Review: the Vampire Diaries
Publisher: Pressman
Year: 2010
Tagline: The Game Based on the Hit TV Show
Players: 3 or 4

Game box is coffin shaped with images of woman laying on ground looking toward you and two boys at her side doing same

how we met

I have had this strange, coffin-shaped game in my collection for several months. I remember finding it at thrift and being unable to fight off the temptation based on box shape alone. Well, and the box indicates transformational photo frames are inside. I was sold.

how it plays

the Vampire Diaries game is won if you control the last human character amongst vampires. Humans become vampires by receiving bite marks. Bite marks are received by other players landing on certain spaces of the board on their turn.

You might open the box, as I did, and wonder if it’s missing a bunch of pieces. No, that’s just how this game is. You share a pawn. The board is little. My copy was only missing the ring, and Bill and I had just played an escape room where we had to build a ring so we just used that.

Players each start the game with one of the photos, and all photos should be set to their human form and facing the other players. On your turn, roll the dice and move the shared pawn the number of crows that you roll. If you did not roll any crows at all, even better! You get to take control of the ring, possibly even for a full moment. The ring will protect you if someone lands on the vampire bite and wants to bite your character.

Three six sided die that have crows on 3 sides each
Crows are on 50% of the dice sides

Other spaces on the board will cause you to swap characters (so don’t get too attached to anyone) or erase a vampire bite. The ring does not protect you from swapping characters.

Once a character gets three vampire bites, switch them to the vampire setting. There is no erasing those marks now: that character is a full-on vampire.

Character images have cutouts around eyes and mouth that show human features when on human setting and red eyes and fangs in vampire setting
This young lady as a human and as a vampire. The cutouts are disturbing and I love them in all the wrong ways.

The last player to have the last human character wins the Vampire Diaries!

how it went

We played the Vampire Diaries during a recent epic gaming day where we played eight different games, and this was far and away the worst one. Far and away. So of course I wanted to capture the magic for you immediately.

I am not familiar with The Vampire Diaries TV show property, and normally I would like to at least read up on it to understand how the game might resonate with fans. But I am not sure the game designer bothered to do that, so why should I?

The strange pawn is meant to be a stamp that players use to stamp bite marks on the characters. It does not contain any ink and does not appear to even be the right material to have ever had any ink. But I was prepared: we used dry erase markers to draw bites as we went. That was way more fun.

Bite mark image on a stamp
You will never convince me this was ever meant to have ink for longer than a week

the Vampire Diaries is strange because you are really just trading around the different characters endlessly. Initially John found this delightful and was asking, “Who are you? Who am I? Who are any of us?” His comment really hit home that we were merely agents the game was using to play itself.

The ring traded hands almost incessantly. Huge portions of the game consisted of just passing the ring from player to player. One time I didn’t even get the opportunity to touch the ring after winning it.

Our play showing pawn on the track and ring in center of board
This was apparently the most time the ring ever spent in one place, and thus the only photo I captured of it

Bill took on the role of ushering us through gameplay quickly, coldly, efficiently. He rushed us, pushed us, moved the pawn, moved the dice. He only ever paused to draw really inappropriate bite marks. Because otherwise the gameplay lasts forever. It may seem mean, but it’s really important to gang up on characters when you get the opportunity to bite them. Otherwise they will recover and play goes on and on and on. But it’s not so mean in this game because it’s very likely the character you draw bites on will be yours in short order anyway.

Photos of cute teens and vampires with bites drawn on them
This was our final crew and the poor boy with the J-shaped bite in his cheek became our hero. IIRC the poor boy with the pause button on his neck was second

The transformational photos did not disappoint. That’s a pretty fun novelty for a game. And in the end, Bill had the last character that did not transform and Bill won the Vampire Diaries!

play or pass

I give you pass eternal. I know many of you would have passed on this one anyway for $3. But then you may never know the frenetic fun of winning a protection ring only to have it taken from the player to your left, then seized by the player to their left, then unceremoniously tossed to the player to their left. Then landing on the floor at your feet again.

John described the gameplay of this one best when he pointed out that none of us are really a part of the game at all. We were merely suckers moving the pawn around the board and drawing imaginative vampire bites when instructed to do so (and that last bit of creativity is not even part of the original game!). Super pass!