“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.¨ – H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Game Designer: Nate French
Ages: 13 to adult
Playing Time: 30 – 60 minutes
Contents: 1 rulebook, 1 folding game board, 165 cards, 36 success and wound tokens and 6 Cthulhu Domain Markers.
Suggested Retail Price: $39.95
Parental Advisory: Safe for kids
Call of Cthulhu The Card Game (referred to as CoC throught this review) is a LCG (Living Card Game) from Fantasy Flight Games originally released in 2008 with many “Asylum Pack Expansion Cycles” previously release but later discontinued and replaced with currently five different “Deluxe Expansions” which is great news for people just getting into the game. These “Deluxe Expansions” allow the players to build much stronger decks to either stop the horrors that are terrorizing the world or to dominate the investigators and reek havoc on their plane of existence.
In CoC the players take on the roles of courageous investigators or nightmarish horrors to succeed in accomplishing their dangerous and horrific missions while battling the opposition for control. They do this by fighting for Story Cards that are randomly selected and three are laid out on the game board. The first player to get three Story Cards wins the game or the first player to run out of cards in their draw deck immediately lose the game. Discards piles are not shuffled back into their decks.
Players can choose from seven different factions to make up their decks. There is no limit to how many factions can be used or which ones can be mixed together to form their decks. However Heroic or Villainous Characters cannot be in play for one player at the same time. That player will have to choose one and discard the other if they mix human and horror decks.
The factions are:
The Agency – A group of police officers and citizens that specialize in combat. They do the grunt work and head bashing. This faction favors players that are aggressive and like to do damage.
Miskatonic University – The scholars and learned professors that are best at information gathering and a bit careless. They don’t do horror or combat well and rushing can get them into trouble. Great deck for card draw, quick investigation and “rushing” players.
The Syndicate – The seedy underbelly characters that always seem to know what is going on. They use their info to their advantage and compared to the horrors can seem like the good guys. This deck favors being sneaky and slowing down the opponents characters.
Cthulhu – The cult of the Great One himself. This cult is world wide, intertwined through out Earth’s history and specializes in terror and utter destruction. This cult isn’t always nice to each other so be careful when calling forth Cthulhu!
Hastur – He who shall not be named cultists are raving lunatics and deranged artists. This cult is full of people that love to spread the slow poison of terror and insanity. This deck favors control, cancellation and appeals to the slower, more defensive players.
Yog-Sothoth – The Gate Keeper of where the spheres meet. Its cultists help navigate the ways between the worlds allowing for returning cards from the players discard pile and searching for cards when needed.
Shub-Niggurath – The horrid Mother faction of the Black Goat of the Woods with One Thousand Young floods the play area with monsters of all levels. This deck is suited for “rushing” players who love to combat!
There is also a set of Neutral cards that can be used by both players.
There are five different types of cards in CoC. Story, Character, Support, Event and Conspiracy. All cards belong to one of the seven factions or are neutral. Cards marked with an * are Unique and each player may only have one copy in play at a time. Cards put into play are put in the ready position and exhausted (turned 90 degrees) when used. Any character that goes insane is flipped upside down in the exhausted position. Attached cards are destroyed when a Character leaves play.
Refresh Phase – Each player can choose and restore one insane character by flipping it face-up but it still remains exhausted until the next turn. Each player then refreshes any exhausted cards and Domains.
Draw Phase – Each player draws two cards from their deck. During the first turn only, the first player only draws one card as part of the first player penalty.
Resource Phase – Each player may choose one card from their hand to place under a Domain of their choice. The card goes under the Domain Card and upside down so the only the resource symbol at the bottom can be seen. Once a card becomes a resource, it may not be used for anything else. There is no limit to the amount of resources a player may have or the amount of Domains. Once a Domain has been exhausted, then the player places a Domain Marker on it and it cannot be used again until the next round. Each Domain may only be used for one card per round.
Operations Phase – Players have the chance to play any Character and Support Cards from their hand face up in front of them in the play area as long as their have the resources available to pay for the card. To play a card or activate it, the player must exhaust a Domain to do so. Unless the card is neutral, the Domain used must have a resource match (a card from the same faction) to the card being played.
Story Phase – The active player now commits any ready Characters to the Story Card by exhausting them and placing them in front of the Story Card of their choice. Each Character may only support one Story Card each round.
After the active player commits, then the opponent may commit their Characters to a Story Card in which at least once Character has already been committed.
Now the players resolved the Story Cards. This is done in any order chosen by the active player. Each Story Card is resolved by the four icon struggles found on the left side of the card by comparing skill values.
- 1. Terror Struggle – This is the tentacle icon on the card. The player with the most tentacle icons wins this struggle. The losing player choices on Character Card committed to that struggle to go insane. Here Characters with the willpower keyword never go insane.
- Combat Struggle – This is the skull icon on the card. The player with the most skull icons wins this challenge. The looser must choose one Character Card committed to this struggle and give them a wound token. Most Characters only take one damage and are destroyed. The toughness keyword comes into play here and allow a Character to receive more than one wound before being destroyed.
- Arcane Struggle – This is the tome icon on the card. The winning player may ready an exhausted Character Card committed to this Story Card.
- Investigation Struggle – This is the magnifying glass icon on the card. The winning player may immediately place a Success Token on the Story Card.
Determining success: The active player now determines if they have been successful. Add the combined skill values (number on the middle left side of card) of all remaining Character Cards committed to the Story Card. If this total is one or more than the opponents, then they may place a Success Token on the Story Card.
If the active player succeeded and the opponents skill level was zero or less, then the active player may place one additional Success Token on the Story Card as being unchallenged.
If the player wins the Story Card by having five or more tokens on it, they then may take it and immediately resolve its effects. If both players simultaneously win, then the active player takes it. If the active player wins more than one Story Card at the same time, the active player chooses in what order to take the Story Card and activate it’s effects.
Once a Story Card has been won, all tokens are removed and returned to the pool and a new Story Card is flipped over in its place.
Conspiracy Cards are played from the active players hand during the Operations Phase as a new Story Card in addition to the three Story Cards in play. These cards may also be used as Resource Cards attached to a players Domain. Each player may only have one Conspiracy Card in play at a time. If a players wins a Conspiracy Card it counts towards the players Story Card win total.
Fast: This keyword breaks ties during icon struggles. The player with the most Fast Characters committed to the Story Card takes this honor. A tie of zero is still zero and Fast has no effect on it.
Heroic/Villainous: A player cannon bring both into play at the same time (this includes card effects.) A player must discard one in order to play the other.
Invulnerability: Character Cards with this keyword can never be wounded or chosen to be wounded. They may still be destroyed by card effects.
Loyal: When a player wishes to play a Character Card with the Loyal keyword, they must drain a Domain that has enough resources of that cards faction to pay for the entire cost the card.
Steadfast: These cards have faction symbols in their tile. When a player drains a Domain to play a Steadfast Card, the player must have at least as many resources across all of their Domains to play that card as well the Resource Match.
Toughness: Character Cards with the Toughness keyword, may take additional wounds equal to X times. This may come from more than one source in which case the different cases stack.
Transient: The Transient keyword is accompanied by an arrow next to the resource icons and count as two resources when placed under a Domain. Once this Domain has been exhausted for what any reason, this card is destroyed and discarded.
Willpower: Characters with the Willpower keyword may never go insane either by effect or choice.
During each phase of play, each player my take actions by either using Character abilities or playing Event Cards and paying its cost. The active player always takes the first action each phase. No actions may be taken during the Resolve Story Card Phase until all three of the Story Cards have been resolved. All actions are taken one at a time, first by the active player and then with the opponents follow up action if that players chooses.
There are many different actions that happen such as Responses, Forced Response and Disrupts. In order for these to take effect obviously the card text and circumstances must align. These are described in the rulebook to greater detail.
Components: CoC component quality is top notch as it is a Fantasy Flight Game and they don’t skimp on quality. The artwork is taken from several other of the Arkham Horror series games and I am sure fresh new art was included. Of course the artwork is awesome and fits the genre perfectly. The cards are good quality, easy to read with the exception of the text at the bottom of the Story Cards which is a bit small to read easily. The board is solid, and small and is basically just chrome for the game, but I am all about chrome so its a nice touch.
CoC is a deck-building game that has a ton of depth to it which is no surprise as all of Fantasy Flights LCG’s are very good (I haven’t played Star Wars yet.) The Core Set might be a bit weak for the human player to start with at least until they get to know the cards and combos pretty well. CoC provides a good balance of the thematic element, strategy and a short playing time of 30 – 60 minutes which should be a big plus for many gamers. It’s a shame it isn’t more popular in the US as it is overseas as it is most certainly a very good game and should be in more players game collections. The wonderful feeling I get when playing thematically strong games like this always want to make me reach for these types of games first as for me the gaming experience seems more complete than just a good strategy game with a theme that doesn’t really matter if it is there or not. I love THEME and Fantasy Flight does it better than anyone else. If you are looking for a game that has great deck-building mechanics, great cards and effects and theme dripping from the start than this is the game for you.
Now is the time to get into this game if you don’t want to get behind on the expansions with Fatasy Flight having put our the “Deluxe Expansions” and there being only five of them. Deck-building games like this can get very expensive especially if the player is serious and tournament bound, but for the casual player, buying just the core set and seeing how you like it provides a fitting gaming experience with lots of theme, fun and discussion. From there adding the expansions should be easy and at the discretion of the what the player feels they need.
I will give this game about a 8.5 out of 10 stars as it brings a lot of depth, strategy and theme and it is certainly worth the price at $40. This game will never play the same so it’s re-playability is very, very high.
This game is Geek Certified!