Cthulhu Wars

RRP: £199.99
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RRP £199.99
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This is where the fun begins! Cthulhu Wars is a strategy board game in which the players take the part of alien races and gods taken from the Cthulhu mythos created by H. P. Lovecraft. It is a boxed game complete with four different factions, including faction cards, dice, counters, rulebook, and a massive 40×20 inch reversible gameboard. It also includes sixty-four high detail fig…
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Tense strategic gameplay
  • Huge imposing Elder Gods
  • Hilarious table negotiations
  • Easy-to-grasp-difficult-to-master game system
  • Chunky premium components

Might Not Like

  • It’s big price point
  • The amount of tablespace needed
  • Ruining relationships with friends and family because you crushed their meagre attempts at world domination
  • Not knowing if the other players are in the lead
  • Figuring out the complexities of asymmetric factions
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Description

This is where the fun begins! Cthulhu Wars is a strategy board game in which the players take the part of alien races and gods taken from the Cthulhu mythos created by H. P. Lovecraft. It is a boxed game complete with four different factions, including faction cards, dice, counters, rulebook, and a massive 40×20 inch reversible gameboard. It also includes sixty-four high detail figures of cultists, monsters, aliens, and Great Old Ones that range in height from approximately 20mm to nearly 180mm.

The game takes place on a map of Earth. Each player takes the part of one of four factions (more factions are available in the expansions). At the start of a turn, players Gather Power, then, during a series of Action Rounds, they spend this Power to accomplish various tasks, such as moving units, engaging in battle, summoning monsters, building Gates, casting spells, and Awakening their Great Old One. When all players run out of Power, the Action phase ends and the next turn begins. Victory is determined by accumulating points on the Doom Track.

Driving the strategy are a player's wish to expand his power base, and his need to accomplish six tasks to acquire his faction's spellbooks. Each faction has a unique set of monsters, spellbooks, and special abilities, and has different requirements to acquire its spellbooks. All factions have multiple strategies open to them.

So, you're an ancient, gigantic being. After slumbering for aeons, you are awoken by a foolish group of mortals in the hope of gaining your favour. The earth is now your playground, the human race is crushed under your slimy tentacle appendages as you conquer the landscape in a flurry of chaos and destruction unimaginable by the planet's indigenous population.

It's glorious. For a brief moment, you survey the destruction and stare into the distance, calculating what lands to spread your tendrils over next and then... over the mountains, just out there beyond the mist, another huge colossal being is laying waste to YOUR new domain! You gather your forces and charge to meet it in a battle the likes of which the universe has never seen... MONSTER FIGHT!

Although this title from legendary game producer Sandy Peterson is based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, it's only really on a superficial level. The style, miniatures and artwork are all reminiscent of the kind of slithering, cosmic entities you'd find in the Lovecraft mythos but it's really just colouring for a fast, simple, but no less tactical area control game.

New players without the knowledge of the ancients will find themselves able to absorb the theme and enjoy the game almost immediately. It's highly accessible and was a joy to play with every single group I tried it with. Everyone practically insisted that we played it again. That's the mark of a great game, right?

What's It All About?

Cthulhu Wars is all about 'power' and 'doom'. The goal is for a player to achieve (or surpass) 30 'doom' points. When this happens the game immediately ends and everyone calculates their 'doom' points to determine a winner, the one with the most points takes the victory. You earn 'doom' by building gates, performing rituals and other more devious means.

Sometimes they're just gifted to you by other players as a bargaining tool, leading to some interesting table talk. The game has a few phases but the meat of it is in the Action and Gather Power phases.

You gain power during the Gather Power phase by calculating how many gates you own, cultists you have on the map and other faction-specific requirements (this is an asymmetrical game after all). Once you've declared power, the first player is chosen (the one with the most), they decide which way the order-of-play will run, and then you're off to the Action Phase.

The Action Phase

This allows each player to complete an action (move a unit, declare a battle, capture a cultist, build a gate etc.) by spending the required amount of power. So, the more power you've gained from your clever tactics last round, the more options you have this round.

Once you've made your move, it's on to the next player. This continues until all players run out of power. If you only have a meagre number of points to spend, you'll often find yourself waiting as others make all sorts of aggressive actions that you can't answer because you've run out of moves. You just have to sit there and take it.

It's these moments where fragile allegiances often crumble as someone sweeps across your border swallowing all your cultists and stealing your gates... so use your power carefully. It's a fun, fast little system that leaves lots of room for drama.

The Doom Phase

There are other important phases of course. The Doom Phase allows you to calculate 'doom' gained and offers you a chance to perform a Ritual of Annihilation. This is a way of trading power for more 'doom', but it will leave you with less in the next Action Phase. It also increases in cost every time someone does it... yeah, it's a frustrating choice.

Is The Game Predictable?

So far, the game seems quite predictable, right? Watch people's 'doom' and power build over the course of a series of rounds and you'll clearly know who's winning... except you don't. There's a bluffing element when declaring your 'doom'.

For certain activities, you gain Elder Signs. You can meet a faction requirement that lets you reach into a bag full of little tokens, on the back of that token is a number between 1 and 3. You look at the back, whatever number you've got is the amount of extra 'doom' you just gained.

It's up to you when you want to share this. So, you can stack up a healthy amount of tokens over the course of the game giving you an edge that nobody else can calculate, but the other players are doing the same. It results in people declaring that they have a bogus amount of 'doom' in their play area in order to leverage favours from each other.

Miniatures

We should also discuss the miniatures, they are gigantic! Probably the biggest board game pieces I own, and I own a lot of games. Even the lowly cultists are a decent size, and by the time you're first few turns are over, the board is littered with all manner of colourful, slimy creatures and you can really appreciate the scope of the game.

Then someone slams a Great Old One down you almost feel like the ground quakes beneath you. When a player gains enough momentum to be able to afford one of these behemoths it usually changes everyone's strategy. There's this huge war machine added to their arsenal, and you see that pride that comes with the unveiling of it grow across their face.

But it's not invulnerable. Even the lowliest of combat-capable creatures have a chance of killing it. Watching a single dice rolling monster land a lucky shot, forcing Cthulhu off the board, often made the group erupt in applause. They don't 'die' but they cost you lots of power.

The Combat

Combat is really simple too. Each unit has a number of combat dice it can roll during a battle. If you have multiple units, you add all their values together, so does your opponent, and that's the number of dice you get.

Then, you roll-off. 4, 5 or 6 gets you a hit. 6's result in kills, whereas the others mean the enemy must retreat. It's so simple and elegant. Everyone knows what risks you're taking and what's at stake immediately. So, when your single Shoggoth crushes an army of Hunting Horrors everyone gets on board.

Final Thoughts

It's moments like these that make Cthulhu Wars so much fun. It's a box full of conversation, bluffing and drama. Also, it's easy to teach, incredibly addictive and results in some genuinely thrilling encounters. Yes, there's the obvious criticism of the price, but you really do get what you pay for.

There's lots of 'prestige' games out there coming in over the £100 mark, and I've owned a few. But everyone who has played this with me has become enamoured with it. I recommend it, but only if you're prepared to see it for what it is. It's a great game in a great big box filled with unnecessarily great big things at a great big price. I love it!

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Tense strategic gameplay
  • Huge imposing Elder Gods
  • Hilarious table negotiations
  • Easy-to-grasp-difficult-to-master game system
  • Chunky premium components

Might not like

  • Its big price point
  • The amount of tablespace needed
  • Ruining relationships with friends and family because you crushed their meagre attempts at world domination
  • Not knowing if the other players are in the lead
  • Figuring out the complexities of asymmetric factions