This Christmas I had a pretty awesome gift given to me by my wife in the form of the Call of Cthulhu: The Living Card Games. I was looking at exploring other card games after playing Magic: The Gathering. Maybe find something with a little more substance or game dynamic to be truly unique. I think I may have found that.
Contents: Call of Cthulhu: The LCG uses a special format. You buy the initial set which is typically found with boardgames for some reason and contains cards for 3 factions, has a board piece, cardboard stock tokens as well as crafted Cthulhu statuettes which are also used as specific tokens.
Design: The tokens are much akin to the Arkham Horror boardgame material. It’s thick, durable and will stand the test of time. The Cthulhu statues are awesome and are used in the game to mark that you have used a resource. They sit on your resources in all their dark elder glory and is quite the attraction. The cards themselves feel more plastic then say Magic: The Gathering cards or even World of Warcraft. I don’t feel like I will ruin a card if I don’t have protectors. They are durable and quite flexible. Definitely a change that I like. The cards are very pretty in their Lovecraftian theme. It’s dead on as to the theme being appropriate. The art mimics and is in some cases a copy of art found within Arkham Horror. I am in love with the mature style of the art. It oozes theme and is top notch. I did not find any particular art that I did not like yet.
Gameplay: Having singularly played Magic: The Gathering to this date when I opened the box and looked at the cards I found it a bit daunting. There was numbers, various icons and your board center piece. But after delving into the instructions it cleared up quickly.
To start you each select a deck which is pre constructed. Decks have a minimum of 50 cards. You have various factions but 3 are included in the box. Government, Mythos and Hastur. Once you have selected a faction (they can be mixed btw much like the domains in Magic: TG) you set your centerpiece up with tokens on one side. They will designate wounds or successes. On the other side is a stack of 10 story cards. The objective of the game is to win three story cards. You place three story cards in the middle and select who will go first.
For this initial game I played with Neil. I was the Mythos while he played the Government. You select your initial 8 card hand and decided which 3 cards you will use as your domains. You have three domains that you will use for your resources. Each turn you can sacrifice a card and put it under a domain. You can arranging them in whichever three domain you have but whenever you want to play a specific card you must not only pay it’s cost (number of cards in the domain) but one of the icons must match the card your playing.
Once your domains are setup up play begins. Your turn is divided into phases. Upkeep, Operations and Story. During your upkeep phase you can refresh cards, operations you can tap domains (put a Cthulhu statue on top of the domain) and play characters, abilities, events or other such card. If you put a character out you can then assign him to a story. Normally if the story is uncontested you win and score a success token. However as an opponent if you have a creature and want to prevent the active player from scoring that success you tap and put in front of the story. From there you enter the story icon resolution phase.
You count up all the respective icons from you characters and compare them to your opponent. If your opponent has more he wins that icon struggle. You have Mythos, Combat, Arcane and Investigation icons. Each one can be beneficial depending on the outcome. If your win a Mythos icon struggle the other character becomes insane. Win combat and your opponent selects a character on his side to take a wound. It add’s an extra dynamic to the game play which is very much welcomed.
While there is the main LCG box set for Call of Cthulhu you can also purchase fixed packs which contain more cards to expand your decks. Also for those interested you can purchase cards from the Call of Cthulhu Collectable Card Game and add them to your deck. It’s mostly compatible with the FAQ / Rules being found on the Fantasy Flight Games website. I originally thought they were not compatible and was quite frustrated at that prospect however I had not informed myself enough apparently. But that in itself add’s a lot of flexibility to your game.
My only thing I can see that I wish was better was their community information. Take for instance opposing companies websites. Wizards has a card database for Magic, a list of cards for each set, building various decks and tournament information and hype. Upper Deck has a whole huge site dedicated to World of Warcraft with much the same. They promote being a community and getting together. Fantasy Flights card game is on the typical page layout and is has the feel of getting your buddy to play every now and then. It almost seem’s like a half hearted attempt to make a niche and stay there.
More Meat: I love the gameplay. While Magic and WoW seem to be quicker games that almost make things seem not fun, Cthulhu drags events out and there is no way around it. There is no making the ultimate power deck to eliminate your friend in three turns. You have to battle back and forth and earn those story cards. The story cards, the success tokens and balanced factions give Cthulhu a lot of traction.
Art: The art is top notch and oozing with theme. Lovecraft would be proud were he alive and not suing you for infringement on his copyright.
Replay Value: Cthulhu has a lot of replay value. While the games are overall longer, you tend to use more skill and thought towards the decisions you take when deciding resources and what to play. Every game is a new experience and a challenge.
Community: I would have preferred more then a forum community. I would have like maybe not as intensive as the World of Warcraft: TCG site but something maybe more subdued like Wizards where it has a lot of punch in a small package. I would have liked to see more promotion of organized tournaments as I am sure the game could be more popular then I am perceiving it but needs a helping hand from home base.
Overall the game is great and worth your time looking into it. It’s something different and not a clone of the Magic: The Gathering concept. While both are great games there is no denying that there something a bit more to the world of Lovecraft. While some card games seem to game niche status I think Cthulhu has the tentacles to grow and makes it’s way to another level.