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Lovecraftian Board and Card Games
The success of the “Call of Cthulhu” role-playing game likely contributed to the appearance of Lovecraftian board and card games. While there are countless games that include Lovecraft elements, the following list only includes those games that are specifically Lovecraft-themed. BoardGameGeek has several “GeekLists” devoted to Lovecraftian games including “The world of H. P. Lovecraft or Cthulhu loathes you”, “The Mythos: A Geeklist that would make Lovecraft proud”, and “The Ultimate Mythos-Themed Games GeekList”. (Note that links on game names lead to BoardGameGeek.)
Arkham Horror (Chaosium, 1987)
This game pits players, co-operatively, against a flood of monsters that are spilling through “gates” onto the streets of Arkham. Players must close the gates before too many are open and the Old Ones break through. An interesting bit of trivia is that several of the buildings shown on the mapboard (artwork by Steve Purcell) are based on actual buildings in Essex County, Massachusetts. The buildings (and their real-world origins) include City Hall (Custom House, Salem), Historical Society (Old Town House, Marblehead), Hospital (Jeremiah Lee Mansion, Marblehead), Newspaper (East India Marine Hall, Salem), and Silver Twilight Lodge (Pickering House, Salem).
Arkham Horror (Fantasy Flight Games, 2005)
Not just a reprint of the earlier Chaosium game, but a complete re-design. The concept of the original game remains, but every component has been updated and new elements of gameplay have been added, which has lead to greater complexity. Numerous expansions have been released for the game. (Purchase from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, or Half.com.)
Call of Cthulhu: Collectible Card Game (Fantasy Flight Games, 2004)
More straightforward than Chaosium’s “Mythos”, this game is much more likely to draw in new players. The card art is also much more attractive, but the simpler mechanisms give the game a somewhat mechanical feel and detract a bit from the atmosphere.
Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game (Fantasy Flight Games, 2008)
A non-collectible version of the above game. (Purchase from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, or Half.com.)
Chez Cthulhu (Steve Jackson Games, 2010)
Players are roommates trying to get “Slack” by inviting over friends (“Deep Juan”), shopping for things (the Economicon), and taking part in activities (watching CSI Arkham). A spin-off of Chez Geek that adds player madness to the mix. (Purchase from Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.)
Creatures & Cultists (Pagan Publishing, 1992)
Once players have killed enough of their opponent’s cultists, they can attempt to summon their cult’s deity to win. A silly card game with fiddly rules that first appeared in The Unspeakable Oath.
Cthulhu 500 (Atlas Games, 2004)
A humorous mix of stock car racing and Lovecraftian horror. Players select a car and play cards to perform actions or to add crew and modifications to their cars. The mechanisms at the heart of this game are very clever, though the passing and damage rules are a bit clumsy. (Purchase from Amazon.com.)
Cthulhu Dice (Steve Jackson Games, 2010)
This game consists of one 12-sided die (showing Cthulhu, an Elder sign, an Eye of Horus, Yellow Signs, and tentacles) and 18 glass stones (for “Sanity”). Players roll the die and lose or gain tokens; the last player with tokens remaining wins. (Purchase from Amazon.com.)
Cthulhu Gloom (Atlas Games, 2011)
Players control Lovecraftian “families”, trying to make them as miserable as possible before killing them off. The game features transparent cards, which allow modifiers on different cards to augment, replace, or cancel each other. (Purchase from Amazon.com.)
Cthulhu Mash (Evil Polish Brothers, 2003)
A random tile “monster generating” game that can be played solitaire, multiplayer, or cooperatively. Several reviewers have commented that the game feels like a board game version of a video game, with players killing monsters and collecting “Power-Ups”.
Cthulhu Rising (Twilight Creations, 2008)
An abstract game in which two players attempt to complete and score columns and rows of tiles. If it weren’t for the rules and box copy, one would never know that the players represent cultists attempting to raise Cthulhu and a group of investigators attempting to stop this. (Purchase from Amazon.com.)
Cults Across America (Atlas Games, 1998)
Essentially a light point-to-point movement wargame with a humorously Lovecraftian theme. Each player controls a cult attempting to win by either collecting sufficient Victory Points, controlling a string of adjacent cities from coast to coast, controlling the greatest number of City Points, or being the last surviving player, depending upon the scenario. (Purchase from Amazon.com.)
Dark Cults (Dark House, 1983)
A card game for two players who play the roles of Life and Death. One attempts to keep the protagonist alive while the other tries to kill him off, but this is more a story-telling experience than a game. The beautiful black-and-white illustrations on the cards (by “Eymoth”) are enough to make this game worth purchasing.
Do You Worship Cthulhu? (Toy Vault, 2006)
A Lovecraftian re-theme of the public domain party game commonly known as Mafia or Werewolf. Players play villagers in an attempt to root out the Cthulhu worshipers; optional roles include seers, protectors, and vigilantes. (Purchase from Amazon.com.)
Elder Sign (Fantasy Flight Games, 2011)
Players co-operate to solve adventures using dice and cards, trying to collect enough elder signs to seal away an Ancient One before it devours them. Thematically similar to Arkham Horror, this game is lighter and yet more strategic. (Purchase from Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.)
The Hills Rise Wild! (Pagan Publishing, 2000)
A miniatures game in which players play one of four factions vying for control of the Necronomicon so they can summon their god and win. The board consists of sixteen 6"-square tiles and the “miniatures” are cardstock figures that are folded so they stand.
Innsmouth Escape (Twilight Creations, 2008)
A one-versus-many game in which one player attempts to rescue a number of captives and escape from Innsmouth, while the other players (one to four) play Deep Ones trying to capture him. Despite being set in Innsmouth, the game board shows a blurry map of Providence. (Purchase from Amazon.com.)
Mansions of Madness (Fantasy Flight Games, 2011)
While Arkham Horror takes place throughout the entire town of Arkham, Mansions of Madness zeroes in on a single location. There, one to four investigators search for clues to uncover and thwart the plot of the keeper. (Purchase from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, or Half.com.)
Munchkin Cthulhu (Steve Jackson Games, 2007)
Steve Jackson Games’ line of “Munchkin” games has spawned over a dozen spin-offs and expansions, and the Cthulhu Mythos was not spared. Players assume the roles of investigators, professors, cultists, and “monster whackers” taking on such creatures as H.P. Munchcraft, Nightie-Gaunts, and Shrub-Niggurath. (Purchase from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, or Half.com.)
Mythos (Chaosium, 1996)
Chaosium’s foray into the collectible card game arena, this atmospheric game began with a “Starter Deck” and then added five expansions: “Expeditions of Miskatonic University,” “Cthulhu Rising,” “Legends of the Necronomicon,” “The Dreamlands,” and “New Aeon.” In addition, a non-collectible “Standard Game Set” was created. The “New Aeon” deck includes “The Internet” card which features the 1997 version of The H.P. Lovecraft Archive.
The Stars Are Right (Steve Jackson Games, 2008)
An abstract tile-matching puzzle game with artwork by cartoonist François “Goomi” Launet. Playing minor creatures increases your ability to push, swap, or flip tiles so you can manipulate the constellations and then play more powerful monsters.
Tekeli-li (Japon Brand, 2005)
A trick-taking game in which players avoid taking tricks. The cards include the Necronomicon, Azathoth, Byakhee, Cthugha, Cthulhu, Deep One, Fire Vampire, Hastur, and Nyarlathotep. Every 100 points in cards earns a player an unnamable marker, and the player with the least markers at the end of the game wins (the remaining players are “frighteningly havocked”).
Unspeakable Words (Playroom Entertainment, 2007)
Players score points by creating words from letter cards that feature illustrations of Lovecraftian monsters. The more points a word scores, the greater the chance of failing a “Sanity Check”; fail five times and a player loses the game, while the first to 100 points wins. (Purchase from Amazon.com.)
When Darkness Comes: The Nameless Mist (Twilight Creations, 2005)
When Darkness Comes is a tile-based role-playing board game which can be played co-operatively or with a gamemaster. The Nameless Mist is a Lovecraft-themed expansion that requires the base game and is set on the campus of Miskatonic University in Arkham. (Purchase from Amazon.com.)
Witch of Salem (Mayfair Games, 2008)
A co-operative game that is themed after Lovecraft by way of Wolfgang Hohlbein’s series of Cthulhu Mythos books. To some extent, this is a light version of Arkham Horror with players moving around the town of Arkham, defeating creatures, attempting to close portals, and ultimately banning a Great Old One. However, Witch of Salem is more a strategy game than a thematic one like Arkham Horror. (Purchase from Amazon.com.)
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Page Last Revised 16 September 2012
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