Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tentacle Tuesdays

Lovecraftian Gaming
If there is one thing I love as much as lovecraftian literature, it's sitting down with a great group of friends to play board games. Now I am not the Monopoly or Checkers sorta guy (though I do love a good game of Scrabble). I am more into eurogames and odd adventure games that have only recently started to make an appearance in mainstream gaming.
Instead of just featuring an article on random games I enjoy (which range from Carcassonne to Memoir '44), I thought I would make this a Tentacle Tuesday piece and focus solely on one of my favorite subjects in the gaming world. Lovecraft.
So here are some great games of eldritch horror, in no particular order, for you to enjoy. If you are into gaming, or just interdimensional terror, check them out. But do so at the risk of your own sanity (mostly because these things are bloody addicting).
List after the jump
Arkham Horror
The quintessential Lovecraft game. This game takes a while to learn, but its exciting cooperative gameplay is an absolute blast. I have played 4-5 hour games, ultimately lose and still have a great time. Team up with fellow denizens of Lovecraft's fiction, battling monsters and working to close the gates to other dimensions, thwarting the evil plans of a randomly drawn Old One. This is not only one of the best Lovecraft games out there, it is quite possibly my favorite adventure of all time.
For fans of this well established game and its many expansions, check out the new Mansions of Madness! A more close quarter game taking place within one of the locations of Arkham.

A fairly recent discovery for me, Cthulhu Gloom is a newly formatted version of Atlas Games' Gloom card game. The unique feature of this game is that it is a fast paced adventure in which you take on the role of citizen in one of HPL's strange towns. But unlike most games, the goal isn't to try to survive and protect your sanity. It's actually the exact opposite. The first player to go completely mad and meet their untimely demise wins. The trick is doing everything you can to heal and help your competition slowing them from meeting their maker. A strange and humorously nihilistic game, Cthulhu Gloom is great fun, especially on those dark stormy nights with good friends.

And speaking of friends...who needs'em. It's crafty cheating and heartless backstabbing with Munchkin Cthulhu! Munchkin is a series of card games from Steve Jackson Games that parody the cliches of pen and paper roleplaying games of old. The games has been stripped down to its core elements, forget story-telling, it's all about grabbing as much treasure as you can while you kill monsters and level up. Munchkin Cthulhu takes that premise and applies it to the world of Lovecraft with a hilarious sense of humor. Fun for all groups, the inside jokes will have all those HPL fans in your group cracking up. Best of all is that with the right sets, any of the worlds of the Munchkin games can be added together with hilarious results (trust me, a transgender dwarf fighting off an Old One made entirely out of grapes is nothing short of a riot).

Cthulhu 500
This is one of the strangest games I have ever played. The theme is beyond odd, and the gameplay is even more awkward. I am however going to recommend this clunky card game (somewhat hesitantly), merely on its merits as a bizarre mashup of NASCAR and the Cthulhu Mythos. While the mechanics could have certainly used some reworking, this game isn't all that bad (and I have played many poorly designed games...Zombies!!!! anyone?). The goal of this game is rather simple. Win a stock car race. It's everything else about it that gets weird. Though I will admit I might actually watch a race if some tentacle-faced beast showed up to thwart the drivers.

Call of Cthulhu
This doesn't really count as a board game, no more than D&D does, but it is a Lovecraft game that has been around for longer than I have. It is simply a pen and paper roleplaying game set in the world of Lovecraft's fiction. The gameplay is really whatever you chose to make it. For fans of traditional rpg's needing a break from Tolkienesque fantasy worlds, it is a lot of fun. If you can get your hands on any of the source materials anymore.

Elder Sign
This game hasn't actually come out yet, and so is more of an honorable mention and something to look out for. From the makers of Arkham Horror comes a new, faster paced adventure game. Players once again don the role of investigators using the clues and mystic artifacts left behind in Arkham to stop the impending threat of an awakening Old One. Relying more on card and dice play, Elder Sign seems like a fun new take on a similar design. And at least the board won't take up half of your living room.

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