Like a sports car with a powerful engine and a sleek body, Bloodsuckers from Fireside Games takes a solid gaming mechanic and gives it a delightful theme of something most everybody enjoys: the eternal war between vampires and vampire hunters (okay, sports cars don't do that but they are delightful and things many folks enjoy). Great art immediately draws the eye to the battle portrayed on the front of the box with a nosferatu creature leaping toward a fit young lady bearing a handgun and a stake. Who will win? That is up to the players to find out.
Players divvy themselves into a vampire team and a vampire-hunter team. The board in this board game is really just a series of locations with counters helping the players keep track of what battles have been fought and what time of day (or night) it is. There are no pieces; rather, combat takes place on another "board," the Guide Mat, a folded sheet where cards are played. We ended up cutting our Guide Mat into columns to make them lay flat, which disrupts a little of the experience but proved handy in making the cards stay put.
The learning curve on Bloodsuckers is steep, but the game quickly becomes second nature. Players pick the battle location, lay out the number of "Bystanders" accordingly, and then play what characters out of their hands they wish to use in a fight. Each area of the Guide Mat is known as a "Column," giving a touch of the spatial element while distinguishing who fights whom over each Bystander. A round of Day and Night is played with each player taking a turn in a different order and with different powers as the vampires become especially mighty at Dusk.
Each player is able to perform three actions per turn, enabling them to do a variety of tasks like playing cards, moving between the columns, or playing an Adrenaline/Blood token for further bonuses. Up to two actions that are not used may be banked, which can make for epic second rounds as strategic players give it all they have. Most actions are taken by playing cards, which have Attacks that give points toward winning the Bystander. There are Strike cards that directly attack the opponent, as well as Dodge and Impact cards that act as modifiers. With so much variation, no fight will ever go the same way, making Bloodsuckers a game with high replay value.