Last Friday, Fantasy Flight posted a second preview for The Sleeper Below, the next faction box for Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game. I’ve always been a little cool on the game’s namesake faction — despite one of my first decks, I Hate Snakes, Jock!, concentrating heavily on the Serpent subtype of the Cthulhu faction — but the ad copy’s doing its job of turning me around on the idea.
We learned from the first preview that the box introduces a new mechanic called Dormant; cards with this keyword can be attached to story cards as essentially blank cards, and when the story is won, may be played to the table for a cost of 0. When their chief example of a Dormant card is a cost 10, skill 10 Cthulhu with a character-wrecking ability, you can see why playing with these new cards is appealing. As long as the story card is won, the Dormant card’s owner gets the chance to play it. Suddenly players have to think about whether it’s worth sweeping the board when someone’s mined it with nasty effects. We also need to find out what happens to an attached Dormant card when the story card itself is replaced by an effect.
And now the second preview shows some of the others ways Dormant cards can be used beyond unleashing beefy, high cost monsters for free. Irem’s a Dormant support card, so it’s like the characters are seeking out the lost ruins, and gaining the awful power of nuking most characters on the table. Meanwhile, Fiona Day’s hidden away, tinkering with an alien device that, after she’s played, can turn cultists into success tokens, which in turn might allow another Dormant card to take the field. Throw in the ability to repeat those enter play effects with The Stars Are Right and things get interesting.
While The Sleeper Below is primarily a set of cards for the Cthulhu faction, everyone gets a few cards in these sets. In previous boxes, the non-spotlit factions have gotten two or three cards that touch on whatever mechanic is introduced. Everyone in Seekers of Knowledge got a Prophecy. The Fated keyword appeared on characters and support cards outside Yog-Sothoth’s coterie in The Key and the Gate. And they all got a piece of the action with Tactics to play off the Syndicate’s expanded facility with that sub-type in Denizens of the Underworld. But I’ve read it alleged that only Cthulhu’s faction will have Dormant cards.
Instead, it seems the pan-faction mechanic in Sleeper Below might be Societies. They’re character cards that represent entire organizations; the US Archaeological Society and the Sons of Carcosa are the two we’ve glimpsed so far. They’re high cost characters that become cheaper to play as your opponent accumulates story cards, so it’s a catch-up mechanic, which is interesting, because Call of Cthulhu‘s certainly one of those games where it’s easy to run away towards the victory condition while the other player’s stewing over not even scoring one story.
I’d be more interested to see how other factions might express the Dormant mechanic, though, than the Society sub-type, since the US Archaeological Society looks pretty lackluster at the moment — though it can key off the awesome Explorer-related cards. The human factions in particular don’t have as ready an analogue to slumbering Ancient Ones. The Silver Twilight could call up something they might not necessarily be able to put down. A Miskatonic University research might emerge from the arctic wastes with an alien artifact of absurd power. The Agency could requisition a prototype vehicle from R&D. But hey, we’ll see. The only human faction card we can see at all right now, Professor George Angell with the Silver Twilight, looks to be an off-kilter hermit who’s been preparing for the rise of Cthulhu for some time, with some rad ability, consider his cost and paucity of icons. And he’s Faculty, so there’s fuel for the Miskatonic-Lodge alliance.
This box is already on the boat from the printer, so with luck it’ll hit the local stores about a month after GenCon. Bring it on!