Cthulhu Wars, review

David brought over the colossal box that is Cthulhu Wars, so I finally got to try it.

Early game, the King in Yellow spreading the good word
First things first, the miniatures really are all that. They’re genuinely fantastic, interesting, well made, and huge. See the photo above? the little human guys with books are the size of your average miniature. There’s not even in any elder gods in that photo, the big things are just regular monsters.

Second things second, this is not a generic miniature cash-in, which I was rather worried about that from seeing photos. The game does involve area control and there is dice based combat, but the game plays much more about power building and give-and-go of gate control vs “throw all your people into all his people and whoever rolls better wins”.

Tactical view. Nyarlothotep (blue) off to a great start
Let me expound more on that cause it’s pretty key to whether you’ll like this game or not. Every faction has very different units with very different powers, but they all share the same winning condition which is “Control gates and keep your old ones alive, then spend power points to double each turn’s winnings”. The differences are in how the factions go about keeping their gates controlled, monsters resummoned, and power points growing, and the differences are significant enough to keep the game interesting. Each faction starts with a bunch of cultists, one gate, and one power. Throughout the game you will achieve conditions that will unlock new powers, sort of like victory points in Twilight Imperium, or (as the manual says) Xbox achievements.

The powers tend to be pretty interesting and there’s actual strategy to what order you need to come out. For example, I played Hastur. My special ability is as a faction I can desecrate areas which will then give me power points as long as I keep a unit there (units from multiple factions can coĆ«xist without fighting). One of the early power I chose was whenever I lost a cultist, I gain a power point. It’s a faction that doesn’t gain much from fighting and is actually kind of powered by avoiding conflict. Some other examples were Nyarlothotep moving twice as fast as anyone else, Cthulhu being able to resurrect for bargain prices, and Shub-Niggurath bypassing the 1 summon per action limit.

So the game isn’t much Cthulhu Risk as much as it’s a weird asymmetric Nexus Ops (or a very minimalist Twilight Imperium if you’re not familiar with Nexus Ops). There wasn’t much combat in our game, actually. Maybe 3 or so actual fights total (4 players), and a few more cultists getting kidnapped and sacrificed, which happens without die rolls.

It also plays pretty quick: we finished under 2 hours and that was with mostly new players.

Let’s be honest, the real reason why any of us played this game. Look at those things.
Keeping it real, there’s really one reason you’re going to play this game: the giant honking minis. And that in itself is enough to check it out, I’m just letting you know that they managed to make a pretty good area-control game underneath all that, once you actually get those giant things on the board.