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All hail Cthulhu, Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fthagn!
For some of you, that’s all you need to know about Necronomicards. As fans of the Cthulhu mythos, you are sold on the theme alone. And you won’t be let down as the game features 40 awesome elder gods, demons, and all sorts of other dark entities, all on tarot sized playing cards (which are larger than normal poker sized playing cards). And the illustrations on the cards are downright amazing. Normal sized cards would simply not have done the artwork justice. If you are a fan of this genre you’re probably going to want to pick up Necronomicards solely for the art—the art is that good.
For the rest of you, let’s dive in to what Necronomicards has to offer. The goal of Necronomicards is to match enough symbols on different Spell cards in order to draw a Summon card. The first player to draw seven Summon cards wins. It might sound simple, but Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn. You see, when you draw a Summon card, some weird stuff can happen. Sometimes the entity you summon will be beneficial to you, while other entities might screw with your opponents. Some of the entities from beyond will need to be played immediately after you summon them, while you’ll want to hang onto others and wait for the right moment to beckon them into existence.
Each Summon card breaks the normal rules of the game in some way. Here are some example Summon cards: Astaroth, which forces one player to discard half of their Spell cards. The Mothman, which allows you to look at the next 6 Spell cards in the deck and take any 3 of them. Baphomet, forces all players to give you 1 Spell card. Cerberus allows you to immediately draw 3 Spell cards.
Spell cards have anywhere from 4 to 6 different symbols on them. There are a lot of different symbols in total, with some looking very similar to one another. You match symbols in one of three ways. You can match 3 sets of pairs, which allows you to draw 1 Summon card. You can match 2 sets of triplets, which allows you to draw 2 Summon cards. Or you can turn in 6 of the same symbol in order to draw 3 Summon cards.
Also, throwing a little chaos into the mix, Curse cards are shuffled into the Spell deck. Curse cards can really throw off any potential plans and can be particularly devastating. Curses do all sorts of things, from forcing you to play a Summon card if you have one, to making you lose a turn, to requiring that you give one of your Spell cards to another player. You’ll know luck isn’t on your side when you become the target of both a Curse and a Summon card.
In addition to the normal way of winning (be the first to collect 7 Summon cards), you can also win by summoning all Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (each represented by a separate card). If you can pull this off, you win no matter how many Summon cards the other players have.
Large playing cards with amazing art really bring the game to life. I can’t say enough good things about the art in this game. The game is easy to teach, quick to set up, and is highly portable. Because of the sheer amount of symbols in the game, finding matches is more difficult than it might first appear. This is a good thing because it keeps you on your toes.
Necronomicards doesn’t shine at the two player count. Even at higher player counts, it is still possible to lose five or more turns in a row. This stinks. Seriously, not being able to play for five turns is no fun. Notice I said “five or more”. It is entirely possible to lose eight turns in a row. While this might not happen a lot, the fact that it can happen isn’t very cool. But I guess the old gods aren’t worried too much about being cool.
A minor gripe I have, that in no way takes away from gameplay, is that there is no component list. I realize the components consist solely of cards, but there isn’t a count of the cards and/or a breakdown of how many Summon cards, Spell cards, or Curse cards make up the game. People frequently ask questions about the quantity of each card type and the only way to answer the question is to count the cards. Not the end of the world, but tedious nonetheless.
The cards in Necronomicards are oversized and do a great job of showing off the amazing illustrations. However, they are a bit thin. The 3×3 fold out rulebook has a large illustration of Cthulhu on the back, which is pretty neat.
The art, and seeing the different entities that are included in the game, is the real selling point of Necronomicards. Gameplay is fairly light and straightforward, but the game duration is a little on the long side for what I’d consider a filler. Necronomicards is definitely a “take that” style game with a lot of player screw. Since you are summoning elder gods, demons, and other ghastly fiends, I guess this fits the theme. If you are looking for a new “take that” game with awesome art then look no further.