Monday, 25 May 2015

Cthulhu Wars

Great miniatures but I'm a bit confused about the actual lack of 'war' in a game that calls itself Cthulhu Wars.

So Cthulhu Wars is kickstarter game that was delayed by close to a year (at least counting from when I received it) and has several expansions coming out later this year that were also in the KS but haven't been produced yet. As the game suggests, it's a type of wargame along the veins of Risk, Ikusa, etc but for a wargame, there is surprisingly very little war in Cthulhu Wars. 

First of all, the box for the game is HUGE. Really big. But that's mostly because of the packaging inside. 
There's a nice insert for all your Great Old Ones that's made of pretty hard plastic, unlike the usual cheap plastic. That's a nice touch but I have a feeling it jacked up the product specs a fair bit and it makes shipping a lot more expensive for international customers. 

The basics of Cthulhu Wars is really simple, much like any war game. You choose a faction, which is led by a Great Old One and has unique abilities and spells. You start off in one area with a dimensional gate and you expand outwards from there.

Each faction has its own spells and monsters, so they don't play in the same way. For example, the blue faction; Crawling Chaos, is more magicky than the rest while the red faction; The Black Goat, is more beaty. And then there are the spells that each faction gets that can swing things in their favor. 

Each faction has 6 spell slots that have a specific criteria listed on them. For example, for the red faction, their spell slots usually have to do with exploring areas, such as having units in 4/6/8 areas. Whenever a faction meets the criteria for their spell slot, they can choose any one of their 6 spell cards and put it into that slot. And from then on, they can use that spell. To win the game requires you to unlock all 6 spell slots. 

The resource for this game is 'power, which you basically gain by controlling gates and having cultists. Each gate you control gets you 2 power and each cultist nets you one. However, you also require power to build new gates so at the start, most of that power will go towards building gates and summoning creatures. 

However, unlike other wargames, you don't really need to fight to win the game. This is because victory in the game is determined by Doom points, which you gain by controlling gates. The more gates you control, the more doom points you get and once you get 30, you win the game. It's a victory scenario for a wargame that doesn't really involve war. Also, because there's a way to 'jumpstart' your victory points by paying power, you'll notice that after the 2nd turn, the players doom totals will jump up pretty sharply which leads to the game ending faster. 

Granted, I've only played 3 games so far but in most of those 3 games, the player who won really didn't need to fight much (unless it was to unlock his spell slot). 

Perhaps it's because with 4 players (which is the MAX number of factions in the core box), there's just too many resources/territories to go around. Each player can comfortably squat on 4 gates and just pass their turn. Furthermore, considering moving 1 square and fighting takes 2 power (which is already a scarce resource) for ONE unit, it makes it pretty hard to fight many epic battles because you always figure 'meh, I got better uses for my power'. Not to mention that you at least want to bring multiple units to one area, which means more power to move all of them (although battle still only requires 1 to initiate, no matter how many combatants there are)

Furthermore, because the game usually only lasts a short time (for a wargame), with all 3 games I had taking 1 hour or so to finish, there's not much chance to really do much other than summon, build gates, spend power to jump up the doom track. 

As such, the gameplays feels like it's lacking a bit in terms of interactivity with other players and feels entirely too passive for  a 'war' game. I'm not quite sure what to make of it. On one hand, I love the miniatures but otoh, the gameplay is severely lacking imo. At least for the core set, and quite frankly, at 199USD RRP, I'm not sure I would recommend buying it.