There is no shortage of board games featuring author H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, though most have essentially the same theme behind it — a band of investigators and adventurers struggle to find clues and close interdimensional gates before Cthulhu and his minions can conquer the Earth. "Cthulhu Wars," from Green Eye Games, posits a different scenario. What if Cthulhu and his brother monsters made it through the gates, conquered Earth and now have begun battling each other for supremacy?
In "Cthulhu Wars," two to four players take on the role of either Cthulhu or one of the other monster baddies. Each player begins the game with a gate on the board and six acolytes. Players each receive power based on the number of acolytes on the board and how many gates they control. During the action round, players may spend their power to move units, build new gates, initiate battles, summon more monsters through the gates, and more.
Each player is also attempting to complete six specific objectives for his monster faction in order to win. For instance, Cthulhu must control gates placed in oceans, or devour enemies in combat, and Hastur must desecrate certain spaces on the board corresponding to certain symbols. As more gates appear on the board, players must fight for control. Combat is based on simultaneous dice rolls. Players roll a number of dice depending on the strength of the monsters in the battle. On a roll of one to three nothing happens, while on a roll of four or five enemy monsters must retreat. On a roll of six, an enemy monster is destroyed.
Each new round also begins with a doom phase, where players gain points for each gate they control. The first player to 30 doom points triggers the end game. Throughout the game players may gain Elder Sign tokens, which are also hidden doom points. Players add their Elder Sign token points to their doom points and whoever has the most, and completed the six objectives, wins the game.
"Cthulhu Wars" boasts what are among the best plastic minis seen in any board game in the history of the genre. They are large and beautifully sculpted, and really draw players into the eerie world of the Cthulhu mythos. Game play itself is actually quite simple, but engaging. While the game offers nothing in the way of new mechanics or innovation, it nevertheless succeeds in creating a great light wargame adventure that plays like a monster version of "Axis & Allies."
While the game looks and plays great, it is not an inexpensive game. "Cthulhu Wars" costs around $200, though will most likely be available for less online eventually. The high price tag means that Cthulhu Wars will most likely find its way onto the shelf of only the most dedicated of gamers, which is a shame because this is really a great game.
"Cthulhu Wars" is recommended for ages 12 and up and plays in about 60 to 90 minutes.
'High Command: Faith & Fortune'
In "High Command: Faith & Fortune," the latest deck building game in Privateer Press' High Command line, two to four players attempt to gain the most victory points through careful management of their cards. Set in the rich Warmachine universe, each player begins the game by selecting a faction which has its own unique cards and abilities. Players also have options on which kinds of cards will form their own personal army deck, making the game different with each play.
Unlike most deck builders, which see players buying cards from a central pool, each player has his own army deck pool from which four cards are always placed face up — the reserve. Each “basic” card in a player's hand holds two kinds of currency: command and war. Players may spend these currencies to buy more powerful cards from their reserve. Some cards are resources (paid for mostly with command), which simply offer more currency value, while others have combat value, (paid for mostly with war).
In the center of the table are placed a number of locations equal to the the number of players. On a player's turn, he or she may attempt to place a combat card on the location by paying its war cost once again. If another player places a card on the same location, combat ensues and players must total up the power of all their cards at the location and compare it with their enemy's health value, destroying cards in the process. If, at the beginning of a players' turn, he or she has two more cards at a location than anyone else, the player wins that location and adds it to his or her deck.
Additionally, each round a Winds of War card is drawn, which offers special rules for that round. Once the players reach a special card at the end of the Winds of War deck, or if they run out of locations, the game is over and players add up all of the victory points from their cards to determine the winner.
This is an unusual but highly engaging deck builder. Players must carefully manage their cards by purchasing more powerful cards and by fighting for the locations. The game offers some really fun options, like the ability of some cards to rush from the reserve to a location if the player is willing to pay a higher cost. Also, the combat system ensures that real competition will break out when two or more players decide to go for the same location. Each card's special abilities will keep players riveted to the battle.
Like many deck builders, "High Command: Faith & Fortune" suffers from too much down time between turns, but that is a rather light complaint. The game pulls players in and offers some really thrilling competition, as well as fun and interesting cards and abilities.
"High Command: Faith & Fortune" is recommended for ages 12 and up and plays in about an hour.
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's in history from the University of Utah and teaches at Salt Lake Community College. An avid player of board games, he blogs at thediscriminatinggamer.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org