Curse the Darkness, by far, is one of the most unique games I’ve had the chance to read. It’s a game with a lot of potential to run the kind of game that have players heavily involved… though not always because they’re having “fun” in the traditional sense, but because of the emotionally heavy nature of the game.
Curse the Darkness has an inherently pessimistic setting where the player characters will die in their attempts to achieve the scenario’s objectives. Take note that this objective might not even be one that counts as “epic” or even “heroic” in traditional sense, but it matters to the characters, and ultimately in the context of the game, this is what matters the most.
I find that Curse the Darkness is a fascinating step away from the “traditional” format of RPGs. As I’m not used to this take this is sort of an eye-opener for me, and I’m looking at how I’d go about pitching this to my players. It’s a bleak game, and many of those who might complain that Call of Cthulhu is “hopeless” will find that Curse the Darkness is actually worse than CoC in that regard.
That said, Curse the Darkness celebrates the heroism of those who do ordinary things despite their utterly oppresive situation. Something like smuggling medicines across the Between to a community in need becomes an act of madness against an omniscient, and omnipotent opponent… and yet you try it anyway, because the act of trying is worth more in the person’s internal moral code.
This sort of theme (and the means by which the game is played) is probably not for everyone. But as with games like these, if this works for the group, then it will work wonderfully.
The rules themselves are easy enough to grasp, but there’s the occasional moment where I find myself lost, and then realize that the rule or concept being discussed will be tackled later on in the chapter. It’s not a deal breaker, but I do find that it does tend to be confusing now and then. The mechanics themselves are elegant and transparent in play with the exception of the Removal Challenges, but I think the heavier system there serves it’s purpose of generating the kind of tension and dread necessary for such occasions.
Overall, I highly recommend Curse the Darkness for groups who are willing to take on such themes and don’t mind the possibility of their characters dying. It’s a mature game in the sense that it calls for a level of understanding from the players that this isn’t a game to play if you’re looking to kill things and take their stuff and call it a day. But if you’re willing to set that kind of thinking aside and immerse yourself in a dark setting where choosing to act is the epitome of courage then Curse the Darkness has some very rewarding play in store for you.