Editor’s Note: This preview pertains to the first Kickstarter campaign for Gothic Doctor. While there have been some small changes to the iconography and card examples since then for its relaunch, the game largely remains unchanged. This article should still provide a worthy overview of what the game offers.
Welcome to 1850’s London. It’s a time of Victorian society, and where England is finally reaping the rewards of of the Industrial Revolution. The average citizen’s quality of life is improved, allowing people of all walks of life to explore new possibilities in the big cities. With the influx of new people comes the need for more medical care, and many settled in on Harley Street.
The thing is, where do you go if the maladies aren’t exactly . . . normal?
Well it turns out there’s treatment for them too, in Gothic Doctor!
Yes, it seems those things that go bump in the night aren’t quite as malevolent as we were led to believe. It’s Halloween, and some of these wealthy individuals have come calling to your establishment, looking to see about some remedies.
Have you ever wanted to treat Frankenstein’s Monster, a mummy, and a vampire victim too? Good. Because they’re in the waiting room. And they’re paying cash.
Players in Gothic Doctor are up-and-coming doctors looking to make an impression on their bosses, competing for a newly-vacant partner position. Sure, they may still be cleaning up the mess from the previous person holding that spot, but there’s no time like the present. Now’s the best time to make your mark.
Gothic Doctor is a fairly light card game with one goal in mind: treating the most patients possible (and maybe sabotaging another player’s chances). The game starts by filling out which monsters show up in play (the “Waiting Room”). As each of them are treated (or removed due to other effects), a new one always replaces them from the Patient deck. Each Patient requires between two and four specific procedures, called Treatments, in order to be cured. Want to cure vampirism? It’ll include a Fang Extraction. Want to fix that lycanthropy? Gotta start off with a good shave. Players start off with a handful of Treatment cards that can be one of 11 different procedures, as well as a 12th card type, Panacea, that acts as a wild card.
So let’s start you off with a nice, easy, crazy person. Someone like this:
Additionally, players also start off with one Action card in their hand. Action cards do a variety of things, from replacing monsters in the Waiting Room to making it more difficult for your opponents to treat Patients. You know, because treating an angry stressed-out demon isn’t difficult enough.
Players take turns either drawing additional Treatment / Action cards, or curing Patients (and then drawing). When drawing Treatments, you can choose from three face-up Treatment cards, or taking a blind draw from the top of the deck. If you have all of the necessary cards to treat a Patient, though, why keep them waiting? Simply discard the requisite Treatment cards, take the Patient into your play area, and replace the Patient. After discarding down to seven cards to end your turn, it’s the next player’s chance to be a hero.
Gothic Doctor works because of its entertaining dark humor theme over being complicated; anyone who has played Ticket to Ride before will feel similarities in the turn structure. Indeed, it feels a lot like Ticket to Ride, except, well, with less trains and more creatures of the night. Treating them is a lot like laying track, Panaceas are like the locomotives, and you often have that feeling of needing to dig for the right colors – err Treatments – when drawing cards.
Turns continue until the game’s 11 rounds run out. At that point players count up the value of all of their now-reformed Patients as well as any Specialist/Generalist bonus cards that were achieved. (These are similar to the Longest Road / Largest Army cards from Settlers of Catan). The person who made the most money clearly has what it takes to be the firm’s new partner. Perhaps that could be you! Hopefully you’re not squeamish…
One of the most enjoyable aspects, aside from the entertaining theme, is that Gothic Doctor is casual while still being engaging. It’s easy to pick up and scales well with the number of players. Too often games tout being two-player friendly, but this one succeeds just as much with two as with five. We often feel this is a fact that shouldn’t go overlooked.
At the end of the evening, Gothic Doctor is a fun, light, filler card game. While some of the mechanics may feel like familiar territory, it is certainly not a clone of an existing product. (There are surprisingly zero clones in this game actually.) Rather, it is very much its own entity, providing a creative new spin on the classic monster epochs. Where else can you treat the Headless Horseman, Dracula, and a swath of mad scientists in the same night – all while getting paid for it? Just hope Dracula and his Brides aren’t showing up for couples therapy.
The variety of Action cards and Patients, paired with the random element to card draws, makes for an easy-going game with decent replay value. If you’re looking for a game on those nights when the moon is full and you really want to get your hands dirty treating the poor souls no one else will, then scrub in for Gothic Doctor, currently over on Kickstarter!