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Winter and a Wargame

January 27, 2016

29759cthulhu20wars20box_mdThe holiday season is usually a slow time for our gaming group as people are out of town or busy with their families or whatnot. This season has been even slower than usual, unfortunately. The group hasn’t been able to fully meet for some time now, but a few of us did get together last night to try out one of my Christmas gifts: the Cthulhu Wars board game!

Cthulhu Wars comes in this massive box, mostly because it has lots of huge game pieces for all sorts of Cthulhu mythos monsters. Each player picks a different faction, which have their own stables of monsters and their own special rules. You then struggle against the other players in a battle of dominance over the Earth until doomsday comes. You have to spread the influence of your cult, open gates to forbidden realms, and call forth waves of unspeakable monsters from beyond the stars to tear your foes asunder.

We picked random factions. I got the Black Goat, who in times past has been worshiped as a fertility deity. Fittingly, the cult’s specialty is in summoning superior numbers. Antony pulled the Crawling Chaos, which appeared to specialize in being very mobile. And Drew ended up with Great Cthulhu. My sense was that the Cthulhu faction was mostly about brute strength, with a sub-focus on controlling the aquatic regions of the board. There’s also a Yellow Sign faction that we didn’t get to try out this time, as we didn’t have a 4th player.


Actual play pic, courtesy of Satampra

Each turn starts with players “gathering power” which is the currency used to take actions. You get power for each cultist you have in play, as well as for each summoning gate that you control. As you start with your maximum number of cultists (6), the best thing to do is to move into new areas and build new gates. But at the same time, you have to be able to protect your gates from the other players, which you can accomplish by summoning monsters. Each player gets to take one action, which costs some of your available power, and then the opportunity to act goes around the table again and again until everyone is out of power or decides to pass. Then the turn ends. The power resource is use-it-or-lose-it, so you typically want to find a use for all of it, if you can. Available actions include: move any number of units 1 space, create a gate, summon a monster, recruit a cultist, and attack!

Battle is resolved with d6s – each unit has a combat rating of 0 or more, and you roll dice equal to the total combat rating of all your units participating. A 4-5 result forces an enemy unit to retreat, while a roll of 6 is a kill. Quick and easy. Cultists and minor monsters typically have a combat rating of 0, bigger monsters have a rating of 1-3, and Great Old Ones have much larger values. I think Cthulhu has a combat rating of 10, and he also automatically devours an enemy unit before combat begins!

Each faction has 6 specific mini-goals. Fulfilling one of these goals gets you a spellbook, which confers some special ability. As the Black Goat, my early goals including spreading my presence across the globe and sacrificing some of my cultists. In exchange, I received boosts such as +1 combat rating for all my cultists, or -1 power cost to all of my summons. The Chaos cult had to sacrifice power to gain some of its spellbooks, and Cthulhu’s cult had to build gates in ocean regions.

You get victory/”doom” points for controlling gates, and for performing unspeakable rituals (which cost more and more power as the game goes on). Also, rituals are worth more points if your Great Old One is currently striding the Earth. When one player hits 30 points, the player with the most points and all 6 of their faction spellbooks wins. Or whoever has the most points, if no one has all 6 books.

In any case, for all of the pieces and moving parts, the rules are fairly simple in play. A lot of the time taken to play comes from trying to determine where to move your units, rather than wrestling with the rules or the game pieces. And this was our very first time playing! So that’s a good sign, I think. And there’s a good amount of replayability, I think, since each faction plays differently and has its own strategies. Or its own way to fulfill the larger overall strategy of controlling gates.

Cthulhu Conquers the World

In our game, Cthulhu and N’yarlthotep’s cults got out to an early lead by rapidly creating gates, while the Black Goat was more preoccupied with summoning those awesome playing pieces on to the board. Which turned out to be a losing strategy! More gates meant more power for the other players, which meant they could take more actions. And since it costs 1 power to move each individual unit, having large numbers is kinda useless if you don’t have the resources to get them where they need to be.

While the Crawling Chaos cult consolidated its hold on the North and South poles, the Black Goat and Cthulhu fought over the South Atlantic and Pacific regions. A contest that the cult of Shub-Niggurath lost! Soon, Cthulhu’s groupies controlled most of the Earth’s oceans, and summoned Great Cthulhu itself! The Chaos cult called forth N’yarlthotep in response, and the the two titans clashed in the Philippines. Cthulhu fell, but a wounded N’yarlthotep was forced to retreat to its stronghold in the Americas.

Unfortunately, once Great Cthulhu has been awoken, that door is not so easily shut. One of the faction’s special abilities is that after the initial summoning of their big gun, summoning it against costs much less power, representing Cthulhu’s ability to reform itself after corporeal destruction. It proved impossible for the other factions to unseat the Cthulhu cult from its position of dominance, and they ended up winning the Earth (and the game).

A good time was had by all, and I can’t wait to play this again now that I have a better handle on the strategy. There are other factions available as well, although because of the elaborately detailed game pieces, they’re prohibitively expensive. But maybe I will put them on my wishlist for next Christmas…


From → Boardgames, Gaming

  1. Pinkius permalink

    The king in yellow didn’t make his debut? Good, and speak not his name for merely uttering it calls him forth! Is there a penalty for speaking the elder gods names aloud written in the rules? That’d be sick

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