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Subject: A short review regarding the theme and if it fits the game rss

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Bart Wynants
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Last weekend I had a chance to play MoM second edition with friends.
Since there are already a few excellent reviews on here which do a great job of describing the game mechanics, I will not bother to comment on these – especially since I largely agree with the writers of said reviews.
Nevertheless, I felt compelled to address a question I’ve often heard, but have not yet found a comprehensive answer to:

“Does the game fit the theme?”

The answer to this is important to boardgamers who are fond of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos and players / keepers of the Call of Cthulhu RPG who might be looking for a ‘quick fix’ to rival or emulate a light investigative CoC scenario.
Being a member of both groups, I was naturally very excited to try out the new Mansions of Madness game and fervently hoped FFG had managed to create a true ‘light rpg’ game in the setting I admire.
Alas, MoM still does not live up to these expectations.

First of all, let me be clear about one thing. MoM is a good, strong game. It’s fun, it’s engaging, it’s solid. So it’s definitely not a bad game.
However, the theme is just tacked-on. Jammed in there like a square peg in a round hole, it seems to me. And that’s a shame.

Those of you familar with Lovecraft’s work (or Derleth’s , or Smith’s, or Howard’s or Long’s,...) will recognize at least two things very common to most tales. One being the enormous, otherworldly powers of the Old Ones and even their most basic servants. Two, the importance of investigation. Players of the CoC tabletop RPG will be able to confirm that fighting stuff gets you killed and 90% of the game is investigation. So let’s say that it’s fair to assume that we can expect roughly the same typical experience from MoM.

In reality, the game amounts to a dungeoncrawl, plain and simple. The app does a wonderful job enriching the experience, and the ‘clues’ you find are a fun way of building tension and providing meaningful choice in what would otherwise be blind exploration. If they *had* themed this as a dungeoncrawler, I would probably be all over it.

For example (no spoilers) in the first scenario, I played William Yorick, the gravedigger. I open a door and find myself face to face with a Hunting Horror. Initially, of course, I suggested we run... Until I saw its stats that is. It had six hitpoints – one less than my character. In the next round, William and another investigator proceeded to beat up and kill the creature using only our fists. So much for cosmic horror, eh? Note that there were no exceptional circumstances here; no buffs, no lucky rolls... We just went by the numbers.

Regarding the investigation mechanics in the game, I’ll repeat myself in saying they aren’t bad. However, they are nowhere near emulating true investigation, as some might expect. Following a trail of breadcrumbs is a far cry from playing a true investigative RPG scenario. Since MoM is often being toted as a ‘light CoC RPG’ by some, I felt I should point this out so people know what to expect.

Summing up, I believe MoM would have been a better game, had FFG dispensed with the Cthulhu licence. A dungeoncrawler would have been an excellent fit! Failing that, a generic horror / slasher theme would have worked as well. However, if you are a fan the Cthulhu Mythos and are hoping for this game to recreate the same feeling of cosmic horror you know from the stories, you’re out of luck...


A few closing remarks:
• $100 seems very steep to me. It just doesn’t seem like there’s enough mileage in there.
• The quality of the minis, while often griped about, is not too bad, imo.
• The app crashed on us, two hours into the second scenario, with no recovery possible. While this will probably be fixed with a patch soon, it’s enough to further justify my own aversion to app-driven games.
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Fruit Eating Bear
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Margrave wrote:

For example (no spoilers) in the first scenario, I played William Yorick, the gravedigger. I open a door and find myself face to face with a Hunting Horror. Initially, of course, I suggested we run... Until I saw its stats that is. It had six hitpoints – one less than my character. In the next round, William and another investigator proceeded to beat up and kill the creature using only our fists. So much for cosmic horror, eh? Note that there were no exceptional circumstances here; no buffs, no lucky rolls... We just went by the numbers.



But the point of MoM isn't necessarily to die by wounds, unlike dungeon crawlers. The HH may well have given you Horror, which is cumulative. Sure, you might have killed it, and probably did, but its damage to you won't show up until later. MoM isn't a combat-driven game at all.
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Keith Scholes
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Is there a board game in the style of MoM that you know that does accurately reflect the Lovecraft stories? It would seem almost impossible to create such a game and make it playable. In the books the outcome is almost always detrimental to the subjects of the story and whatever horror is present overwhelmingly powerful. It might be possible to reproduce such a thing in an RPG but exceedingly difficult to do so in a board game if you want the players to have much of a gaming experience. As you say the correct response to most of the Lovecraftian monsters is to run and get away if at all possible, which would make for a fairly limited game.
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Bart Wynants
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That's exactly what I meant to say :-)

In true Lovecraftian fiction, investigators tend to go mad from terror almost as often as they die. And yet, in this encounter with the Hunting Horror, we suffered no ill effects. No Horror, no Wounds, nothing. Just one turn of bare-fisted fighting is all it took.
Considering that there were no exceptional rolls or special circumstances in play, that struck me as more than a little out of place.
When a player says "I've got an axe and full HP - I think I can take that Star Spawn over there", you have to admit the atmosphere of a desperate struggle against all-powerful alien horrors is not terribly well achieved... ;-)

Hence, my stating that MoM might work better as a combat driven dungeoncrawler than the CoC emulator it wants to be.
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Jukka Lindström
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Margrave wrote:
That's exactly what I meant to say :-)
When a player says "I've got an axe and full HP - I think I can take that Star Spawn over there", you have to admit the atmosphere of a desperate struggle against all-powerful alien horrors is not terribly well achieved... ;-)


Based on two plays, I would also agree that the monsters are too easy (and maybe too frequent for my liking).

If the difficulty of the game (and the monsters) continues to be too easy I see changing the difficulty with some house rules.

For example:
- Monsters take only half the damage (rounded up) from the investigators attacks.
- Investigators take +1 horror (facedown) for each horror check.

Frequency of the monsters is harder to house rule sadly.
 
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Paul Kime
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kijoe wrote:
Margrave wrote:
That's exactly what I meant to say :-)
When a player says "I've got an axe and full HP - I think I can take that Star Spawn over there", you have to admit the atmosphere of a desperate struggle against all-powerful alien horrors is not terribly well achieved... ;-)


Based on two plays, I would also agree that the monsters are too easy (and maybe too frequent for my liking).

If the difficulty of the game (and the monsters) continues to be too easy I see changing the difficulty with some house rules.

For example:
- Monsters take only half the damage (rounded up) from the investigators attacks.
- Investigators take +1 horror (facedown) for each horror check.

Frequency of the monsters is harder to house rule sadly.


Not sure how many wacks across head head with a crowbar or fire extinguisher I could take.
 
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Margrave wrote:
That's exactly what I meant to say :-)

In true Lovecraftian fiction, investigators tend to go mad from terror almost as often as they die. And yet, in this encounter with the Hunting Horror, we suffered no ill effects. No Horror, no Wounds, nothing. Just one turn of bare-fisted fighting is all it took.
Considering that there were no exceptional rolls or special circumstances in play, that struck me as more than a little out of place.
When a player says "I've got an axe and full HP - I think I can take that Star Spawn over there", you have to admit the atmosphere of a desperate struggle against all-powerful alien horrors is not terribly well achieved... ;-)

Hence, my stating that MoM might work better as a combat driven dungeoncrawler than the CoC emulator it wants to be.

Yeah, you should probably play Eldritch Horror - on difficult.

Then again, the "investigation" there is even more abstracted that MoM - so I guess you will need a DM for CoC RPG it seems...
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Bart Wynants
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oldschoolgamr wrote:

Yeah, you should probably play Eldritch Horror - on difficult.

Then again, the "investigation" there is even more abstracted that MoM - so I guess you will need a DM for CoC RPG it seems...


I like Eldritch Horror, actually. Maybe that's because it is more abstracted, as you say. Allows one to fill in the blanks plausibly.
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Kenyon Daniel
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(Warning some rambling)

You make very salient points!

Even with the RPG and Arkharm Horror titles, etc. none have ever "gotten it right". Encountering a Mythos monster should be an extremely rare and near fatal experience. I've always had this problem with CoC games (board or RPG). One of the better scenarios, was a fan-made scenario (based on the The King in Yellow) for Eldritch Horror where every enemy was a cultist. That's far more correct. Again, Mythos creatures are rare not a dime-a-dozen. Seeing one should be devastating, trying to fight one (even something as "low" as a byakhee) should be crushing. Let alone facing a shoggoth or a star spawn.

So I feel your sentiment there.

One other thing that really bothers me in CoC RPGs and board games is how easy and reliable Mythos spells are. Even the CoC RPG, which touts that learning a single Mythos spell can take years or decades of mind-bending research and how sanity shattering such a thing is, gives people spells within minutes or maybe a few days in published scenarios. In CoC board games, people get spells all over the place and can cast them pretty much at will and without ill effect.

However, I will say that of the CoC boardgames out there MoM is definitely the closest to at least getting something right. There is a sense of investigation (better than in 1st) and the monsters at least "behave" properly (it did my heart good to see how a Hound of Tindalos now acts as compared to 1st edition).

I guess the big question is, would a true-to-the-style Lovecraft board game be fun to play? Could it be exciting and strong enough to reach a large enough audience? Even now, just trying to make a Lovecraft movie (shudder) is a difficult endeavor. Though there are successes in that arena.

Sometimes the best stories do not make the best games (and vice versa).

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Bart Wynants
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DocLeo wrote:
(Warning some rambling)

You make very salient points!

Even with the RPG and Arkharm Horror titles, etc. none have ever "gotten it right". Encountering a Mythos monster should be an extremely rare and near fatal experience. I've always had this problem with CoC games (board or RPG). One of the better scenarios, was a fan-made scenario (based on the The King in Yellow) for Eldritch Horror where every enemy was a cultist. That's far more correct. Again, Mythos creatures are rare not a dime-a-dozen. Seeing one should be devastating, trying to fight one (even something as "low" as a byakhee) should be crushing. Let alone facing a shoggoth or a star spawn.

So I feel your sentiment there.

One other thing that really bothers me in CoC RPGs and board games is how easy and reliable Mythos spells are. Even the CoC RPG, which touts that learning a single Mythos spell can take years or decades of mind-bending research and how sanity shattering such a thing is, gives people spells within minutes or maybe a few days in published scenarios. In CoC board games, people get spells all over the place and can cast them pretty much at will and without ill effect.

However, I will say that of the CoC boardgames out there MoM is definitely the closest to at least getting something right. There is a sense of investigation (better than in 1st) and the monsters at least "behave" properly (it did my heart good to see how a Hound of Tindalos now acts as compared to 1st edition).

I guess the big question is, would a true-to-the-style Lovecraft board game be fun to play? Could it be exciting and strong enough to reach a large enough audience? Even now, just trying to make a Lovecraft movie (shudder) is a difficult endeavor. Though there are successes in that arena.

Sometimes the best stories do not make the best games (and vice versa).



Amen on the spells there!

I do agree MoM does a lot of things better than other games in the genre. As I said, the investigation mechanic is very well implemented, even though it isn't 'true' investigation (and I am well aware that such true investigative mechanics are all but impossible to implement in a boardgame. I just felt I had to stress this point since others tend to exaggerate the intricacy of the investigative mechanics in MoM)

Before the app froze up, we were really having fun playing the second scenario in Innsmouth, which seemed a lot more plausible and alike to a CoC scenario. So I suppose it could be done. But then, the question is if you can keep things interesting long enough - battling cultists will get old at some point.
 
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Margrave wrote:
DocLeo wrote:
(Warning some rambling)

You make very salient points!

Even with the RPG and Arkharm Horror titles, etc. none have ever "gotten it right". Encountering a Mythos monster should be an extremely rare and near fatal experience. I've always had this problem with CoC games (board or RPG). One of the better scenarios, was a fan-made scenario (based on the The King in Yellow) for Eldritch Horror where every enemy was a cultist. That's far more correct. Again, Mythos creatures are rare not a dime-a-dozen. Seeing one should be devastating, trying to fight one (even something as "low" as a byakhee) should be crushing. Let alone facing a shoggoth or a star spawn.

So I feel your sentiment there.

One other thing that really bothers me in CoC RPGs and board games is how easy and reliable Mythos spells are. Even the CoC RPG, which touts that learning a single Mythos spell can take years or decades of mind-bending research and how sanity shattering such a thing is, gives people spells within minutes or maybe a few days in published scenarios. In CoC board games, people get spells all over the place and can cast them pretty much at will and without ill effect.

However, I will say that of the CoC boardgames out there MoM is definitely the closest to at least getting something right. There is a sense of investigation (better than in 1st) and the monsters at least "behave" properly (it did my heart good to see how a Hound of Tindalos now acts as compared to 1st edition).

I guess the big question is, would a true-to-the-style Lovecraft board game be fun to play? Could it be exciting and strong enough to reach a large enough audience? Even now, just trying to make a Lovecraft movie (shudder) is a difficult endeavor. Though there are successes in that arena.

Sometimes the best stories do not make the best games (and vice versa).



Amen on the spells there!

I do agree MoM does a lot of things better than other games in the genre. As I said, the investigation mechanic is very well implemented, even though it isn't 'true' investigation (and I am well aware that such true investigative mechanics are all but impossible to implement in a boardgame. I just felt I had to stress this point since others tend to exaggerate the intricacy of the investigative mechanics in MoM)


What do you consider "true investigation", and could it possibly be implemented in an app-driven board game?
 
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bleached_lizard wrote:


What do you consider "true investigation", and could it possibly be implemented in an app-driven board game?


True investigation, to me, consists of gathering potential clues (thus including meaningless ones as well), analyzing, filtering, correlating and, using deduction, distilling from these a single, logical conclusion.

I certainly think it could be done in an app-driven boardgame, but it would require some very complex coding.

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Margrave wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:


What do you consider "true investigation", and could it possibly be implemented in an app-driven board game?


True investigation, to me, consists of gathering potential clues (thus including meaningless ones as well), analyzing, filtering, correlating and, using deduction, distilling from these a single, logical conclusion.

I certainly think it could be done in an app-driven boardgame, but it would require some very complex coding.



Yup, and possibly a real RPG could do a lot better in this field (an artificial intelligence covering all the options human mind can creat is simply impossible to create)
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Margrave wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:


What do you consider "true investigation", and could it possibly be implemented in an app-driven board game?


True investigation, to me, consists of gathering potential clues (thus including meaningless ones as well), analyzing, filtering, correlating and, using deduction, distilling from these a single, logical conclusion.

I certainly think it could be done in an app-driven boardgame, but it would require some very complex coding.



Do you mean like in Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective or its Lovecraft equivalent, Mythos Tales?
 
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Bart Wynants
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DancingFool wrote:


Do you mean like in Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective or its Lovecraft equivalent, Mythos Tales?


Yes, something like that. Of course, replayability is the other side of the coin here, so I understand they needed to compromise somewhat. No-one in their right mind buys a $100 boardgame to play only once, after all.
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I wonder if MOM could have been designed in a more simpler manner using paragraphs or a deck of encounter cards. Each paragraph/encounter card would contain flavor text, checks and encounters. I don't think replayability would be any less than it is now (at least not from what I gather from the first edition I have and played).)
Also the price would be more realistic IMO.
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grahamj wrote:
I wonder if MOM could have been designed in a more simpler manner using paragraphs or a deck of encounter cards. Each paragraph/encounter card would contain flavor text, checks and encounters. I don't think replayability would be any less than it is now (at least not from what I gather from the first edition I have and played).)
Also the price would be more realistic IMO.


Going back to physical cards would not have made the game any simpler and it would have indeed lowered the replay-ability of the game, given that it's easier to add virtual content than it is physical content. Also, an app can handle much more variability without bogging the player down in fiddly checks and other things that can bog down the average FF game. If you want what you described, play every other story-driven game on the market.

Providing physical cards instead of an app would not have made the price lower, or more "realistic".

The app is brilliant and I really have no interest in taking a step backwards.
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grahamj wrote:
I wonder if MOM could have been designed in a more simpler manner using paragraphs or a deck of encounter cards. Each paragraph/encounter card would contain flavor text, checks and encounters. I don't think replayability would be any less than it is now (at least not from what I gather from the first edition I have and played).)
Also the price would be more realistic IMO.

It would not play the same. The app adds targeted randomization that cannot easily be duplicated by cards. It knows when fire is present and can choose events that acknowledge that, for example.

The way MoM1 did combat almost does mimic this, but required players to be flipping card after card until one came up with the type of attack they were making... Suppose you could have multiple decks - but that would be so cumbersome...

Chained mythos effects - that are connected to in game actions - would also be difficult. I was going to give example, but due to the app, even if you played the intro scenario you may not have seen this example... I only saw it the second time I went through it... Anyway - if you do A, B can happen in a mythos effect. Those connection create the theme... To do that with cards COULD be possible, but all the what ifs would make it really difficult (unless of course you have a Keeper - see Mansion of Madness 1st edition).

I suppose if you use the app as a check delivery system and dice roll target generator without seeing all the connections it is making you will wonder why it is there. But if you do make those connections the atmosphere of the mansion exploration becomes really, really deep (in my opinion).

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grahamj wrote:
I wonder if MOM could have been designed in a more simpler manner using paragraphs or a deck of encounter cards. Each paragraph/encounter card would contain flavor text, checks and encounters. I don't think replayability would be any less than it is now (at least not from what I gather from the first edition I have and played).)
Also the price would be more realistic IMO.


Wait for it, wait for it ... and there it is.
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DancingFool wrote:
Margrave wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:


What do you consider "true investigation", and could it possibly be implemented in an app-driven board game?


True investigation, to me, consists of gathering potential clues (thus including meaningless ones as well), analyzing, filtering, correlating and, using deduction, distilling from these a single, logical conclusion.

I certainly think it could be done in an app-driven boardgame, but it would require some very complex coding.



Do you mean like in Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective or its Lovecraft equivalent, Mythos Tales?

I was just going to suggest 221B Baker Street: The Master Detective Game, a game all about collecting clues and trying to solve a mystery. Not sure if you could adapt something like that into mom2, but the games do exist.

As for a more thematic gameplay, we've found that if you waste time fighting instead of running and barricading, more often than not, you run out of time in the game and lose. Escape From Innsmouth enlightened us to this, since the mob running around town has so much health, it's nigh impossible to kill. So just evade it, and hurry up with the clues! It gives the game less of an investigative feel and more of a desperate race to escape/conclusion feel, which has its own thematic coolness...

-shnar
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The scariest monsters are the ones you never directly encounter. I've often felt that too many of the Lovecraftian games are monster heavy. Mansions is definitely no exception.
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That Hunting Horror in the first scenario did plenty of harm to us! We did defeat it but both took several Horror and Damage in the process, not to mention we wasted a few turns! Perhaps you were just lucky..
 
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Eric DeMarbre
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We came up with a similar "bum rush strategy" and it seemed to work out... at the start. As you said, the horror pilled up quickly and since we didn't make headway in the investigation we were gradually subjected to the increasingly difficult mythos effects on top of those.

And then...
Spoiler (click to reveal)
...when we finally reached the ending interaction we hadn't collected enough or, due to the various pilled up horror effects, dropped the crucial evidence required to help finish the final check before we all went certifiably insane.


While neither edition encouraged combat as a primary method of dealing with threats, investigation is clearly still the main motivator. The 2nd editions mechanics just make it more forgiving to recover from an occasional bout of unbridled monster hate.
 
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Margrave wrote:
Those of you familar with Lovecraft’s work (or Derleth’s , or Smith’s, or Howard’s or Long’s,...) will recognize at least two things very common to most tales. One being the enormous, otherworldly powers of the Old Ones and even their most basic servants. Two, the importance of investigation. Players of the CoC tabletop RPG will be able to confirm that fighting stuff gets you killed and 90% of the game is investigation. So let’s say that it’s fair to assume that we can expect roughly the same typical experience from MoM.


Not many Lovecraft tales featured investigators battling Old Ones. Lovecraft's tales were far more psychological and investigatory in nature. Any game that followed his tales faithfully--well, there wouldn't be much of a game there. FFG and others have certainly taken liberties with the mythos, and thank heavens, because they take the material and alter it to make a better game. You could argue, for instance, that the investigators in Arkham Horror have no business fighting an Old One--and that happens when the doom track ticks away. But it's a game; it's embellished to create a better gaming experience. And it isn't as though the designers of the COC RPG have Lovecraft's blessing--even if the game existed two decades before the writer's death. And you know what, does it really matter?

In most cases, Lovecraft only implied the nature of the cosmic horrors. For all the man's imagination--and he had plenty to burn--he wasn't particularly good at writing dialogue, developing characters, or even constructing an effective dramatic scene. He did create atmosphere, and he did it with the best of them, and he's one of the pioneers of horror, but we shouldn't let nostalgia elevate his work to the extent that we talk like he was in the same literary class with Hemingway. He wasn't remotely close.

But I digress. Let me fall back to the original point. What game--and I'll allow you to include the COC RPG--really does Lovecraft's work justice? None that I can think of, and the reason is that Lovecraft implied more horror than he showed. Try to pull that off in a board game, and you'll have players falling asleep at the table.

What you're doing here is criticizing the Toyota Camry for its inability to fly, when no other car flown, either.
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Drpretorios wrote:
What game--and I'll allow you to include the COC RPG--really does Lovecraft's work justice? None that I can think of, and the reason is that Lovecraft implied more horror than he showed. Try to pull that off in a board game, and you'll have players falling asleep at the table.


A bit off topic (since it's a videogame) but the best Cthulhu game I ever came across is this gem: Dark Corners of the Earth. Absolutely terrifying.

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