Recommend
18 
 Thumb up
 Hide
9 Posts

Cthulhu Wars» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Squidface Smackdown rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Matt Halowell

Maryland
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb


Cthulhu Wars is a game that whispers to you in dreams; promising forbidden knowledge and power. It takes over your brain, puts your brain in a jar, and transports that jar to ancient cities of black stone among the stars.

Cthulhu Wars, like no other game, has captured my thoughts and my imagination. The very site of the gargantuan neon monstrosities drew me in and I could not look away. I immediately began researching the lore behind the game and read many of Lovecraft’s popular works. Like a cultist chanting from archaic tomes, seeking to bring about a return of the Great Old Ones, I too sought out their return.



My hood low, sacrificial knife at my waist, I crept into the woods late one foggy summer night. Stepping into the moonlight of the stone circle I gathered with my likeminded brethren. We had prepared for months for this night. And as we spoke the unnatural words in unison the ground began to tremble. I couldn't believe it was really happening. We looked around with anticipation, but then the earth became silent once more... After several hours of waiting I left dispirited and returned to my chambers, fixed myself a bowl of Lucky Charms, put on my Scooby Doo pj’s, and went to bed.

What neither I nor my fellows knew, was that the words and sounds that came from our mouths that night did indeed stir something in the depths. For about a week later a gigantic black box arrived at my front door. And like Pandora, I couldn’t help but open its lid... allowing the horrors within to escape and forever change my world.



Yes, Cthulhu Wars had arrived in all its glory. A magnificent box of plastic monsters set on destruction. While the game may look intimidating, the core rule set is surprisingly simple to learn even for those uninitiated in the dark arts. On top of this simple layer of actions and area control lies an intricate web of special abilities for every unique faction. Abilities that are richly thematic to the source material and interact with the other players abilities in a myriad of ways. As the game consists entirely of open information (with the exception of the hidden elder sign point tokens), much of the strategy lies in playing your opponents, being opportunistic, and being willing to adapt as you execute your broader strategy. The genius of the game is that even when knowing full well what your fellow players are capable of, you still have no idea exactly how they will execute their devious plans. This interaction is further enhanced upon repeat plays as players get a feel for the pacing of the game and gain deeper appreciation for all of the possible interactions and powers at their disposal.



The spellbook system is a simple and clever upgrading mechanic. It provides a framework of goals to pursue for each faction. Variety comes from the order in which those goals are pursued, and then the order in which the game breaking special abilities are obtained along the way. This opens the game up to rich player interaction, negotiation, and smack talk as players vie for control and create tentative alliances to keep advancing players in check.



The currency of the game is power, which players acquire through controlling gates and having cultists in play. The power track limits your actions each round, and you always want to do more than you can afford, forcing players to be efficient with their actions. Players are also restricted to a single action per turn which keeps downtime low and engagement high. Some actions that cost a lot of power (i.e. awakening your faction’s Great Old One) can leave you vulnerable for the rest of the round, so you need to use careful timing before bringing out your big bad. Hanging onto power as long as possible during a round can give you a significant advantage as you can act when your opponents are defenseless; advancing on their territory and capturing their cultists at will. Balancing your own power level and being constantly aware of your opponent's is a big element of the game that causes a lot of fun tension.

You might think that without any real change to the setup of the game that it could get repetitive quickly, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. First, you have a minimum of four (in the base game) very interesting factions to explore, each with their own tremendously unique play styles. Second, you have the variation in which spellbooks are obtained. And finally, you have the rich player interaction stemming from the countless ways the game enables players to react and pressure their opponents with every chess move of your monsters. There is so much to explore here. If you indulge in a few items from the mountain of expansion content (especially a couple of additional factions) then the playability explodes even more. This is truly a game that I believe can be enjoyed for a lifetime.



This game is incredible. It will haunt your daydreams as you think through specific moves you made, regretting your timing, and anticipating the strategies you can employ next game. It always leaves you wanting to play it again as soon as possible.

So, if the potential real-world consequences have made you hesitant to pledge your soul to an eldritch alien god and experience the power of darkness, this game, inside the magic stone circle, is a safe place to do just that.
36 
 Thumb up
6.50
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul Sinkovits
United States
Glendale
Arizona
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb

With a gushing review like this, it would seem like this is a perfect game - and I wished was.

To add a critical note, I will admit that this game has been a bit of a personal let down. I very enjoy this type of game, (variable player powers, dudes on a map, action point allowance, area control, etc.) so I figured this would be a perfect fit. I got a copy and tried playing it about a dozen times, but it just feels meh. Strategies feel somewhat obvious and actions scripted. Rarely do I feel a tense exchange of decisions and player interaction.

Even the components were a little bit of a surprise. The miniatures are nice, but the thin cardboard of the player aids and boring map art were a disappointment.

I'm not saying it is a bad game and understand why people love it, but for me I would not choose it over Chaos in the Old World, Cry Havoc, or Nexus Ops.

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Matt Halowell

Maryland
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Hi Paul,

Thanks for your comment! It can sometimes be hard to put my finger on what makes certain games sing for me, while others leave me feeling a little cold. I find the psychology of "fun" really fascinating.

With Cthulhu Wars, I do think that it's possible for people (and maybe certain groups in particular) to settle into strategies. Like ok this is the way that Crawling Chaos should be played and this is the way that Sleeper should be played. For me, trying to find ways to break the mold is one of the reasons that I really enjoy the game. Asking myself questions like, what move could I make that would force other players to make tough decisions? or my gut instinct is to build up slowly with Black Goat, but what if I brought Shub out the first turn? Maybe that means taking a more aggressive stance, or taking more risks with your Great Old Ones. Folks might think that they've optimized a faction, when what they really need is for someone to break the meta and shake things up by playing a faction differently. I believe that the game has the variety in the spellbook system to allow for this kind of creativity and depth.

Slightly off-topic but something that I want to mention. A large component for me when it comes to my enjoyment of a game is the atmosphere created by players; including everyone's investment in the game and their willingness to buy into the theme. When people have a lot of enthusiasm for the game you're playing this can really make a big difference.

All that being said, I also know that not all games are for everyone. I get the impression (since you read this review) that you really want to love this game. It sounds like you've given the game a pretty good go with your dozen or so plays. Maybe it just doesn't have the magic for you. Your wands don't have the same Phoenix feather core. And that's totally okay too. I love the variety that we have in games, even within the dudes-on-a-map genre, which is probably my personal favorite style of game. But I've had some similar experiences to you with games that I really wanted to love, but ultimately found to be just ok. We're all running on limited time, and sometimes the best thing we can do is let go of games that don't do it for us and return to the ones that we love
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rick S

Texas
msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
One of the best things that can happen in a Cthulhu Wars group is to have a new player join; either one who has learned with a different table, or one that has no preconceived notions. There can be a tendency for a table to stratify around certain playstyles and expectations. Having somebody else come in can really shake things up and force everybody to relearn how to play.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Matt Halowell

Maryland
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
wonderloss wrote:
One of the best things that can happen in a Cthulhu Wars group is to have a new player join; either one who has learned with a different table, or one that has no preconceived notions. There can be a tendency for a table to stratify around certain playstyles and expectations. Having somebody else come in can really shake things up and force everybody to relearn how to play.


Absolutely. I think most games benefit from this, but especially one like Cthulhu Wars where the onus is more on the players to provide big changes in experience.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Benton Reis
United States
New York
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
Paul210 wrote:

Strategies feel somewhat obvious and actions scripted. Rarely do I feel a tense exchange of decisions and player interaction.


If you haven't tried playing a PBF on here yet,I would recommend you try it! Playing with your friends is one thing. In my group at home, most of the time the actions were more or less always the same (move 2 cults, build 2 gates, turn 1 done). Playing with people across the world, however, has exposed me to new challenges and I have seen a lot of new strategies.
Also throwing in an expansion or 2 changes everything in the game. Try proxying the neutral spellbooks. My friend wasn't really a fan of the game until he started to play YS. And then after we added the books, he loved it even more.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul Sinkovits
United States
Glendale
Arizona
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Good suggestions and thank you for the decent feedback. Posted a semi-negative response to a glowing review, I expected to just get jumped on.

I must say I am pleasantly surprised.

4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Charlie Theel
United States
St. Louis
Missouri
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review Matt!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Matt Halowell

Maryland
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
charlest wrote:
Great review Matt!


Thanks Charlie! Your review style is a big part of my inspiration to try out this whole writing thing. Hoping to do some more in the future too! It's pretty fun.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.