Your scribe grew up in a time and place where the marvellous and horrific tales of H. P. Lovecraft were rare, and he doesn’t think there can be too many Cthulhu Mythos games in this golden age. But given there are a lot, it’s possible to pick out the best ones.
Enter a world of monsters you can’t really kill, growing insanity and raised eyebrows at fluffy Cthulhu toys in Santa hats. Here's my top 5 Cthulhu board games:
Mansions of Madness
The sleeker sibling of Arkham Horror, Mansions of Madness is a big, brilliantly thought out game that sets a team of investigators off on a wide range of possible mysteries, with what exactly you’re solving and what you have to do unknown at the start.
Opposed to them is a Keeper who gets one of the most deliciously villainous jobs in all of gaming, in a board game that’s semi narrative, richly made and both a perfect realisation of gaming the Mythos and a more approachable situation than the RPGs.
The Call of Cthulhu RPG
Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu is the venerable elder of many recent recent RPGs, but it is still the best. There are few gaming experiences as affecting as a great group tackling the Mythos while avoiding the game’s famed sanity mechanics, and it’s one of the few situations where total party kills seem all part of the flavour and not a reason to get angry.
Over the decades a stream of classic campaigns have emerged, so you can play quality scenarios for many years and, having been nearly destroyed by a Kickstarter that went wrong, Chaosium are reborn, newly effective and continuing the flame.
Arkham Horror: Living Card Game
In an ideal world you might be able to find a thousand cards from 1990s Magic the Gathering rival Mythos on eBay, but that’s unlikely, so look to another spin off from Arkham Horror: The Living Card Game. This co-operative effort once more has you investigating chilling goings on in America, but in a different genre and with a tighter gaming experience than the bloated parent.
Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu
Pandemic was already a game perfect at taking co-operative groups and reducing them into a sweating panic, and for this re-imagining, combating illness was changed to sealing portals to prevent cosmic gribblies taking over Earth.
There are plenty of ‘cults worshipping dark gods’ in the Cthulhu Mythos, but can you work together and stay sane long enough to stop those based in Arkham, Dunwich, Innsmouth and Kingsport? Pandemic’s glorious mechanisms are intact so the tension ratchets up unstoppably, but your character’s mental health is now a factor.
In the Call of Cthulhu RPG, and many other games, going insane is something the game threatens. Cthulhu Realms, however, has you the trying to directly send your opponent insane, and this re-imagining of the Star Realms deck-building mechanics goes to show that the Mythos and the madness can be fun and fast rather than ponderous and exhausting.
Picture yourself as the evil ones for a change, and use this quick, cheap game as a lighter Cthulhu fix.