"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."
- H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature
Welcome to the world of the Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game, a world based on the weird fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and his literary circle. In this world, conflicts rage between cosmic powers who want the world for their own unfathomable purposes and the human agencies dedicated to stopping them.
The weird world of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos has drawn in fans for more than eighty years, with its richly painted themes of suspense, adventure, and the eerie unknown. Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game is fully immersed in this world and what is more, places you, as a player, in control of some of the facets of that world.
A typical game of Call of Cthulhu plays very quickly between two players and it has a high-level of player interaction, analysis of open information, planning and strategy. There is a wide variety of possible combinations of factions (Syndicate with Agency, Cthulhu with Hastur, etc.) and each combination will necessitate a different, challenging approach, providing high levels of re-playability.
One of the major appeals of the Living Card Game® format is that it gives you not only a solid game experience, full of strategy and excitement, but it also allows you to customize your gaming experience to your liking. As you customize your deck from the Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game card pool, you get to build a strategy around your personal play style. Your options for deck-building are wide open and will continue to grow as we release more Asylum Packs, which will introduce new cards to the card pool every month.
Call of Cthulhu is a two-player card game in which players construct decks from a choice of seven different factions from the Cthulhu Mythos. Players then muster their decks against each other and attempt to win story cards through various challenges. The first player to win three story cards wins the game.
Story cards represent the bizarre and frightening situations that investigators and cultists alike find themselves contending in. Story cards are won through a series of struggles: Terror, Combat, Arcane and Investigation, and finally through a comparison of skill. A well-balanced assortment of characters, support cards, and events, is the cornerstone of any Call of Cthulhu deck.
The Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game Core Set comes with everything you will need to play the game including success tokens, domain markers, a game board, and cards from all seven factions. All you need is an opponent and you're ready to play.
Eight different factions contend against each other in Call of Cthulhu. Any of the eight factions can be combined together: they can be allies one game and enemies the next. A player's deck will typically be composed of two factions, for example, Miskatonic and Agency, Hastur and Shub-Niggurath, to name two of the many possible two-faction combinations, although it is not unheard of or against the rules to construct a deck with anywhere from just one faction to all eight combined.
Each faction has its own strengths and weaknesses and different combinations of factions produce different games and strategies. The factions are each comprised of the characters, locations, and events and represent the various facets of the Cthulhu Mythos story cycle.
Some of the text presented here is excerpted from Chris Long's excellent "Guide to the Faction Rainbow"
The Agency, Miskatonic University, The Order of the Silver Twilight, and The Syndicate comprise Call of Cthulhu's human factions.
The Agency – With its network of police officers and concerned citizens, the Blackwood Detective Agency combs dive bars, the docks and the back alleys, hunting the servants of the Mythos. This faction's specialty is Combat and appeals to aggressive and destructive players.
Miskatonic University – No human beings know more about the Mythos than the learned professors at Miskatonic U. Miskatonic's chief strategy is to get in, get the information, and get out as fast as possible, hopefully avoiding Terror and Combat. Miskatonic excels at speedy Investigation and card draw, and appeals to "rushing" players.
The Syndicate – "The seedy underbelly of the city. These guys know what's going on, and are trying to figure out how to turn it to their advantage." They are amoral criminals of all sorts, but compared to the forces of the Ancient Ones, even criminals can seem like the good guys. The Syndicate's specialty, naturally, is sneakiness: exhausting opponent's characters, lowering skill, and switching stories are just some of tricks up The Syndicate's sleeve.
The Order of the Silver Twilight – Ostensibly a private club for high society's movers and shakers, but behind this facade lies an unending quest into the darkest corners of magic in search of power and world dominance. The Order's specialty is prolonged Rituals that trigger off of cards leaving play through sacrifices and discard. The Order of the Silver Twilight is not included in the Call of Cthulhu Core Set. It is introduced in the Order of the Silver Twilight expansion.
In addition, there are four factions based on the elder and outer gods:
Cthulhu – The cult of Cthulhu can be found throughout the world's history, in all cultures, among all races, human and otherwise. As can be expected from the faction of Cthulhu itself, this faction specializes in striking terror into opponents and then destroying them utterly. This faction can often turn on itself, though, so invoke Cthulhu carefully!
Hastur – The subtle cult of Hastur is composed of deranged artists and raving lunatics, many of whom do not even truly realize who it is they serve and they delight in the spread of insanity's slow poison. Hastur is a very strong control faction - cancellation as well as hand control - and appeals to the slower, more defensive player.
Yog-Sothoth – Yog-Sothoth is the key to the gate, whereby the spheres meet; Its worshippers know the secret ways between the worlds. Where Yog-Sothoth outpaces every other faction is in recursion - returning cards from discard - as well as search cards to help you find what you need when you need it.
Shub-Niggurath – The horrid Mother spawns uncountable servants of all forms and types, as well as attracting worshippers from the outcast, the perverse, and the deranged. The faction of the Black Goat of the Woods with One Thousand Young, Shub-Niggurath excels at flooding the playing field with creatures, not just low-level grunts, but also lowering the cost of high-level monsters. Shub-Niggurath lends itself well to "rushing" players who also like to engage in combat.
There are also several neutral cards that belong to no faction and can therefore be played in any deck. They form the ranks of the unaligned, but universally useful. A rare deck has no neutral cards in it.
RESOURCES AND STORIES
For a complete overview of the rules of Call of Cthulhu, please refer to the rule book which you can download direct from our Support Page. In this section you will find a brief discussion of some of the most innovative and appealing aspects of Call of Cthulhu, the resourcing system and the Story Phase.
In Call of Cthulhu, each card has its main function: that of a character, event, support, or conspiracy card. Each card also has a secondary function, as a potential resource card. A card becomes a resource by turning it upside down in the array of cards in front of you, so that the faction symbol shows at the top.
Every turn, you have the option of turning one card in your hand into a resource by placing it on one of your domains. Once a card is turned into a resource, it can only be used as a resource for the rest of the game.
Unlike in other games that use specific cards for resources, Call of Cthulhu gives you both flexibility and challenge every time you use a card as a resource. For example, in some games you may find that you never draw the resource card that you need when you need it. In Call of Cthulhu, since any card can be turned into a resource, you will almost always have at least one card in your hand that you can use as a resource. The challenge comes in when you must decide which card to give up. The decisions that you make are entirely situational and a card that may be fantastic later in the game may only be useful as a resource early on. Conversely, late in the game, when you have all the resources you need, you never have to worry about your hand clogging up with "extra" resources, and you can feel free to use any of the cards in your hand against your opponent!
Above: cards being used as resources. Covered by an unused card, this stack forms a Domain (rulebook, p. 6 & 9).
As Pete Lane writes in his article on demoing Call of Cthulhu, the Story Phase can be thematically described like this:
"[The] Terror phase represents walking into the area and being taken by surprise by horrifying creatures. After your weak link runs screaming from the scene, it's the obvious reaction of 'shoot first and ask questions later' we find at the Combat struggle! Once the bodies have hit the floor, it's time to stand guard and gather clues during the Arcane and Investigation struggles. It only comes naturally that those who came in the most prepared would be awarded during the Skill struggle."
Story cards are the objective of the game: winning three of them will win you the game. In the Story Phase, the active player will commit characters to stories and his opponent will commit characters to defend against them. Carefully choosing how to divide your forces is critical.
Each story card is resolved separately with the characters involved proceeding through the four Icon Struggles.
Terror Struggle: the loser of a Terror Struggle must choose a character to go insane. Insane characters are out of the game until they are restored.
Combat Struggle: the loser of a Combat Struggle must choose a character to be wounded. Most characters can only take one wound before dying and being removed from the game.
Arcane Struggle: the winner of an Arcane Struggle chooses an exhausted character committed that story and readies that character. This is very useful because it makes a character available to be exhausted again, either for a special ability, or as a defender in the next Story Phase.
Investigation Struggle: the winner of an Investigation Struggle places a success token on their side of the story - this is aside from the success tokens awarded after the Icon Struggles. It is possible for the defending player to place a success token if he wins an Investigation Struggle.
After all four of the Icon Struggles have been resolved, both players total their skill level and whoever is highest places a success token. The player with the highest skill may also place an additional success token if the defending player was unable or chose not to oppose.
The player who places five success tokens on his side of the story card wins it and may choose to trigger the event on the card. The story cards have huge, game-changing effects and it is just as common to attempt to win a story so that the effect on it is not triggered, if it does not benefit you.
WINNING THE GAME
The game ends when one player wins his or her third story card. Games are fast paced, capturing the tension of the Mythos very well. While easy to learn, as you progress in the game you will continue to find new layers of depth which will keep it fun and exciting for years to come.
*text from the publisher's web site