“The other gods! The other gods! The gods of the outer hells that guard the feeble gods of earth!... Look away... Go back... Do not see! Do not see!” – H. P. Lovecraft
Designer: Sean Epperson
Artist: Son Duong, Kris Quistorff, Darrin Michelson
Publisher: Thing 12 Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 15-20 minutes
WARNING: This is a preview of Seals of Cthulhu. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.
Rules and Setup:
Seals of Cthulhu is a card game where two players take up the roles of either Investigators who are trying to save the world, or Cultist who are looking to summon a Great Old One. In Seals of Cthulhu, you will be bidding influence to win cards, or take the cards, in an attempt to collect and piece together the artifacts.
Setup of the game is very simple and straightforward. As mentioned above, each player will take the role of either Cultists or Investigators, and will have a set of six cards in their hand, along with four tokens to represent their starting influence. Decide who will play first, and give them the active player token.
Play consists of placing a card from your hand face down in front of you, then placing the amount of influence you want to bid for the card (the amount of influence on your initial turn is the number of meeples you start with). You can bid anything between 0-4 on your starting bid. Your opponent, though, has two choices. They can either take your bid, adding those points to their own pool which then allows you to win the card, or they can counter bid. To place a counter bid, the other player needs to pay the cost of the last bid plus one more. Let’s say you’ve bid three for the card. If they want to try and take the card, they would need to bid four for it. At that point, you have two options: you can take their bid and let them have the card, or continue to counter bid by increasing the amount bid by one. This is where any cards that you have won in the prior rounds take effect.
The cards that you are bidding on are each one-half of a powerful artifact. Each side (cultists or investigators) have one side of each, and when they are put together, have special abilities that the active player controlling the artifact can use. Additionally, they also have a value when placing a bid. While that sounds great, remember that if you use it to increase amount of influence you are bidding, you are opening the door to the other player taking those points, and now the card used for the bid, and controlling it. Finally, the cards also are what count towards your victory points at the end of the game.
Expect some hand-wringing as you decide if you want to place influence down and try to outbid your opponent, or bluff you way past it, hoping you win the card. Poker face is most definitely required on this fun game.
Theme and Mechanics:
Thematically, this game works! The artwork, colorization, and gameplay all fit in with the theme of the early 20th century. Whether you play as an investigator or cultist, you’ll find the balance of the artifacts and bidding in trying to take influence to be able to grow your side more and more fitting to this world.
Mechanically, this plays incredibly solid. Where at its core, it’s really a bidding game, making the artifacts each have an influence that can be used in the bidding, but knowing that by using them, your opponent might take the card you’re using instead adds just enough to make you plan and start counting values. Strategic planning is needed, otherwise you will find yourself falling behind in influence, unable to recover.
Seals of Cthulhu is a solid card game. With only six cards in your hand, each one of them being half of the artifact and the other half in your opponent's hand, and blind bidding on the cards, you’ll find yourself--after playing the first round--pausing and trying to remember what was just played, and try to bluff your way to victory.
Artwork and Components:
Even knowing this is a prototype, some of the artwork that is included in the game really works and fits in the theme and timeframe that the game is set in. There’s nothing fancy here, just a solid layout, easy-to-read text, and simple and thematic artwork.
Looking at the components, and again knowing this is not the final version, the cards are larger size, aiming at the tarot-size cards, and are a decent card stock.
Seals of Cthulhu is a fast game. Most of the time is you doing a memory game, trying to remember what your opponent bought 1-2 turns ago, and if it’s worth giving up a card. Solid gameplay and easy to learn to play. And it will make you think. It has bluffing, a memory aspect, abilities on the cards, and manipulation of both yours and your opponent's cards.
Oh, do we need more cards. After playing this just over 10 times, variety is definitely needed. Possibly having a few sets of alternate artifacts (remember, each player needs to have half of the artifact in their deck) and swap them out. Or maybe an event deck that may (or may not) help you. A a third civilian deck with their own actions, as they just fumble and mess plans up. Then again, the great team at Thing 12 Games probably already have a trick up their sleeves for their stretch goals.
This became a favorite to play really fast with a number of play groups that helped play it as part of the review. With fast gameplay, easy rules, and enough game to make you try to plan, remember, and bluff your way to try and win the artifacts, there was never an issue with finding someone to play.
See more reviews from Delton and EBG at http://www.everythingboardgames.com/p/reviews.html