To watch a full playthrough of The Cards of Cthulhu, click here!
What is this game about?
The Cards of Cthulhu is a game in which you play an investigator bent on stopping evil minions from awakening an Old One and bringing about the end of the world. If you've ever played a board game based on the work of H. P. Lovecraft, this will sound very familiar. But Cards of Cthulhu is its own game.
In Cards of Cthulhu, your job is to prevent four game boards, each of which represents an Old One, from being overrun by minions. If you outlast the entire draw deck, you win. If every minion space on one of your boards is filled, you lose.
Each turn, you draw at least four cards and distribute them to the relevant Old One boards. It is possible for you to draw minions, horrors, gates (which cause you to draw more cards), and cursed objects. Alternatively, some cards are helpful—items and assistants enter the marketplace and can be purchased using experience points you have accumulated during gameplay.
To manage all of the evil beings spewing out of the draw deck and onto your game boards, you need to roll dice. You start with only three, and you can lose dice by being injured. But you can also spend experience points to cast spells that add dice to your pool or allow you to attack multiple times. Given that experience points are needed both for spells and for items or assistants, you need to carefully manage a limited supply.
How does it play solo?
Technically, Cards of Cthulhu can be played either solo or cooperatively. But I think it's one of those games that truly shines when you play it alone. Once you get into the flow of the game, it has an almost meditative feel that would be disturbed by the presence of another player. For me, Cards of Cthulhu is the kind of light, chilled-out game that you play when you want a step up in complexity from Onirim, but you still want an easy set up and quick gameplay.
Also, there aren't enough dice or experience tokens to go around, which can be very irritating. The experience tokens are really awesome-looking metal coins, but there are too few of them. They sell accessory packs on the DVG website, but extra coins and dice are pricy.
If you don't mind that you can be utterly destroyed by some bad die rolls or unfortunate card draws, Cards of Cthulhu is a rewarding solo experience. I typically feel like I have just enough control over my gameplay through spells, assistants, etc. that I want to press on even when I am losing.
Cards of Cthulhu is probably the most relaxing game I own that happens to be about the end of the world. It's the kind of game I pull out on a work night when I'm tired but still want to play a game, or that I lay out on a Sunday afternoon when I want to sit around in my robe and drink hot chocolate. Now that the weather's gotten cold, I find myself pulling Cards of Cthulhu off of the shelf and fending off the forces of evil while basking in the light of my Christmas tree. If you want a light, Ameritrashy game to play solo, this is a good one.
Overall Rating: 4 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.