Zero Hour: Survival Horror Card Game

Two character cards from Zero Hour, with period photographs of two children.Last night, library game night kicked off with Zero Hour, a card game based on the Slender Man mythos. In short, each player has a ensemble of young children, led by an older young adult with a psychic ability, that must be shepherded through a night wandering through the woods, stalked by the Slender Man, and hope to make it until the morning. Each surviving child is worth so many points, plus any interesting items they may have picked up along the way, which determines the winner at the end.

It’s a decent premise, but holy cow, the game itself is long and uninteresting. A turn consists of drawing an exploration card for each child in your charge, which is most likely to injure their sanity score, or have some other negative effect. Rolling a d6 to beat a variable target number resolves those effects. So the game is wholly luck-driven and very repetitive: draw an exploration card for a child, typically roll a die to determine success or failure, repeat for each child in your group. And as the number of players increases, so does the wait between each of your turns.

Zero Hour has an interesting theme — mainly with regard to how a deliberately invented mythos from the 2000s is slowly becoming part of our culture — but the game play itself is practically non-existent. There are few choices, and none of them felt very significant. This is the kind of game that plays around you while chatting with other players until the turn comes around, you do your business and return to chatting, waiting to be tapped on the shoulder because it’s your turn or someone’s targeted you with an effect.

Sentinels of the Multiverse Concludes

Baron Blade glowers behind the heroes from lef to right: Tachyon, Absolute Zero, the Wraith, Legacy and Bunker.This past Friday, Greater Than Games made official what they’d been saying for years now: the end of the Sentinels of the Multiverse game line is nigh. While not necessarily news to anyone who’s followed the company’s progress, as they’ve been very open about following a storyline through the game and its expansions with a distinct conclusion, it’s still a little jarring for them to make good on it. As the board game hobby has bloomed, it’s become de rigueur for popular games to be followed by an endless string of expansions until such time as the sales are no longer worth the expense of publishing them.

My enjoyment of the print version waxes and wanes and right now is waning as I consider the prospect of toting around two more big boxes’ worth of expansion materials — the promised OblivAeon, plus Villains of the Multiverse — even in light of this all-in-one storage option Greater Than is teasing. But this campaign is the game’s last hurrah, and will include the long-promised pack of variant heroes, so maybe I will decide to retire my proxies after the “one with everything” pack appears.

Call of Cthulhu Necronomicon Draft, January 2016

A Necronomicon draft pack for Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game: a stack of white bordered cards with a splash card of a terrifying figure playing a twisted violin.

Total Cards: (40)

Character: (25)
1x Nigel St. James (The Shifting Sands)
1x Son of Yeb (Core Set)
1x Whitton Greene (Seekers of Knowledge)
1x Wizard of Yog-Sothoth (Secrets of Arkham)
1x Blood Magician (Conspiracies of Chaos)
2x Guardian of Dawn (Terror in Venice)
2x Archaeology Interns (Into Tartarus)
1x Unscrupulous Acquisitionist (The Gleaming Spiral)
2x Key-seeker (Curse of the Jade Emperor)
1x Magnus Stiles (Shadow of the Monolith)
1x Wilbur Whateley (The Key and the Gate)
1x Carl Stanford (Seekers of Knowledge)
1x Arcane Initiate (Core Set)
1x Richard Pike (Seekers of Knowledge)
1x The Red-Gloved Man (Whispers in the Dark)
1x Andrew-Chapman (The Key and the Gate)
1x Cub Reporter (Seekers of Knowledge)
1x Matthew Alexander (Seekers of Knowledge)
2x Alternative Historian (Seekers of Knowledge)
1x Cultist of the Key (The Wailer Below)
1x The Day Dreamer (Twilight Horror)

Support: (8)
1x Guardian Pillar (Search for the Silver Key)
1x The Rays of Dawn (Twilight Horror)
1x Medico Della Peste (Terror in Venice)
2x Elder Binding (Aspirations of Ascension)
1x Rabbit’s Foot (The Spawn of the Sleeper)
2x Cryptic Writings (Search for the Silver Key)

Event: (5)
1x Calling the Williwaw (The Key and the Gate)
1x All are One (The Spoken Covenant)
1x Fist of Yog-Sothoth (That Which Consumes)
2x Feint (Secrets of Arkham)

Conspiracy: (2)
1x Unending Festivities (Terror in Venice)
1x Combing the Archives (Lost Rites)

This Sunday, Black Moon Games hosted a Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game draft at their store in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Three of us traveled down from Burlington to meet up with three more players, which makes for the most people I’ve seen playing Cthulhu at the same time in one place, outside cutaways in Fantasy Flight’s live streams. After drafting cards, we played three rounds with the decks we built, first with random match-ups, then pairing manually based on the wisdom of de factor tournament organizer Rod. I got three matches on camera for Decked!, so you can look forward to those posts in the coming weeks, as well as an over the shoulder shot of Ray drafting his cards. My hope is for that to become a mini-series, where Ray explains his thinking on his selections card by card, both for himself and with regard to what he deduced his neighbors were doing.

As for myself, my first pick was a Syndicate card, Carnivale Sentinel, and then I rapidly realized that I was not be receiving any useful Syndicate cards at all from my neighbors — later on, I discovered both Rod and Carlo had built decks with significant Syndicate presence — so I shifted gears toward Miskatonic University when I got an Alternative Historian and Yog-Sothoth for the affordable cultists and sorcerers. Then Carlo passed me Carl “Goddamn” Stanford, as he’s known locally, and I found myself drafting three factions.

My mantra was “Characters win drafts,” as Rod told me once, and I tried to stick to that, keeping in mind cost, icons and useful abilities. Some characters wound up always getting resourced — Richard Pike, for instance, and Magnus Stiles; too narrow an ability and too high a cost, respectively — and most of the support cards wound up feeling like chaff, barring Cryptic Writings — shutting down Henry Knoll at one point, delightfully — and Guardian Pillar proving super helpful the one time I got Unending Festivities into play.

Overall, I won two matches and lost the third to Rod and his Syndicate deck. I’m pretty happy with that for my second time ever drafting, especially after tanking so hard the first time.

Stay tuned for draft picks and play commentary on coming episodes of Decked!

Top Plays of 2015

I keep track of the games I play over on BoardGameGeek, and its role-playing-focused sibling. So as the year winds down, I decided to take a look at the game I got to play the most in 2015. These will be all board games, as all my role-playing this year has been of the one-shot variety. Perhaps that will improve in 2016. So, counting up from fewest to most plays:

5. Eldritch Horror

Clocking in at 7 plays[1], Eldritch Horror is a game I would love to play still more often than I managed in 2015. While it hasn’t reached Arkham Horror-scale sprawl, this game has a number of expansions I haven’t gotten to put through their paces properly. Most of the time, I find myself playing with one or two players new to the game and we opt for a simpler mode of play. For 2016, my wish to get some serious play time with the Antarctica and Egypt expansion boards.

4. Hex Hex

This caught me by surprise at first glance, but then I recognized that Hex Hex is a game where you can rack up a lot of plays very quickly, depending on how you count. All eight of my logged plays came from one sitting at the Fletcher Free Library’s board game night.

3. The Resistance

Popular among one group of friends because it can readily accommodate a larger number of players and wraps up readily before Game of Thrones comes on, The Resistance is one of those games I play because it’s being played and otherwise you’re coming across as a spoilsport.

2. Sentinels of the Multiverse

My energy for the tabletop version of Sentinels waxes and wanes. Usually it peaks slightly after an extended bout of playing the computer version. There’s still so much more content available in the tabletop version than the digital implementation that I haven’t even gotten to crack yet that I would love to try out. I got to play tabletop Sentinels 10 times in 2015.

Sentinels is one of those games that benefits from having some dedicated fellow players who are down for a deep dive session, where you work the heroes and strategies until you crack the seemingly unbeatable villain and find amazing combos emerging from developing a rich understanding of the game and its elements. With yet another big expansion on the way that deepens the Vengeance play mode, Sentinels is another game I would really like to enjoy more in 2016.

1. Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game

Perhaps surprising no one at all, my log shows 72 plays of the Cthulhu living card game, including store events and playing for Decked! The announcement of the line’s discontinuation took the wind out my and the local players’ sails. I don’t think I’ve played the game since September, maybe.

There are still decks to build and matches to play — and prize support store owners wish to move from their inventory — but for now, I’m letting Cthulhu lay fallow for a while while the sting fades.

Honorable Mention: Digital Sentinels of the Multiverse

The honorable mention for top plays of 2015 has to go to the digital implementation of Sentinels of the Multiverse. Since I bought the season pass, the periodic infusions of new characters keep me coming back to try them out on their own, and in conjunction with all the older content. Steam tells me that I’ve played 148 hours in total of digital Sentinels, and since the game launched in November 2014, I think the vast majority of those hours were in 2015.

Since the game launched, they’ve rolled out a number of expansion packs and added an online multiplayer mode, which I wished for back then. Handelabra’s weekly live streams including previews of upcoming releases have done a lot to keep my interest piqued and give examples of how to think about the game and play well, so that’s been helpful. Can’t wait to see them explain the niceties of Captain Cosmos.


[1] The seventh play eking under the wire starting at 6pm New Year’s Eve and ending around 12:30 on New Year’s Day. We lost against Yog-Sothoth in a pretty spectacular way. I didn’t realize we’d have to keep solving mysteries after the ancient one awoke.

Decked! #24: Night of the Avatars vs. Toxic Fungi

Brap’s Magic‘s recent Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game tournament winds down with Rod’s Avatars going up against the mi-go and their pervasive toxemia. Will the recently discovered Mi-Go Warrior cheese make an appearance? Watch and find out!

Subscribe to Decked! on YouTube to catch the whole series of games from Brap’s Magic, and more live-on-tape card game fun.

Decked! #23: Night of the Avatars vs. The Deck with No Name

The series of Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game matches from Brap’s Magic continues with the avatars of Nyarlathotep, piloted by Rod, going up against Ray’s alliance of the Syndicate and the Order of the Silver Twilight. This is not the deck from Decked! Tech, but maybe, possibly was inspired by that brainstorming session.

Subscribe to Decked! on YouTube to catch the whole series of games from Brap’s Magic, and more live-on-tape card game fun.

Decked! #22: Night of the Avatars vs. The Black Network

We kick off the latest Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game tournament hosted by Brap’s Magic with Rod’s first foray into the new avatars of Nyarlathotep from The Thousand Young coming up against Carlo’s Criminals decks. This is a change-up for both players. Carlo has played Yog-Sothoth mill decks in competitions to date, and Rod’s largely played human factions, so they’ve both switched to opposite sides of the fence, playing to different strengths than they normally do.

Subscribe to Decked! on YouTube to catch the whole series of games from Brap’s Magic, and more live-on-tape card game fun.

Decked! #21: Project MILL vs. Toxic Fungi

Wrapping up this Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game tourney series from Black Moon Games, we see Carlo’s mill deck, packed with Yog-Sothoth’s nastiest discarding tricks, turn up the heat against the mi-go and their allies.

Subscribe to Decked! on YouTube to catch the whole series of games from Black Moon Games’ tournament, and more live-on-tape card game fun.

Decked! #20: The Moon God’s Shield vs. Toxic Fungi

Black Moon Games‘ recent Call of Cthulhu tourney rolls on as Ray’s mono Cthulhu deck tries to play the slow game against Tyler’s mi-go synergies, using Pervasive Toxemia as a tax on committing characters to attack or defend stories. Thanks to Black Moon Games for hosting this Cthulhu LCG tournament and supporting the local game community.

Subscribe to Decked! on YouTube to catch the whole series of games from Black Moon Games’ tournament, and more live-on-tape card game fun.