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Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game» Forums » Reviews

Subject: New Casual Player, Short Review, Core Set Play rss

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Benjamin Wooten
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Relevant personal background: My CCG background is limited entirely to Magic: The Gathering, which I played off and on for years. I started playing the original release, dabbled in some of the expansions, dropped everything out of financial frustration, then got back into it a couple of years later. I never aspired towards tournament play, however I enjoyed being competitive with my deck. I just couldn't keep up with all the cards, and had fewer and fewer people to play with.

With this in mind, the LCG model - which takes the random "baseball card" collecting mechanism out of building a deck - interested me greatly. I also find that I am happier in the role of a casual player, and was looking for a card game I could play out of the box with my wife.

My interest in Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos was enough to put me over the edge and pick up a copy of the Call of Cthulhu LCG at my local game store. This is my first review on the Geek, and while I realize many good CoC LCG reviews have been written (covering rules and cards in much more depth) I'm hoping this one might be another helpful opinion for casual players looking to get involved at the ground level with a Core Set.

goo=Below expectation
googoo=At expectation
googoogoo=Exceeds expectation



QUALITY/QUANTITY/TYPE OF BITS
googoo

The domain drain markers (solid, heavy plastic Cthulhu figurines) are a very nice touch. The cards are well printed and finished on nice heavy cardstock. Though I may receive threatening messages from CCGers, I'm a big fan of the white borders on these CoC LCG cards. I don't keep my cards in sleeves, and I know they're going to get handled. Unless they print them on solid black core paper, I think the white edges wear better. The board is solid, a simple horizontal bi-fold, clearly laying out the center of the action between the two players.

The Rulebook has large print and clear directions, including a lot of good examples. Especially helpful is a full-page flow chart, which explains a lot of the dicier timing mechanics. Having said this, I find myself posting a lot of questions on the Geek, anyway, then learning later that the flow-chart would have answered my question just fine.

I do wish they had included 6 designated domain cards, 3 for each player. I know it's not a huge problem to place three unused cards upside down to do the job (as stated in the rulebook) however domain drain markers could have been cardboard chits instead of statuettes, and that would have been one less nice touch, too. When packing up after a game, I've almost always packed up the domain marker cards in the deck I was playing, and have to dig them out later after realizing my error.

The box is well constructed, but enormous. The insert becomes useful in an upside down position in the box once you crack open the three provided cellophane-wrapped stacks of cards. I suppose all the space is for your Asylum Pack purchases in the future? But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Personally, I removed all the parts, put the cards in a smaller box, and keep the chits and domain markers in tupperware until I can build a nice box to hold everything. Alternatively, take a look at Poor Ronnie's lovely tuckboxes, here:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/43265

ARTWORK
goo

As a fan of the Cthulhu literature, I'm used to imagining all of the monsters and madness in my head. The box illustrations, and those on many of the cards, therefore, fall short of the mark for me. This is no fault of the illustrators (they had to make images of some sort, after all, and they draw well). It's kind of like reading Tolkien, however, and then finding an illustrated copy that doesn't quite gel with what you had imagined.

My attraction to Cthulhu stories include the lurking but unrevealed nature of the creatures, the slow onset and/or abrupt shock of madness from terrors explained by the protagonist but not fully exposed to the reader, and the implication of terrific and portentous eventualities, barely staved off by humans on the verge of darkness. Less the head-on physical clash of man vs. mind vs. beast (aiming pistols at twelve-headed and betentacled demons) I may have reacted better to more atmospheric - less illustrative - imagery.

GAMEPLAY
googoogoo

Playing with only the Core Set, matching two 20 card factions together, plus 7 neutral cards each for a deck of 47 per side, has been a blast. In my first 8 games, there have been no runaway blowouts, no stalling, and plenty of good fretting, bluffing, and nail-biting.

Using the above setup, both players have roughly 50 cards each to use in an effort to be the first to win three Story Cards. They achieve this using characters, events, and support cards from their deck, choosing some cards to play out of their hands, and others to contribute as permanent resources among the player's three domains. Each of the three resource domains can be drained - once per turn cycle - in offensive and defensive actions, including bringing out new characters, playing support cards, and paying for events and card-specific abilities. Characters and support cards may only be played during a player's own turn, while events may be played at various stages throughout both players' turns in an effort to help or hinder their respective progress in completing stories.

Judicious resource management - knowing when to add cards to a domain, and when to drain domains - is a huge part of a successful strategy, as is deciding how to deploy characters, support cards, and events. Do you commit all of your characters to a story? This exhausts your characters, generally meaning they can not be used to challenge your opponent while they commit characters to stories themselves. Do you sit back on your heels and play defense? This may keep your opponents victories to a minimum, however don't get too far behind or you might not catch up again. A balance of offense and defense, as well as holding on to some disruptive event cards, always seems to lead to good matchups, and more than a few surprises.

OVERALL
googoogoo

More often than not, while playing this game - with many faction pairings and against a variety of opponents - I find myself very pleasantly satisfied. I initially thought I would be luke warm on this game as it is not so much story driven in a narrative sense (see the Mythos card game), as the idea of stories simply represent a central game mechanic. That being said, the effects of winning stories - indicated on each story card by special text - has swayed a couple of games both in my favor, and against me when employed by my opponent. I like that aspect of the game, because I do not feel I am simply throwing my characters at whatever story is unoccupied, just to get a quick victory. Depending on the tabletop situation, and what my hand looks like, certain stories become much more attractive, and I find myself willing to take bigger risks to challenge the other player for their completion.

Overall, and regardless of what factions I match up with my opponents, the Core Set covers enough ground that I feel I can make intelligent choices to counter my opponent's strengths, with rare instances of simply drawing a useless lot of cards and getting railroaded on any particular turn. The factions seem fairly character heavy, which is fine for the Core Set experience. As an introduction to the game, I expect to mostly manage my critters and investigators, do my best to play off of my opponent's weaknesses in that department, then throw in some well-timed events to elicit groans of frustration from the other side of the table.

Explaining the rules to new players has been very easy, and much of the basic gameplay is very intuitive, or explained well enough on the cards themselves, that very few training rounds have been necessary.

For people looking to get a good 2 player game for casual play, grab the Core Set. If you want to expand your options and get trickier, the Asylum Packs add a lot of dimension to the factions, especially with the addition of more unique event cards. More than wrangling creatures and crunching numbers to calculate the outright winner in a contested story, these expansions provide deck builders the opportunity to get sneakier in their strategies . . . in accordance with the Cthulhu theme, nothing is as it seems.

It's always worse.
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Ken Newell
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Very nice review and certainly something I was looking for with this game.

I really enjoy Arkham Horror and even picked up Unspeakable Words. This game has intrigued me. I do not like CCG's. I played Magic a little bit a LONG time ago. I collected Star Wars CCG but got frustrated with the CCG concept. But I do miss opening a new pack of cards to see what was inside!!

So this game has got me interested.

However, reading many of the reviews on here it seems to be a general consensus that you need to buy 2 Core Sets as a base minimum. That has turned me off this game. I want to be able to buy the game and have a good enjoyable time right out of the box for my wife and I.

Along comes your review, which seems to contradict what others have said, but als seems to be coming from the perspective that I am interested in. A nice easy 2 person game deep in theme for casual play.

How do you feel about the need for a second core set for your casual play?
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Brad Miller
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Well you certainly can. But, as any CCG player knows, having only single copies of cards makes your deck much less consistent. Makes the resourcing decisions more difficult, but takes a bit away from the deck-building.
 
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Benjamin Wooten
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The best argument I have heard for the dual Core Set approach comes from Maik (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/396426).

To paraphrase his original post, half of his reasoning behind the dual Core Set route has to do with increasing the mythos atmosphere by making mono-faction decks (20 cards per faction from each Core Set + neutrals) as opposed to combining factions.

The other half of his reasoning is that by halving the amount of unique cards in a deck (your 50 card mono-faction deck will have doubles of most cards) newer players can focus more on the game system which - I feel Maik argues - are involved, and can get too complex for beginners when faced with all the options offered by the 40+ unique cards of two factions combined.

He's essentially arguing to streamline a player's choices, allowing them to focus more on the underlying game system, and also get more out of a single faction's "feel".

Having played a good set of games with just a single Core Set, I didn't find the learning curve to be all that steep with the dual-faction decks you'd make with a single Core Set, however that is only my opinion. I could see myself being attracted to the idea of a mono-faction deck, more so because I am compulsive and would like all of my icons and colors to look the same, not because I am dissatisfied with the from-the-box Highlander experience of the Core Set.

My plan is to create mono-faction decks as more Asylum Packs are released. To the best of my knowledge - and and I'll use Hastur as an example - if I have 20 Hastur faction cards in a single Core Set, and I were to keep up with a single copy of all the Asylum Packs (7 released so far for the LCG averaging 2-3 Hastur cards per pack) then I'm looking at somewhere in the ballpark of 35 unique Hastur cards in hand already. Assuming they keep bringing the expansions, I'll soon be able to pick and choose between mono-faction decks for all the factions, playing Highlander (one copy of any card allowed per deck). In the meantime, I'm still enjoying the dual-faction decks.

This is just my opinion, of course, however it gels nicely with the kind of casual experience I enjoy, especially with my wife, where competition and serious deck building would not be a big concern for either of us. If serious deck building, or tournament play are in your future, then obviously maximizing your options is the way to go, and multiple core sets might make sense if that is the only way to get multiples of cards you need to remain competitive.

My final thought in terms of atmosphere, especially - and here I might differ from Maik - is that I just can't get used to the idea of two King's In Yellow, or two Cthulhu's, etc... I know there is a game mechanic that prevents multiple unique cards from being active at the same time, but if I am able to figure out a way to beat my opponent's Ancient One in a game, I'm happier knowing he won't be drawing a second one from his deck. I suppose it increases my sense of accomplishment? There are many arguments against this, of course, and I'm certain many people will disagree with me.

In the end, it just depends on the game experience you are looking for.
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Chick Lewis
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I have purchased five coresets and five of each asylum pack BUT I HAVE YET TO MAKE A CONSTRUCTED DECK, because the games played with only the contents of one coreset are SO MUCH FUN !!

I prefer these simple games to constructed play, more fun, more exciting, more variable, a little bit more luck-driven, when the cards you NEED aren't at the top of your deck, but playing with only one copy of each card is a BLAST and very satisfying when you manage to win.

Chick
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Ken Newell
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Yes, Malik's review is the reason why I kind of dropped this game from being that high on my radar, but still keeping an eye on it.

I have no interest in the serious deck building or tournament play. I just want to grab a deck of cards and start playing.

Now I do like the idea of a monofaction against monofaction (or something similar) that you mention and that Malik mentioned. I have to admit that bit was kind of intriguing for the 2 core sets.

BUT, as you have mentioned, uniques should remain uniques. I agree that there shouldn't be 2 Cthulhu's or 2 Kings in Yellow etc ...

Thnx for the feedback.
 
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Art Vandelay
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Ken,
first, hello!
second, I think it would work for you either way.
I originally bought it just as a one box set to play casually straight up. and it works well for that, and have played it with around 4 others who all enjoyed it. One, enough to even buy his own core set. However, I must confess...I have purchased a second core set...this wasnt due to the core set being unplayable, or not fun. It was due to me havign played magic for the last 14 years...
there were so many cool cards, and cards that did amazing things in the game, that I just couldnt push away the thoughts of "wow...imagine if I had TWO of those in my deck!!!"
and im sure Kris would gladly play it with you anytime!
 
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Chris Morris
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I too just recently bought this game and only bought the Core Set to have a feel for it. I was somewhat concerned beforehand that it would not be all that enjoyable on its own or have any kind of "feel" for what each faction could do. I was dead wrong!! Each faction had so much flavour just in that initial ~20 cards that I am hooked.

I went and ordered a set of the old CCG's off Ebay since they can be mixed with the LCG (although you will need to sleeve your cards since the backs are different). I bought it now since I knew that within the next two weeks I would want to add something else to this set.

For about $34 (US) I got 200 more cards to add to my game with a bunch of new story cards which is what I really wanted to add. I feel that the lack of story cards in the Base Set is the biggest disappointment for myself since in the three games I played, many of the same stories kept popping up and that felt repetitive to me moreso than the lack of actual cards.

I'm pretty sure that you can get a tonne of enjoyment out of the Core Set and slowly build up your collection through either old CCG stuff or the odd Asylum Pack as you go.
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Maik Hennebach
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funkenmittens wrote:
The best argument I have heard for the dual Core Set approach comes from Maik (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/396426).

To paraphrase his original post, half of his reasoning behind the dual Core Set route has to do with increasing the mythos atmosphere by making mono-faction decks (20 cards per faction from each Core Set + neutrals) as opposed to combining factions.

The other half of his reasoning is that by halving the amount of unique cards in a deck (your 50 card mono-faction deck will have doubles of most cards) newer players can focus more on the game system which - I feel Maik argues - are involved, and can get too complex for beginners when faced with all the options offered by the 40+ unique cards of two factions combined.

He's essentially arguing to streamline a player's choices, allowing them to focus more on the underlying game system, and also get more out of a single faction's "feel".

Having played a good set of games with just a single Core Set, I didn't find the learning curve to be all that steep with the dual-faction decks you'd make with a single Core Set, however that is only my opinion. I could see myself being attracted to the idea of a mono-faction deck, more so because I am compulsive and would like all of my icons and colors to look the same, not because I am dissatisfied with the from-the-box Highlander experience of the Core Set.


Thanks for a great review, and the additional freebie of a good summary of points I made elsewhere. Your example shows that my argument for using two Core Sets to ease the learning curve probably only applies to folks without prior CCG (read: Magic) experience. If you're comfortable with the basic gist of resources, tapping, blocking, card draw etc., then the additional embellishments that CoC brings to the table (domains and icon struggles, mostly) are just that - embellishments. Without that experience, my feeling is that CoC is considerably harder to get into than Magic.

funkenmittens wrote:
My final thought in terms of atmosphere, especially - and here I might differ from Maik - is that I just can't get used to the idea of two King's In Yellow, or two Cthulhu's, etc... I know there is a game mechanic that prevents multiple unique cards from being active at the same time, but if I am able to figure out a way to beat my opponent's Ancient One in a game, I'm happier knowing he won't be drawing a second one from his deck. I suppose it increases my sense of accomplishment? There are many arguments against this, of course, and I'm certain many people will disagree with me.


I certainly don't disagree, but I've cunningly hidden my point of view on uniques in another article (on deck building). To cite:

"As a houserule, we only allow one copy for unique cards. This is more a matter of taste than a straight recommendation, since it has its pros and cons. The pros are mostly thematic - having Cthulhu turn up in a game is a bit more of a momentous event, cause it won't happen everytime. The cons are a loss of deck consistency and that you can't build a deck around the ability of a specific character if he happens to be unique. This works nicely for us, but try and work out for yourself whether you like it."

Judging from the similarity of our thoughts on this, we should definitely get a game together if one of us happens to be on the other's continent

 
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Benjamin Wooten
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Maik wrote:
If you're comfortable with the basic gist of resources, tapping, blocking, card draw etc., then the additional embellishments that CoC brings to the table (domains and icon struggles, mostly) are just that - embellishments. Without that experience, my feeling is that CoC is considerably harder to get into than Magic.


I definitely agree. The people I've played with who have taken most quickly to the game are those with prior CCG experience.

It does seem we're on the same page; and oddly enough, I AM kind of in your country, as some friends just started up a 7 player game of diplomacy and, through luck of the draw, I happen to be Germany. I know, it's a stretch. Without intending any offense, however, I have really enjoyed signing my communications:

"Franz Fünkenmittens"

The alliteration just works out so well. Also, with the help of some German foreign exchange students, I am able to include significant phrases in my valedictions, such as:

"Ich bin fhergul, ich bin sehr gut fhergul. Willst du nich mit mir spass machen?"

which I understand to mean: "I'm a piglet, I'm a very good piglet. Don't you want to make fun with me?"

Thus far, I think the other players feel I am being very proper and diplomatic. The "fun" I refer to making, of course, involves myself and England backstabbing France at the earliest available opportunity. whistle
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Grimwade Arbigul
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My fiance and I have never played a CCG before Call of Cthulhu. We found the core set fun, exciting and addictive not to mention fairly easy to learn. Its now one of my favorite games. I think that multiple copies are beneficial for those that enjoy the deck building aspect, but for casual play just throwing two factions together from the core set is still a tremendous amount of fun.
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Disagree 100% about card art. Like any card game, some art is going to be better then other art, but for the most part the art in this game is AWESOME and I do feel/see the Cthulhu Mythos from the card art. I can also see them in my head, but I enjoy looking at the artistic representations as well. Love the King in Yellow =)
 
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Craig Sanderlin
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I have a way around the dual core set scenario that is more fun, but a bit more expensive. You buy Arkham and a few asylum packs. Then you can use those additional faction packs to build single faction decks. Yes, you are introducing another mechanic (day / night, etc.) but you are still sticking with a single faction deck while at the same time using unique cards in the deck.

Personally I have no problem using muti-faction decks or teaching the game using them. It appears to be a matter of preference. I personally don't agree with the "not playable with a single core set" idea. I think it's fine the way it is.
 
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TS S. Fulk
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There is absolute no need to buy extra Core sets if you aren't competing at tournaments. The game plays beautifully at a casual level. The resourcing dilemmas with 1 card for uniques makes the game more thematic and tense.

I play with my 6 and 9 year olds, and they have no problems figuring out what to resource. I don't know what type of players Maik plays with that requires such elaborate handholding.
 
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thiago maia
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if you wanna play with one core set. you will fun, the game is very balanced, some of the cards in core set can be used after the expansion, because the game is very balanced, this game don't have overpower creatures playing a very low cost, that disbalance the game, like magic and warhammer:invasion.

Some player say to buy some packs and tree coreset, this is crazy, you only need it if you wanna play in a championship, and if you go play in a championship you can trade the cards or buy from other player the price of the cards. don't stay more than 2 dollars, because you can buy a pack per 9 dollars.

if you wanna a casual play the core set is the unique thing that you need for a good and balanced game.

 
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