Call of Cthulhu LCG: The Archmage’s Attaché

the-archmages-attacheWith The Thousand Young rounding the final corner on the road to distribution, Fantasy Flight Games posted a preview of the Call of Cthulhu card designed by the 2013 North American champion, Tom Capor. Expanding the lore of The Mage Known as Magnus, who was last seen in the conspiracy The Mage’s Machinations, is The Archmage’s Attaché — apparently Magnus got a promotion from mage to archmage. Tom explains in the article the meaning of his signature piece of luggage: ” . . . the briefcase became more than just an efficient way to carry my things. It became an ice breaker, and it became my symbol. It showed that I was serious, but didn’t take myself too seriously. I mean, come on, who brings a briefcase to a card game?”

The effect of the card is pretty cool. It attaches to a deck, any deck, and the controller may exhaust the Attaché to reveal the top card of that deck until the end of the phase, which they may play, ignoring resource matching requirements. Right off the bat, this gives you extra potential to play cards of your own, if you’re short on additional draw effects, and can even help with cards from splashed factions, since it ignores resource matching. You can see it also gives you the chance to feed off your opponent’s deck, if you’re feeling lucky about hitting useful cards you can afford to play.

Within The Thousand Young previews, we’ve seen a number of Location support cards with a running theme of effects that reveal the top card of the deck to various ends. It looks like each faction will get something in that vein. Silver Twilight has Garden District, Hastur has Tremé, Cthulhu has Broadmoor, and Shub-Niggurath the French Quarter. The Archmage’s Attaché is a handy new way to check what’s on top of the deck before using those reveal effects. Add in Shub-Niggurath’s new Resilient keyword and suddenly it’s much easier to get information about what’s coming up next in the draw.

Some other appealing applications of the Attaché I’ve seen mentioned include:

  • Rite of the Silver Gate‘s utility can now be maximized, whereas before it was a crap shoot whether either card would actually be discarded.
  • Peter Clover, likewise, gains more effectiveness by knowing the cost of the top card of your deck in advance.
  • Vortex of Time facilitates even more deck control. Leave the card on top if you can play it, or put it on the bottom of the deck, out of harm’s way.
  • Inside Man lets you line up a playable card on top of the deck.

What potential uses for the Archmage’s Attaché are you seeing?

Call of Cthulhu LCG: Revealing Locations

The Thousand Young box cover.There’s a new preview up for The Thousand Young, the next expansion for Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game. In addition to a new set of Shub-Niggurath characters to check out — Baron Samedi seems especially cool, and he’s an Avatar, for added fun with the new Nyarlathotep — we’ve got a peek at the running theme of the off-faction cards.

So far, in the faction boxes, there’s been a common mechanical element among those factions who aren’t the stars of the expansion. Seekers of Knowledge gave everyone a Prophecy. Denizens of the Underworld gave everyone a Tactic. For the Greater Good passed out story attachments.

Now, we seem to be getting a set of reveal-for-bonus Locations. Hastur’s Tremé, for example, lets you reveal the top card of your deck. If it’s a Lunatic character, choose a character to go insane, ignoring terror icons or Willpower. That’s pretty awesome, particularly because it can work on Ancient Ones, which is a pretty common exception in Call of Cthulhu.

The other Location on preview, the Order of the Silver Twilight’s Garden District, has a similar effect. If the top card of your deck is a Lodge character, you can return a number of Lodge characters to your hand equal to the cost of the revealed Lodge character in order to put that character into play. Useful for doubling up on “enters play” effects, like everyone’s favorite bouncer, Jeff, and leveraging cheaper characters to bring out a stronger one.

Call of Cthulhu LCG: The Dark Mother’s Multitudinous Monstrosities

The Thousand Young box cover.The Thousand Young, Shub-Niggurath’s deluxe expansion for Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game is on the horizon — surprisingly and delightfully soon after the Agency’s For the Greater Good — and thus Fantasy Flight has begun their series of preview articles. In addition to introducing the new keyword Resilient and reviving a subtype tribe from the CCG days, Avatar of Nyarlathotep, The Thousand Young is spreading the love to all of Shub-Niggurath’s existing tribes: Ghouls, Chthonians, Monsters and, yes, my personal favorite, the Mi-Go.

The Mi-Go are a self-reinforcing subtype. Many of them grant other Mi-Go icons, or gain icons based on the number of their kind in play. Now they get Xlizxcte-Oonth, the first unique Mi-Go. Not only is he beefier than your typical Mi-Go before buffing, but he aids in playing out still more for cheap, and from the discard pile. In my first Mi-Go deck, I had the Corrupted Midwife on hand for that purpose, but I don’t know if I ever got to use her, as it was usually more advantageous to send her to a story. Not having to exhaust to get the same effect for Mi-Go sounds like it’s going to be pretty cool.

Call of Cthulhu LCG: For the Greater Good: The Agency’s Expansion is on the Horizon

For the Greater Good cover art: a blond man with a shotgun fends off an unseen creature in an alleyway.Last week, Fantasy Flight Games posted news of the next Call of Cthulhu box set: featuring the Blackwood Agency in For the Greater Good. I get the sense we’re being deliberately paced, as The Sleeper Below was poised to hit retail stores at the same moment — and, indeed, I found in my local game store that weekend.

Some folks have remarked that a faction-centric box after Cthulhu’s Sleeper Below goes against the “pattern” of the deluxe box releases, to go from the Syndicate to Cthulhu to the Agency. My sense is there has never been a pattern, at least not a discernible one because we’re in the midst of watching the releases unfold one by one. If there’s rhyme or reason to how the schedule is laid out, beyond “the designer had a really good idea for a box theme, can we fit it in the production schedule or get it in stores for the holidays?”, we won’t be able to pick it out until much later, or Fantasy Flight decides to share their thinking.

The previewed cards suggest the Agency’s getting some new tricks, or an expansion of some tricks they’ve had previously. Government characters are getting boosts in the Military Attache and Lt. Wilson Stewart. With Stewart, in fact, all those high cost Agency characters suddenly become a lot more attractive. Yes, let’s play around with T-Men and the Foundation!

One of the Agency’s sub-themes has been attachment cards. James Logan’s notorious for coming into play armed for bear, for instance. This first preview shows a Cthulhu faction card that attaches to a story, so I’m wondering if that will be the sub-theme for all the non-Agency factions, the way everyone got Tactics in Denizens of the Underworld, and Prophecies in Seekers of Knowledge.

And Fantasy Flight can absolutely keep up giving Silver Twilight more cards than the other non-spotlight factions. That was a real delight to see in Sleeper Below. After For the Greater Good, Silver Twilight will be the last human allegiance not to have enjoyed the amount of love this current run of deluxe expansions have showered on the factions to date. Silver Twilight has a box, sure, but they’re latecomers to the midnight struggles, and absolutely deserve the kind of bump everyone else is enjoying. Especially if a new Silver Twilight box focused on making their “no hand” effects more feasible and easier from which to recover.

Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game

Call of Cthulhu The Card Game box art, circa 2014.My favorite board or card game that I don’t get to play enough is Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game. The local non-Magic card scene is all about Android: Netrunner, a game which I do dig, but sometimes goes over my head to a degree that can be discouraging. That hasn’t stopped me from keeping up with releases, of course, because lord knows I like a regular release schedule of things to collect.

With Call of Cthulhu, on the other hand, I’m the local evangelist. What do I love about this game? So glad you asked.

Theme

The number one consideration for me about a game is: do I like the theme? With Call of Cthulhu, of course I do. Like the fiction and subgenre of games from which it springs, this card game drips with Lovecraftian horror. Human investigators may struggle against ghouls and unknowable ancient beings. Decaying tomes and strange artifacts offer occult knowledge and power. A carefully lobbed stick of dynamite can turn the tide. It’s got that pulpy 1920s horror vibe, and I love it.

With seven factions in the card pool, you can also play with the trope of strange allies and mortals ensnared in eldritch bargains. The Blackwood Agency may team up with the scholars of Miskatonic University as mere mortals struggling against the outer dark, or the sorcerous powers practiced by the followers of Yog-Sothoth can corrupt the innermost ranks of the Order of the Silver Twilight.

Interplay of Cards and Factions

And off of the theme, there’s the breadth of card interactions. In addition to sheer longevity, being one of the oldest of Fantasy Flight’s card games, Call of Cthulhu‘s card pool consists of seven factions, plus neutrals, with their own hallmarks and mechanical quirks. Miskatonic loves to draw more cards. Shub-Niggurath is fecund with ways to grow resources faster. The Order of the Silver Twilight bounces characters between play and hands.[1] Hastur’s lunatics sacrifice their sanity for strange powers. And so on.

When I draft a deck, I usually start by picking some mechanics I want to play with. One deck in the works uses Yog-Sothoth, who specializes in causing discard effects and recovering cards from the discard, and the aforementioned Silver Twilight. The original idea was to use Yog-Sothoth’s cards to get big characters into the discard, then pull them out again using the Order’s tricks, but it hasn’t proven practical in play. I love the thematic combination, though, since Silver Twilight is a secretive order practicing occult rituals, and Yog-Sothoth is a patron, of sorts, of sorcerers, spells and rituals. They ought to go together great. I just haven’t figured out the finer points yet.

Familiar, Yet Novel Mechanics

If you’ve ever played Magic, Call of Cthulhu isn’t so different that it would seem alien, or require training yourself to think too differently about it. You and your fellow player put out characters The characters may smash against each other while trying to secure story cards, which are essentially units of victory. One side will generally win the fight. Eventually, you acquire enough of the victory units to win.

The differences are where the fun is, of course. For instance, there are no resource cards in Call of Cthulhu, a la Magic‘s lands. Every card in your deck is a useful thing, as a character, a support or a one-off event, but it can also double as a resource to help pay to play other cards. One of the toughest decision points in the game is figuring out which of the limited cards in your hand is going to become a resource, and likely never see play. Do you prioritize the first turn, and give up beefier cards to get out the weenies, or keep something cool back for turn four or five?

In Closing

Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game hits that mix of theme, rules accessibility and capacity to satisfy my quest for novelty in seeing how disparate cards might work together. Now, I’m not a good player by any means. It takes me a while to pick up on potential synergies between cards when designing a deck — often I may not see any until I’m actually playing the deck and really processing the wording. Any time I play against someone who really knows the game, I’ve gotten walloped. But I am better than I was when I started, so I can see there’s progress. And I hope to play more often. Drop me a line if you’re in the Burlington area or want to meet up on Lackey some evening.


[1] I will cop right now that I’m just leaving the infatuation stage with Silver Twilight’s bounce effects as a deterrent. Playing Initiate of Huang Hun three times to remove as many of your opponent’s characters is a great sense of accomplishment at first blush, but suddenly you’ve used all of your domains and have no additional presence on the table to show for it, and no way to play events until your next turn.

[Tuesday Night Board Games] Android: Netrunner

Android: Netrunner box cover.Dropping into Tuesday night board games at Quarterstaff Games last night, I finally got to try my hand at Android: Netrunner, the latest of Fantasy Flight Games’ living card games, and the next iteration of a beloved collectible card game, Netrunner, designed by Richard Garfield himself. I’m honestly not sure what about Android: Netrunner caught my attention — probably the same thing as Dominion: the galaxy of possibilities in playing the game without necessarily the same level of investment as a traditional CCG; plus the extension of the Android universe, which we local fans think is one of the original game’s greatest assets — but I’ve been following the discussions on Boardgamegeek.com since the first announcement. And while I’ve stopped following those discussions because they invariably looped back to the pros and cons of the living card game format and whether X card or faction is wicked broken, I maintained my interest.

With only one play under my belt as the criminal runner Gabriel Santiago against Haas Bioroid, it’s hard to say a lot that’s helpful or likely to be terribly accurate. But that never stopped anyone before, did it?

Part of what drew me to Android: Netrunner was that it was supposed to be playable out of the box, particularly in the wake of having been interested in the Call of Cthulhu card game until I let those arguments about the “need” to own multiple core sets to play it properly dissuade me from exploring further. Android: Netrunner, however, absolutely is playable out of the box. Pick a faction, add the neutral cards to those and you’ve got a deck. While I lost against Haas, it didn’t feel like an unmatched loss, if you know what I mean. There were cards that worked together and I was able to see some of those match ups from the very beginning.

I didn’t really know what I was doing for the first half of the game, so maybe I dawdled or didn’t generate enough cash regularly enough — there were more than a couple turns where all I did was drum up credits, especially once I figured out that Sneakdoor Beta is a persistent effect letting Gabriel use his ability against a second of the corporation’s core servers — but I started to get the sense of recognizing when the corporation’s resources are low as part of dancing around its intrusion countermeasures.

It was a first brush with a new game. I liked it for the most part. The prospect of having multiple first brushes with Android: Netrunner is a little intimidating, owing to the number of factions with unique cards to learn how to use, but it’s also a promise of lots of variability in play. It’s kind of like opening a new Dominion expansion, only the entire game is different and there are cyborgs.

There was also the slow process of “All right, so I spend a click to go on a run, then the ICE requires this strength hacking, which means this program needs this many clicks . . . ” but you’ll have that with any game. I repeatedly found myself in the position of discovering halfway through a run that I didn’t have enough credits to bypass all the subroutines. In retrospect, I wonder if I was playing too cautiously, being unwilling to take the consequences. Particularly with regard to the final, make or break run. I can’t remember now if the credits I spent on the layers of ICE were something I could have saved by taking the penalties of the subroutines.

And as game jargon goes, it’s pretty easy to find the analogies between clicks and actions, stacks and decks and so forth for anyone who’s suffered through the innumerable variations on “victory point.”

Best of all, it was fun to play without worrying about deckbuilding at all. I’m looking forward to trying out all the factions, on both the runner and corporate sides of the board.

Fantasy Flight Games’ Print on Demand Expansions

Elliot over at The Gaming Gang reminded me that Fantasy Flight Games has been experimenting with print on demand expansion packs for some of their games. Their first foray was a small pack for their Space Hulk: Death Angels card game. Now Mansions of Madness has a single scenario expansion called Season of the Witch.

Given that, the model appears to be effective. I’m hoping that it leads to smaller expansions for more of Fantasy Flight’s game lines, especially Arkham Horror. One product long wished for by true believers, but probably not commercially feasible, is a patch kit expansion, which evens out the experience of mixing multiple expansions, so that Dunwich stays hopping while the continuing acts of The King in Yellow have an impact on game play.

The forthcoming Miskatonic Horror seemed like it might address that problem, but until I riffle through the cards, I’m taking the marketing copy to mean “more of the same” in terms of how all the expansions interact.

So here’s hoping for small packs of cards printed on demand to spice up Arkham Horror. I’d like to see the King in Yellow’s blight spread to outlying towns, the unstable locations of Dunwich more frequently rent asunder and the influences of the cult of the Black Goat of the Woods spread out to Kingsport and Innsmouth.

It could happen.