Here at PHD, we receive a lot of preview games well in advance of their release. You can imagine that it’s like sending candy to a school. As soon as it arrives, it is a feeding frenzy to see who can get their hands on it first.
Tasty Minstrel Games (TMG) sent us a couple of goodies and it was my greedy hands that got on them first. Now a brainwave hit me (I’m known to have one every decade or so and it seems it was time for another). I’d write a review about the game, writing about my first thoughts and reactions as I opened it.
This article will therefore be about the first one I pulled out of the goody box. Darwin Kastle’s Cthulhu Realms is a small colorful box with ‘Scooby-Doo’ style cartoon art by Rob Lundy. Now I grew up on Scooby-Doo and it was one of my favorite childhood shows, therefore I can say it instantly appealed to me. Couple that with my passion for all-things-Cthulhu and I was eager to explore more.
My thoughts as I read the back of the box…
- It’s a card game. I like card games. All the gamers that have survived my copious Star Realms demos will attest to my enthusiasm for card games. WIN
- It’s a deck building game. WIN number two, as the fore mentioned Star Realms is one of my top five favorite games currently. The love affair with Star Realms and Cthulhu Realms wasn’t about to stop there, but I’ll get to that later.
I liked the outside box art. There is no confusion about what this game is about and the fun game contained inside. The box size is small, the weight was heavy and it didn’t rattle. To me it indicated it was packed full of ‘stuff’. All of these things would certainly appeal to customers browsing in a store.
My eye now catches a name on the Game Development list. Rob Dougherty! Rob, along with Darwin, are the people that brought us Star Realms and both are former Magic ProTour Players. This game has two serious heavy weights credited for successful deck building games. All great signs.
- 1 x Rules sheet
- 4 x Player Mats
- 4 x Sanity Markers
- 10 x Initiate cards
- 24 x Follower cards
- 8 x Goon cards
- 66 x General cards
Holding this in my hands, I immediately get the impression of great value. Too many times I open a larger box and find just air and few components which triggers a negative feeling of disappointment. This certainly doesn’t do that.
The Rules Sheet was neatly folded which enabled me to read the rules in the appropriate order. All the rules and explanations were clearly laid out, allowing me to quickly grasp how to play the game.
Now for the big reveal! Even though this game is from TMG it IS Star Realms just tweaked for Cthulhu. It even says that in the title – Cthulhu Realms. Having read the rules just once, it became obvious to me it plays identically to Star Realms, just changing bases with locations and adding a bunch of effects that are appropriate for Cthulhu.
The majority of the rules sheet is given over to explanations of the fore-mentioned effects. These appear as symbols on the Follower, Initiate, Goon and General cards and are the mainstay of how to gain or lose sanity and ultimately win the game.
Something I really loved in the rules is the rules for a 3 and 4 player variation. It requires no additional purchases, unlike Star Realms, and uses the contents of one box. This increases the replay possibilities as the 3 and 4 player games are laid out and played differently.
The Player mats are functional, full-color single-sided card stock. Most of the mat is just a Sanity point tracker running from 1 to 55. Then something struck me. They refer to these as ‘mats’, yet they are made of card-stock, therefore they’re really Player cards. I’m sure this was to separate their reference terms and create less confusion as you learn the game.
Overall, I thought them a little on the small side for me. Since the Player mats (cards) have a semi-gloss finish, the sanity tokens (see below). can easily shift. This makes it all too easy for players to loose track of where the marker was. But this is a small thing. On the plus side, all Action choices are clearly laid out on the right of the player mat (card). This ensures minimal need to reference the rules as you learn the game.
All four players have their own set of cardboard, color coded, single-sided, punch-out counters. These are the same size and shape as the depictions on the Player mat Sanity tracker. Of note, is the additional marker to continue after a player reaches 55 sanity. Simply collect your color 55+ marker and start all over again.
All of the cards are full-color, great looking and about the right weight. There is a linen texture to the cards that make handling them super easy. I shuffled them a few times and it’s crazy smooth, though I’d clear sleeve them all to ensure minimal wear and tear. I can easily see Cthulhu Realms branded card sleeves being good for this game.
The art is a continuation of the box style and that’s appropriate for such a fun game. Symbols on the cards are super clear even from the opposite side of my desk. I checked. The cards are great from my perspective.
Overall I think this is a little gem of a game. For the price, it falls into my ‘must have’ category. A game that can easily travel with me, plays in under 30 minutes with up to 4 players and something I can play before, between or after other things. Overall a solid A from me.
Release: September 2015