Tuesday nights a large group of people gathers at Adventure Games Plus in Milwaukee, WI. Miniatures games, collectible trading card games, role playing games, and even the occasional board game get played.
On August 31, 2004, I purchase one starter deck and two booster packs of the Call of Cthulhu CCG. The previous week, my friends Paul and Jon had split a box of boosters, so I expected they would want to play a game. Also, another friend Jason had purchased quite a bit of the game, built constructed decks, and taught me how to play the previous week.
In general, I was impressed with the game, especially the art and the mechanics. A well designed resource system helps this game play in an interesting way, reducing the chances of getting stuck with bad cards. The mechanics also give plenty of opportunity for strategic decisions. So, purchasing a small amount of the game seemed like a safe bet, especially with so many others interested in playing.
In the first game, I took my tuned Investigators starter deck against Pauls tuned Mythos starter deck. I did not draw into many of my Agency tricks, but I did manage to get some quick characters with investigation icons into play as well as a support card that let me get extra story counters. Paul's deck seemed to stall, unable to get strong enough characters into play to contest stories quickly. With little opposition, I waltzed to victory. I proposed another round to see if a tweak to Paul's deck and an new shuffle would change the results.
In the second game, I cut a faction from Paul's starter deck and we played a much closer game. Paul was able to field a few Young Deep Ones and cultists, but this situation could not stand up to the Agency and Miskatonic assault. The combination of removing opposing characters during struggles with bonus points for winning the investigation really stacked up. Although the game was closer, a particularly good start for me helped to put Paul on the ropes again.
The Mythos starter does not seem as effective as the Investigator starter. I did manage to get some good cards in the unfixed section and in my boosters, but the real problem seemed to be that the Mythos deck's characters were more expensive, but not considerably better. Especially considering that they compete directly with the Agency, which seem better at killing things.
Later on in the evening, I had occasion to take my starter and two boosters against Jon's constructed deck. Jon's deck was Cthulhu, Hastur, and Syndicate and was built around a combination based strategy. He was hoping to get a Cthulhu cultist that could exhaust to wound a low skill character, Hastur and Syndicate cards for lowing skill, and a Haster character that could exhaust to ready another character. This "engine" would allow Jon to kill the opponent's characters without having to face them in struggles at a story.
In our first game, this strategy came together quite well for Jon, disposing of my little crew of intrepid adventurers. Unfortunately, I was unable to find my cards for directly removing the key characters in Jon's combination, so I had to take a loss. We noted in this game that while Jon's combination was effective, it was card intensive and Jon could not get many story tokens quickly.
Jon and I played a second game, this one being a closer more drawn out affair. Jon's combination had trouble coming together, but he effectively used an Elder Shuggoth to drive my characters insane, delaying the game long enough for him to set up and come back. I noted in this game that I had trouble finding cards that let me get rid of Jon's characters again... this is obviously an important part of the game and something that a starter deck does not get enough of to compete with a constructed deck. Not that I really expected that it would.
In general, the several games went very well, highlighting some of the nice features of the game and giving us some insight into some of the essential features and strategy. I think everyone is encouraged and looking forward to sending men of science against Things Man Was Not Meant To Know against soon.