Cthulhu Wars

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.

It’s a monstrously huge box full of monstrously huge figures. It’s Cthulhu Wars.

Sandy Petersen, well known for his venerable roleplaying game Call of Cthulhu, rose out of the primal oceans like Great Cthulhu himself last year with this huge game and an equally huge Kickstarter campaign to publish it. $1,403,981 flooded in and his dream to make a monstrously over-produced, incredibly expensive boardgame was on its way to becoming a reality.

Get past the truly excessive amounts of plastic and the sticker shock, and thankfully a very good game is waiting to enfold you in its tentacles. It’s eldritch ‘dudes on a map’, but a plethora of special abilities (‘spellbooks’) and a simple balancing act of gaining and expending power result in a satisfying strategic slugfest.

But the figures. Oh the figures. They’re beautifully sculpted and satisfyingly chunky, and as they begin to crowd the board to the point where you can hardly distinguish between the areas you’re fighting over, you can’t help but giggle insanely to yourself at the insanity of the plastic excess. Which is very appropriate for the theme, really. I do wish that the production values had extended to thicker card components, the rulebook is bordering on unreadable with its tiny reversed-out type, and the thick storage tray is great for storing the biggest, less-easily-damaged figures and completely abandons all the other figures to the crammed corners of the huge box, but these are minor quibbles explained away by the inexperience of the publisher. Just look at all that plastic and you’ll feel better. Look at all that plastic …

Oh, and if you still haven’t had enough plastic, there’s a tidal wave of expansions on the way.

This summary is dedicated to the wonderful Amy and Doug. Thankyou again for your extremely generous donations this month you two!

Unboxing video coming soon.


  • Void says:

    After playing this, I and my friends agree that this is a great game that desperately needs to be redone with less plastic so it can be priced to reach a larger audience (and so a bit more can go toward the cardboard components). As it stands, almost no one can afford to buy the base game, never mind the forthcoming expansions. With such a high price most will not be willing to buy it without playing it, which sets up a feedback loop of unavailability.

    Ironically, the very plastic figures that make the game so expensive make it hard to play, as the largest “miniatures” (If such an appellation can be applied to figurines larger than a persons hand in some cases) are so big that they actually interfere with play by taking up so much space that people cannot fit all their pieces into the locations on the board at times; we had to pull out Arkham Horror tokens toward the end of the game, relegating the admittedly brilliantly designed figures to the box. The game would greatly benefit from decreasing the size of all the pieces by 50% (yes, I do realize this will create a much bigger reduction for the larger pieces; they really do need to be this much smaller) and a concomitant price drop. The figures are beautiful but make much better statues than game pieces, especially if someone talented paints them. Unfortunately, Sandy Petersen himself has said that he has no problem with either the price or the size of the game pieces and has no plans to change either.

    Aside from the figures, the only other complaint to be found was with the randomness of the Elder Sign tokens. Nothing annoys a strategy gamer more than playing perfectly only to lose in the end because they drew large numbers of 1 point tokens while other players got lucky and drew a few 3 pointers. Unfortunately this randomness is non-optional, because several of the factions depend on large Elder Sign draws for a large chuck of their doom. While the concept of hidden victory points adds to the strategic depth of the game in theory, having them be random takes away from it in a very frustrating way.

    • You make some very good points Void, and I think I agree with all of them. While it’s certainly a lot of fun to slam a 20cm high ‘miniature’ down on the board, the disadvantages do outweigh the advantages. A happy medium could certainly have been found; if all the miniatures were scaled down and some of the larger ones were made smaller, the Great Old Ones would still have made a big visual impact when they came into play, and the cost of the game would come down considerably. Also, I can’t help thinking they would have saved a lot of expense if they’d made that ridiculously thick, tough plastic insert out of cheap thin plastic, and it would have protected the figures just as well.

      I agree with you about the Elder Signs mechanic too.

      I forked out a horrifying amount for the base game (I didn’t back the Kickstarter) and I’m not sure I’m keen to spend more on expansions. I think the game is a lot of fun though, and it will hit the table enough to eventually justify its cost for me. But it would reach a larger audience and have a better future if it was more affordable.

    • Paul Sousa says:

      Smaller minis is never the answer! They need to give us bigger maps! Always bigger!!! 🙂

  • razide says:

    One of the shops in Sydney now has CW $350AUD ! It is in an enormous box but hardly, I imagine an impulse buy.
    Gosh those figures look impressive.

  • CK Lai says:

    So Cthulhu Wars is back on Kickstarter… as is the base game for US$150.

    Worth it? What do you guys think of the gameplay overall?

    [Noted comments re: size of “mini”atures and random swinginess of chit draws (but hey, I bought and played Shadowrun : Crossfire, whose middle name is Random Swinginess).]

    • The miniatures are very good and the game is good, but I can’t see myself ever getting it to the table enough to justify buying all this extra stuff, especially after the premium I had to pay to get the base game (and now I feel like a bit of a chump, because I’d waited a bit – during which time we’ve played the game twice – I would have saved a packet).

      If it was a normal sized game with normal miniatures for a ‘normal’ price I would say yes, definitely, get it. Whether you want to pay the extra is whether you love the big miniatures or not. But then again, a lot of games are going for $150 these days, so perhaps it’s good value, relatively speaking.

      I would like the reprinted ritual and doom tracks, though they should have been on thicker card in the first place and it hurts to have to pay (shipping) for them …

      It’s a fun ‘dudes on a map’ game with special powers, basically.

      They’re certainly doing well out of this one game concept!

      • CK Lai says:

        Thanks for the overview, UH. I think I’ll pass. Overdose of KS this year, plus the high sticker price (even though it’s “cheap” by Cthulhu War’s own standards).

        Plus it’s one of those multiplayer adversarial games. Harder for me to find players for games like that nowadays.

        Phew! Just “saved” $150 and whatever the $$$hipping would’ve cost. 😀

  • CK Lai says:

    It is, actually… But I bought Imperial Assault and Age of Conan this month, so… have to wait till end of next month. If it’s still available then.

  • Void2258 says:

    Any chance of getting an updated reference including the revisions and the expansions?

    • There seem to be a lot of expansions for this game so I’m not really keen on summarising them all – especially since I have no current plans to get any expansions myself. If there are revisions to the basic rules I’ll incorporate those, but I just downloaded the errata and it just seems to be some changes to the faction cards and spellbooks. Anything else?

What do you think?