Recently on facebook a friend of mine linked me to this interesting kickstarter for a game called “Cultists of Cthulhu”. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you will immediately know that the words “Cultist”, “Cthulhu” and “Game” always manage to get my interest one way or another. After reading through the kickstarter and seeing what they were trying to do, I decided I wanted to make a post here about this game because it sounds awfully promising.
The basic gist and concept of the game is that you’re playing as a group of students or their professors from Miskatonic University*. A strange bolt of lightning strikes the University and shatters the Elder Sign above it into several pieces**. Now odd happenings, grotesque monsters and increasingly darkening shadows threaten to overtake the University. This would be bad enough by itself, but when you add in the possibility that some of your own companions may be hidden cultists it just becomes downright horrifying! You never know who might be working behind the scenes against the party, in order to derail your plans to reinstate the protective Elder Sign and summon forth a hideous eldritch being.
In some ways this description reminded me of Fantasy Flight Games excellent Elder Sign, which involves shenanigans occurring in a museum where horrible things have burst through. Once I started to look into the game more deeply though, any surface similarities rapidly melted away and I became rather intrigued. The first thing that drew my interest in particular was the procedurally generated board, which is made by taking a series of tiles (representing different indoor or outdoor rooms) then placing them one by one. This method produces a large number of different possibilities and helps to keep the game feeling diverse and interesting. It’s an approach I really enjoy and is one of the main reasons I have consistently played Betrayal at the House on the Hill for many years.
But one thing I do enjoy about the game, especially compared with Elder Sign, is the hidden traitor mechanic built into it. As mentioned in my description of the game above, one of the players is actually trying to work against the others and is a cultist. This adds a wonderful element of uncertainty to play, but most importantly in the initial map building phase of the game. As no player knows if they will be a cultist or not when building the map, careful decisions and balancing how easy the game might be for academics/cultist need to be considered. In play it has the usual delightful effects of increased tension, changing around player strategy and of course, ruining friendships as you reveal you were the shoggoth. You were the shoggoth all along!
The board, characters and similar that they have shown in the preview certainly look pretty enough to me. I also approve of having game length being varied by the scenario chosen, which seem to vary from Mi-Go incursions to Cthulhuian cultists bringing forth deep ones and so on. Considering the set up doesn’t look to be that intense initially either, it should be a good game for those who have an hour or longer for more complex scenarios (3 hours was a number I noticed on the kickstarter). So while I am getting a little tired of Cthulhu themed games, I am definitely going to be keeping an eye on this and I feel there is still room in my heart for at least one more. At least.
*Miskatonic University being one of several important fictional places in Lovecraft’s stories.
**I seriously need to have that rant about the Elder Sign and the general idea of “All-purpose mythos protective” symbols.