured effects.
Tips for Dracula Players
- Even if you want to ambush with an encounter card when a hunter finds your trail, sometimes you can bluff and have them waste a search action to trigger it for you.
- Moving through sea isn't a good choice early on unless you really need to escape, but in the late game, it can buy time (assuming you have the health to spare) for your cards to mature.
- If you play with the advanced rules, Dracula has extra power cards that can do things like let him stay in the same city or move two squares by taking a damage. I suggest using these as a balancing tool if Dracula often loses or excluding them if he wins too much (or for simplicity's sake).
- Pay attention to how many items a hero has; the fewer, the more vulnerable they are in combat. Strive to take them on one at a time and play escape cards if they gang up on you. Remember that the hunter Mina automatically has a bite counter, so she only needs to be bitten once more before being defeated.
Advanced Rules and Resources
Fury of Dracula takes a bit of time and effort to learn, but once you have it down, you'll be rewarded with a well-balanced game that incorporates deduction, risks, bluffing, and a little bit of luck. Its variable player count, impressive components, and fun theme make it a great present for any serious gamer and well worth its $60 price tag. Your replay value is also high, as your experience will change when playing different hunters or Dracula, and you can use the advanced rules once you're comfortable, which I'll leave you to discover in the game's rulebook. There's also a detailed online FAQ that answers additional questions regarding rules.
I've enjoyed this classic with several friends, and as long as you have someone aboard who knows the rules, newbies catch on quickly. But for now, as we eagerly await more Fantasy Flight gems, share your experiences with Fury of Dracula, and I'll see you at our next gaming review!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill
Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on December 11, 2018:
What a wonderfully detailed set on instructions. I feel like board games are making a comeback and I can definitely see myself playing Fury of Dracula with some drunk friends.