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Cthulhu: A Deck Building Game» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Into the Mouth of Madness rss

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Milo Minderbinder
United States
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After Death: The Gardener left behind his hedge clippers. At the start of the Planning phase, the Investigators may sneak a peek at the next card on the Mythos deck.

I don't get it. What is so special about these hedge clippers? Is there a portal to Hell, concealed only by shrubbery? Are the Old Ones hiding behind the rosebushes of the Miskatonic University?

Cthulhu: A Deck Building Game is a game of true Lovecraftian horror, a glimpse into the depths of madness.

Most horror games are content to merely cause the characters to go insane, but C:ADBG rises above the board, making the players themselves question their own sanity.

The rules are ever-shifting, out of focus when one looks directly at them, only clear when seen in the corner of your eye. In Cthulhu Mode with 2 players, do you face the two Elder Gods one by one, or at the same time? When Mystic Binding a Tarantula, does that Tarantula produce other friendly Tarantulas? Can a multi-faced demon god take Sanity damage? The manual is silent; is there even such a thing as objective reality, or is all just shadows cast upon a wall?

The world inhabited by the unfortunate heroes is a reality where reason holds no sway; where you can have mind-shredding hallucinations and remain sane if only you drink a sufficient amount of whiskey; where you can sleuth a zombie to death; where a pair of hedge clippers permits you to gaze into the very depths of Hell.

The game takes on an air of otherworldly meaning and mystery. Beh'moth feasts endlessly on a parade of horrors summoned by Nyarlathotep, who stands slack-jawed as a Detective and a Doctor beat him to death with shovels. "Sven's Family Curse" appears from nowhere to party-wipe a perfectly healthy team.

A player who dies is said not to be gone, but to have "one action which they can do, as described on their Investigator card", but these 'actions' are only buffs for their embattled allies ("Other Investigators gain one Moxie for each Stagger card"). Perhaps a wry nod to the finality of death -- we can only watch as the darkness consumes the world.

Even the component and box designs reinforce the theme. Are all those typos really on the cards, or are they in our minds? The decks begin to blur into one another -- does that say "Mythos" or "Minion"? Is the writing too indistinct to read properly, or are you slipping into the Dreamverse? One can only draw the next card and see what terror awaits.

On the packaging is inscribed the words: "Do You Dare Open This Box?" The words are covered by the lid, and only become visible once the box is already open -- a fitting metaphor for the fact that one only sees one's madness when it is too late.


[EDIT: I mistakenly posted two reviews here b/c I thought the first was lost to the aether. So I'm editing to combine them. Below is some of the stuff from the (now deleted) first review.]

One small clarification first: I did have fun with this game, but as you can probably guess from the above, I can't recommend it for a number of reasons. The fun I had was often about how ridiculous it was.

As you can probably tell, I think this game has serious issues with rule clarity and (less serious, to me) theme/mechanics coherence and production quality (get a proofreader, guys!). But it might be slightly harder to tell (from what's written above the edit line) that I also think the game design has some bugs too, so let's talk about that.

The Beh'moth/Nyarlathotep line was a reference to our first game, and is just a broken enemy combo. Beh'moth devours other minions, gaining health (and only attacking the players when there is nothing to eat); Nyarlathotep continuously summons minions. So, we let Beh'moth eat everything while we beat Nyarlathotep (and Uvhash) to death, making the game unexpectedly easy.

The 'Sven's Family Curse' line refers to the fact that several Mythos cards (Ethereal Dreamverse, Sven's Family Curse, Death) seem to have the ability to insta-wipe a team, with very little to be done about it. This is probably very thematic to Lovecraft, but IMHO it makes for an anticlimactic end to a game ("aaaaand... oh, we're all just dead then").
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Thank you for putting my feelings and oppinions about this game into coherent words. My sanity was devoured by the spawning tarantulas.goo
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