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Subject: Best first Cthulhu game? rss

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Lee Schmitz
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This question may have been asked before, but I couldn't find anything recent. I'm looking to see what would be a good first game to get into the Cthulhu mythos. I'm interested to see what everyone recommends as the best overall (guy night) and I'm also looking for something that isn't too crazy long or heavy in the hopes that my wife will find interest in it as well. Her limit on one game is usually 2 hours, although she prefers games to go less than that. She plays a wide range, from Dead of Winter to Dominion, Machi Kirk, Agricola, etc. I'm interested in Mansions as that looks like it could be a "family game" that my oldest son (10) may be interested in as well. I also see the new Arkham card game and thought that may work with the wife.

TLDR - I have heard great things about the majority of the Cthulhu style games but I am really interested to hear overall recommendations as both a best step into the mythos overall as well as recommendations that my wife would be interested in.

Thanks!
 
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John T
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Eldritch horror, pandemic reign of cthulhu, and arkham horror lcg!
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Rick Argiro
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Mansions of Madness is great, but has a long set up time. Eldritch Horror is excellent if you want a longer (yet shorter than Arkham Horror) Ameritrash game.

If you want a quicker, die rolling game, check out Elder Sign.
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Braden Adam
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If you like card games, Cthulhu Realms is awesome!
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Peter Collins
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Prince Rupert
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bradenandpichi wrote:
If you like card games, Cthulhu Realms is awesome!


Or Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game which I understand has been discontinued? soblue
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Bryce Nelson
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A run down of your options, from a Cthulhu Mythos fan that has played some, but not all of the Cthulhu Games.

Arkham Horror(The Board Game): There is a lot of overhead here, and this game is at it's best when there is more than one person who is dedicated to learning the rules, and no one being a "Team Captain." The downside is, there can be a bit of an Alpha-gamer problem here, and all too often, I have seen this turn in to one guy frantically keeping tabs on all the decks, monster tokens, gate, et al, while trying to tell everyone else how to play. I think the game itself is very fun, and has a much more intimate, scary storytelling setting than

Eldritch Horror: I have only played this one once, and while I do like that it has fewer "Oh, thing A happened, now we need to do things B, C, and D1, D2, and D4 but not D3 because thing A hasn't happened twice," type interactions, I (personally) felt that it was a little more ridiculous that investigators are globe-trotting, made it seems less scary than when it was a thing in the night sky above you that could swoop down on you.

Cthulhu Realms : Personally, I really liked Star Realms, and didn't much care for the not-quite re-skin in Cthulhu realms. I think the PvP combat and the iconography was much clearer in a Sci-fi setting. And I did not care at all for the cartoony art. I would give this one a pass, but spend your money as you will.

Cthulhu Wars: I haven't bit the bullet on this one. It is actually really fun, and looks amazing set up on the table, but I just can't justify that price. This is the ideal "Guy Night" game when you have pretzels and chat, because it has at it's core a dice chucking area control game with objectives, and mostly you can just focus on what all of your objectives are from turn to turn. That might get my wife to play it, as long as she never sees the price tag.

I wish I could give you something to go on for Elder Sign, Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu, or the new Arkham Horror LCG, but I haven't played them, leading me to my favorite:

Mansions of Madness (2nd Edition): Sets up a lot faster than the first edition, cool miniatures (if that is your fancy), this is a boiled down RPG experience (exploring an area and making a skill check every so often, that's the core gameplay) but it is driven by an app that does all the heavy lifting for you.
Looks fantastic, great storytelling, excellent rush of emotions as you are trying to close off the portal or disrupt the ritual. Very thematic.
This is limited by a few things (I wish I could say nothing but good, but that doesn't always help)
1. There are only four scenarios in the core box, with little replayability. That's a lot of $$ for four scenarios, but I am such a shmuck for storytelling in my games that I keep buying T.I.M.E Stories Expansions.
2. The scenarios are long. My wife is playing the 4 hour scenario with me. We have broken it up into hour long chunks, but if we don't win, this will be quite the blow. Very few people look at this game and are like "Two hours you say, yeah, that's exactly what I want to do for two hours."
3. It is app-driven. I personally don't mind this, but some people are very opposed to letting technology intrude on their Board game night. YMMV
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Bishop of East Anglia
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I'm, I'm afraid there's been a mistake. The man who has been speaking to you is an impostor. He is not in fact the Bishop of East Anglia, but a man wanted by the police. I am the Bishop of East Anglia and anyone who doesn't believe me can look me up
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johnneh wrote:
Eldritch horror, pandemic reign of cthulhu, and arkham horror lcg!


Add in Elder Sign and that's the go.
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Bishop of East Anglia
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I'm, I'm afraid there's been a mistake. The man who has been speaking to you is an impostor. He is not in fact the Bishop of East Anglia, but a man wanted by the police. I am the Bishop of East Anglia and anyone who doesn't believe me can look me up
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My favourite is Witch of Salem

Unrecognised Arkham Eurogame
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Lee Schmitz
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Emmitt Nervend wrote:
A run down of your options, from a Cthulhu Mythos fan that has played some, but not all of the Cthulhu Games.


Holy Cow, thanks for the in depth reviews!
 
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Lee Schmitz
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Thank you everyone for your responses! I want to look further into the new card game to see if my wife would get a kick out of it. I've had Eldritch on my buy list for a while, but I'm not sure if the length would deter my wife and I still have a stack of stuff that doesn't get played enough on guy night - simply because guy night doesn't happen enough. (I really need to get involved with a game group in the area). Elder Sign seems interesting too.

As for Pandemic, I'm leery because we have so much Pandemic, expansions, the Cure, and Legacy. I'm afraid that if the mythos doesn't click with my wife, this would just be a Pandemic game that wouldn't get played. I'm on the fence with it myself.
 
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Huw
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The Cards of Cthulhu
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Daniel B
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Eldritch is the best of the bunch imo but will rarely play under 2 hours (shorter sessions is usually due to failing hard)

Buy her the Elder sign digital game/app, if she likes it tell her she'll love Eldritch horror zombie

I love me some Elder sign but the app kinda killed my copy of the game. so fiddly.
 
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Adam Tucker
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Warren
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A game is a series of decisions; a good game is a series of interesting decisions
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I find Arkham Horror to be a strictly better game than Eldritch Horror. But for fewer players there are a couple reasons one might prefer Eldritch over Arkham:
1. For Arkham the game plays much better closer to the optimal investigator count of 4 investigators, up to and becoming more of a necessity of 6 investigators with all the expansions (Note: Never start playing Arkham with anything more than just the base game). Eldritch deviates less from the optimal investigator count of 4, with 2 investigators possibly being preferred to 3. However the luck of spatial relations and random events may have a greater impact on play with fewer investigators. With Eldritch you are probably fine mixing in expansions (especially Forsaken Lore and/or any expansion that adds the Focus mechanism) right from the start.
2. Eldritch scales play time with investigators much more than Arkham, which is a benefit for fewer players, but a hindrance when playing with more than 4 players.

- Arkham still wouldn't be too bad - you could start off with one investigator per player playing the base game and then work your way up to the optimal investigator count as you eventually get more expansions and add them in (if you enjoy the game, this is pretty much inevitable).

- Note: for either Arkham or Eldritch (and not a bad notion for any somewhat longer game, really), if you are concerned about play time on initial introduction of the game, make sure you know the rules fairly well (probably including a couple of solo plays) before introducing these games to others.

Mansions of Madness: Second Edition seems to be much, much, much better than First Edition, except in one respect: in First Edition, during setup, the player playing the keeper had to make a number of decisions that would alter the story/mystery that the rest of players were trying to work through. If I recall correctly, there were about 3 basic stories per map/initial setup, so players replaying through the same map might have a completely different scenario/final goals to deal with. It seems like this might be even easier to design/implement and/or release with expansions in the app based version in Second Edition. So far however, I have seen no evidence that they have started working on this. Each of the 6 scenarios so far available seems to have only minor variations (e.g., a couple of search locations yield slightly different non-quest specific items) on repeat plays.
If they implemented multiple possible mysteries per map, this would get a much higher recommendation, as it is otherwise a vast improvement over First Edition and a solid game in it's own right.
Note: while the monster miniatures are reasonably cool looking/well produced, I think the game probably plays better just using the tokens.

Elder Sign is pretty decent for slightly shorter dice implementation. This is probably best with 2 or maybe 3 investigators. I also think it is much better with the Gates of Arkham expansion.

The Cards of Cthulhu I found to be an uninspiring and rather dull, lighter and fairly forgettable dice chucking game. I haven't played it enough to give a good recommendation regarding player/investigator count.

Cthulhu: A Deck Building Game has been released recently, and that one you are probably better off avoiding. Part of me wants to keep playing it (at least try every Ancient One and Investigator) to try and figure out how or why the designer thought the Ancient Ones and Investigators were balanced or how and why they thought the game was ready to be released. I know I should probably just spend my time on better games like Arkham or even Dark Gothic.

Cthulhu Wars is a very solid game, but I think much better with at least 4 players. It is also quite expensive to try to get everything for the game.

Kingsport Festival is a solid variation on Kingsburg, and thus definitely worth at least a play. However one of the things that's interesting about Kingsport Festival is that it seems like it was much more designed with expansion in mind than Kingsburg, but as far as I know, no expansions have been released (probably did not sell well enough). Kingsport Festival might actually be a slightly better game than just the base game of Kingsburg, but it's not nearly as good as Kingsburg with the To Forge a Realm expansion.

Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu is a solid variation on the Pandemic game play that can warrant a spot in a collection along side the original. It does seem to be substantially more luck dependent than the original game though. It might be good to try this one somewhere else first if you can.

Witch of Salem is kind of like Arkham distilled down to a Euro game (though it's actually based on Wolfgang Hohlbein's book series which in turn is based on H.P. Lovecraft's mythos). It does have a rather frustrating rule for a cooperative game about not telling other players about tokens you have peeked at; you can ignore the rule an just flip the tokens face up and the game can still be quite difficult (unfortunately somewhat randomly based on when and how often the 'Necron' card turns up). Still, worth a look.

A Study in Emerald is an okay game that probably needs at least 4 players to play well, and even then needs the right group (my lone play of this was pretty much torpedo'd by 1 other player, and in a game like this with secret factions, explaining to another player why they probably don't want to take a specific action is not always easy to do).

Ancient Terrible Things is a quick but fairly underwhelming competitive dice game. Despite having a few things here and there to help mitigate luck, this still seemed extremely luck based and fairly uninteresting to play.

Unspeakable Words is a decent light word game; theme doesn't really come through all that much. Deluxe edition should be out now, and it's short and cute, for those on edge about the theme.

Miskatonic School for Girls is a silly luck based "deck builder" where the game plays you more than you play the game. If you are fond of the tropes present/parodied you might enjoy it as an activity, but I would be hard pressed to believe you couldn't find better Mythos-based games, or better deck-builders, or even better Mythos-based deck builders.

Mythos Tales is a deduction experience game - basically Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases with an infusion of the Mythos. You can't really read through or play this ahead of someone you want to play this with; you have to experience it together - the theme does come through quite well though - the bulk of the game is deciding where to travel and reading what happens at that location (and using collected information to solve a mystery).

The Shadow Over Westminster is a simpler coop game with deck building. Theme did not seem to come through all that much, and it felt as though the game was lacking; but I'm not sure what specifically was lacking.

Cthulhu Realms is a Star Realms variant that seems simpler and less interesting than the original. It's not a bad game, but I doubt there are many times when I wouldn't prefer to play Star Realms or Hero Realms (if not another game entirely).

Munchkin Cthulhu
Chez Cthulhu
Innsmouth Escape
all have all the problems of Steve Jackson Games and Twilight Creations, Inc. games, with a small dollop of Mythos theme.

Your best bet may be Arkham Horror: The Card Game, but I haven't gotten to try that one.
Other than Arkham Horror: The Card Game, Unspeakable Words if you want to nudge the theme gently at first, Mythos Tales or maybe Mansions of Madness: Second Edition if thematic immersion/grasp of the theme is more important. For just a lighter game that conveys the theme fairly well, probably Elder Sign or Witch of Salem.

Leedguitar wrote:
Thank you everyone for your responses! I want to look further into the new card game to see if my wife would get a kick out of it. I've had Eldritch on my buy list for a while, but I'm not sure if the length would deter my wife and I still have a stack of stuff that doesn't get played enough on guy night - simply because guy night doesn't happen enough. (I really need to get involved with a game group in the area). Elder Sign seems interesting too.
See the bolded note above about introducing longer games such as Eldritch when time is a concern. With reasonably experienced players, you can get through a two player game of Eldritch in about 90 minutes.

Leedguitar wrote:
As for Pandemic, I'm leery because we have so much Pandemic, expansions, the Cure, and Legacy. I'm afraid that if the mythos doesn't click with my wife, this would just be a Pandemic game that wouldn't get played. I'm on the fence with it myself.
As noted above it may be worth seeking out at a nearby convention or local game store open gaming for a play before you make any decision about purchasing.
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