A Deckbuilding Look at Cthulhu Realms

Cthulhu Realms BoxThe brand-new Darwin Kastle deckbuilding game Cthulhu Realms is a new iteration of his Star Realms system, which means that it’s another classic deckbuilder with a focus on interpersonal combat. Despite its origin as an iteration of an existing design, it still offers new innovation to the field.

With its Lovecraftian basis, it’s also a great game for the Halloween season!

The Game

The gameplay of Cthulhu Realms (2015) follows closely on the design of its predecessor, Star Realms (2014). This means that the deckbuilding play is pretty basic: you play cards that give you money (conjuration points), then you use that money to buy cards from a row of randomly selected cards. The cards then go into your discard pile, for use on future turns. This also means that the other play focuses player conflict: you play cards that do damage to your opponents, with the ultimate goal of killing everyone else off (well, driving them insane; it is a Cthulhu game, after all).

However, the cards of Cthulhu Realms are also heavily interdependent. Many have powers that only activate when you play a card of a certain color or a card of a certain type. Others only activate when you force a discard of a card or trash (abjure) a card. The result is both increased tactical play and increased emphasis on the deckbuilding. Continue reading

Anatomy of a Reimagination: Eldritch Horror

Though it’s been out for about two years, I just played Eldritch Horror (2013) for the first time last month. I was quickly won over by the game, as I happily fought nameless horrors and investigated blasphemous locations. Though Eldritch Horror only notes “inspiration” from Arkham Horror (1987, 2005), I’d call it a revision — or else a “reimagination” — because this newer game rather cleverly reinvents most of the mechanics from Arkham Horror, but using a totally new design paradigm. The result is a clear evolution of design. Continue reading

Brawl of Cthulhu — A Lovecraftian Gamopedia

Some time ago, I wrote an article discussing many of the Cthulhu games on the market. Six years later, I’ve decided to return to the topic by looking at some of the major Cthulhu games that have appeared since. However, rather than just creating a partial list of new games, I’ve also reprinted (and revised) all my previous mini-reviews, to make this a comprehensive look at Cthulhoid games.

The one limitation is that these are just the games I’m familiar with. Most I’ve played, but for the one where I just read the rules, I’ve noted that. There are still a few notables missing, such as The Hills Rise Wild, and Munchkin Cthulhu. I may add them to this article with a quiet edit some time in the future. (And, if you’ve got a Cthulhu game that you’d like me to play and add to this list, drop me a line in the comments.)

Continue reading

A Deckbuilding Look at A Study in Emerald

A Study in EmeraldTo date, very few deckbuilding designers have returned for a follow-up try at the category. It was therefore really a pleasure to see a second deckbuilding design from Martin Wallace — one that feels both like an evolution of his A Few Acres of Snow and also like a new and innovative design.

The Game

A Study in Emerald (2013) is a big game that includes deckbuilding as one of several moving parts that together create an intriguing multi-faceted game design. Continue reading

Co-Op Interviews: Richard Launius — Arkham Horror

Arkham HorrorLast month I started a discussion of co-op games with an article I called “Gaming Evolution: Co-Op Games, Part One: Honored Ancestors”. It talks about some of the primordial co-op games which helped to create the genre in the 1980s and 1990s. Before I move on to more recent games, I’m going to be publishing a couple of interviews with some of the designers of those co-op originators, to further document the games that the modern co-op boom ultimately looks back to as its foundation.

This month I’m talking to Richard Launius. He’s best known for his design of Arkham Horror. He was thus perhaps the first entrant in the “American co-op” subgenre of games which is best represented in the modern day by Fantasy Flight Games … who not by chance counts Arkham Horror among its stable of American co-op games.
Continue reading

The Problem with Horror Games

scary-jackolantern-300pxHalloween is just around the corner, and with it the ghosts and goblins that come out on the day. Since Halloween falls on a Friday this year, it’s a great time to get together with some of your friends, and play some of your spookiest games.

Except, I think that most horror games fail pretty badly at capturing the essence of the genre.

Continue reading