Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Type of game: Collectible card game
Number of players: 2
Learning curve: Medium
Estimated time to play (first time/subsequent times): 1 hour and a half/1 hour
Estimated setup time: 15 minutes
(Note: I’m debating using pictures in this series; I’m deciding against it for right now, since you can always Google for them, but that could change.)
Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game is a card game based on the characters of H.P. Lovecraft. The objective is to win “stories” by competing for them in a weird sort of combat, in which shitting your pants (probably not literally; maybe in one of the expansions, though, since I don’t have any) is as important as killing the bad guy.
Like every collectible card game since the creation of Magic: The Gathering, there are very detectable influences from Magic. The “domains” system is very, very similar to lands in M:TG, and your cards have “casting costs”. Basic card types (creatures chiefly among them) should be familiar to Magic veterans. (I do not, at present, plan on covering Magic here, since I think everyone has played it; if there’s demand for it, I’ll do a review.)
That’s where the similarities end. Combat is entirely different; yes, there are “HP” of a sort, but combat is also very heavily based on terror, and on people running away, which is entirely appropriate for the genre.
Setup (a theme in this series) is a snap; there are six “factions”, and each player chooses two and one of the two generic stacks. Some factions don’t get along (Cthulhu doesn’t like Miskatonic University), but you can still choose them for an interesting mix and match. You each get some swank Cthulhu statues and your cards; then you put the story board in the center and begin the game. The rules are a little odd, especially if you’re a Magic veteran, but carefully reading them should make them easy enough to follow. Whoever is the best at a particular creature ability will win one “point” (it takes three to win a story), but you may have to fight the other player’s creatures first.
It’s a lot of fun to play, especially after you’ve played it once or twice, and it’s so different from other games of this genre that even if you play Magic five days a week it will still offer something different. A love of the material makes the game even better, but is not required.
Plus, you can give Cthulhu a pair of .45 caliber pistols. It is gilding the lily on a cosmic scale (which I’m partially stealing from Kevin).