1-5 players, Cooperative, Story-Based, App-Driven
Designer: Nikki Valens
Artwork: Cristi Balanescu
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Overview of Gameplay
So right off the bat know that this game has an app that is integral to the game play. Now I know what you’re thinking, UGH an app invading my board game?! Wtf?! Well let’s put those fears aside for a moment and take a look at exactly what the app does for the game. The app houses all of the story elements and scenarios that you can play. It also takes care of all the enemy life totals and placement as well as allows you to easily keep track of story events. It really does make the game better since it takes over all the excess stuff that most people don’t want to deal with anyway and allows players to focus on the game play itself. Not only that but it allows you to play the game solo with the app controlling the enemies.
Now this doesn’t take away from the board play aspect. The game still has a ton of minis that you will place on the board tiles to show their positions as well as your player mini positions. The first scenario that you will probably play takes place in a *gasp! Mansion. So you have the entrance tile with all your character minis. The app will show you where certain objects in the room are located and you place those tokens in their respective places on the game tile. Then during your turn you click those icons in the app and it reveals some stories that can be read out loud as well as sometimes a little mini-game that will have you make your dice rolls to see if you succeed or fail depending on your certain characters abilities.
You continue to progress through the stories in a similar fashion until you either die or defeat the story, In which case you win or lose the game. Now this sounds kinda abrupt, losing a game after all we’ve been through? But trust me this game is more about the journey than the destination.
The board is broken into many different tiles that start out usually as a single tile and then as the game progress you add more and more tiles to create a much larger picture of the overall story going on around you. This is both equally awesome and time consuming. You see this makes setup really easy as you just toss down a single tile and place your minis on it and bam, good to go. However with each new door you open you will have to search through a plethora of double-sided tiles to find the correct one to place next. This does take you out of the game some-what. I recommend sorting the tiles out by size and putting them aside in their respective piles so you can easily find what you are looking for.
Other than the board tiles there are also a bunch of character miniatures all with different sculpts that are decently detailed. Oh and the monster minis! These are all unique and look great however they went a weird route with them and include these little square plastic bases that you are supposed to attach the monsters to. Not a fan of these personally. Unless you glue them, they most likely will not stay attached to the base and they are kinda ugly AND they take up SO much space on the board tiles. They did this because there are small tokens you slide into the base to denote the monsters strength which is handy….BUT the app takes care of all this…..soooooo yeah. Also no Fantasy Flight game would be complete without their miniature sized cards as well with this game being no exception. Bookoos of mini cards with all the spells, items, weapons and other things you can find/do that are all of a good card quality. There are also a bunch of cardboard tokens that you will place on the board tiles to denote items of interest or locals that you can explore.
The box and storage are abysmal for this game. I mean this is what Fantasy Flight does with every single game they pump out, they package them for shipping but leave no consideration for storage AFTER everything is punched out and played. The box is pretty deep so as long as you remove the shipping insert you will have no trouble fitting everything back in. HOWEVER you will need to supply some baggies to sort out and store all the different tokens and cards not to mention all the minis the game comes with. As it is you will end up just tossing all the miniatures into a big bag together with the monster bases popping off left and right leaving you to try and fish all those together when you bring the game back out to play later. And then of course all the board tiles sliding around in the box, I mean it’s just a terrible storage setup.
Visual Appeal /Theme
This game is heavy on the Cthulhu mythos so if you are interested in that then you will probably love this game. That said there are multiple different stories you can choose to play through each with its own unique theme and setting. The game for sure gives me a heavy vibe of being a detective trying to figure things out, exploring clues and trying to piece together the story.
Visually all the tiles look amazing with a bunch of different locals to explore and view. The artwork on the cards and tiles is excellent with some tiles looking so cool that I want to try and find those specific spots just to see what kind of story elements they hold. Very high marks for story theme and visuals here.
This game could perhaps be one of the easiest complex games to learn JUST because of the app integration. The app basically walks you through the setup from selecting your characters to what story you are playing to what items you start with. Since the app handles what monsters show up where and when you only really need to make sure to place their minis on the actual tiles. The one thing you will need to know though are how you can use items and how far you can move and other things like that. But the rules books do provide a great index to be able to quickly look up these details. That said I would still peruse the Learn to Play manual to get a good general idea of what is happening.
Player Interaction/Fun Factor
As the story continues it does get progressively more difficult as more monsters get added and new mythos events negatively affect your characters. As such it is imperative to work together with the other players if you hope to win. You will want to stay in constant communication and discuss what rooms to investigate as well as help each other out with monsters that attack. Of course there is a bit of a time crunch as well. Players don’t have as much time as they want to solve these stories and if you take too long exploring every nook and cranny, more than likely the game will become impossible to defeat.
The fun factor I have had with this game is super high. Every player always feels like they are contributing to the overall story in some way and that really brings out the best with what this game has to offer. You can find new items in rooms and trade them to other players that might need them more or horde them yourself…..which probably wouldn’t be a good idea if you are a team player and looking to win….UNLESS your character went insane and their mission has changed to sabotage the rest of the team.
Yes that is a thing. As far as damage goes in the game there are basically two lines of how it can be received. You can take wounds which will eventually cause you to be limping around slowing your movement by half. And you can take mental damage which will eventually cause you to draw an insanity card. These are pretty nifty in that there are a BUNCH of them and you never know what you are going to get. One time I got one called, “pyromaniac” in where I had to set tiles ablaze and If so many tiles were on fire by some point then I ALONE win the game. This is incredibly thematic especially for a Cthulhu game where insanity is so prevalent BUT it does drastically change the style of the game from a fully co-op to sometimes a 1 vs many or even a fully competitive style. Basically if your characters go insane, fully expect the game to devolve into chaos.
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
I think this game plays well across all player counts. I mean you are not going to get that same excitement of helping out your friends or one of them possibly losing their minds and doing who knows what, if you play solo. So I would recommend at least 3 players per game to keep it interesting. There is a bit of downtime as you pass around the tablet or phone so each player can manipulate whatever it is they need to do on their turn through the app. But overall it wasn’t all that terrible considering there is only so much a player can do on their turn. The longest bits are during the reading when a payer uncovers a rather lengthy story passage. But again the stories are interesting and I stayed engaged listening to the passages.
As far as replayability goes this game has it in spades. So for example you played through the first scenario and saw all that it had to offer. So not much reason to play through it again right? Wrong! First of all even with the base game, the app changes a few things in each scenario each time you play them. Things like tile placement and npc (non-player character) placement so you can’t just blaze through the same scenario the same way twice. If you add the expansions to the app, the app will automatically add those in as well. SO new tiles may be used and new monsters are mixed and matched throughout ALL scenarios. It really gives this game a TON of replay value.
Positive Final Thoughts
This is a favorite of mine. The stories are interesting and because of the App management it makes playing the game a breeze. It offers solo play and the way the app randomizes the setup and events in each game give it tons of replayability. Not only that but this game has been out for years now and Fantasy Flight is still supporting it with new expansions and stories to download (for a price of course). So coming in now you will have so much you can do it’s not even funny.
Negative Final Thoughts
The biggest negative by far I have with this game is the box and storage. It is just a mess no matter how you look at it and getting all this stuff out to setup is a chore JUST because of how unorganized everything is. Also the bases for the monsters are wonky and huge and I’m not a fan of those at all.
Beyond all that the game has a great many expansion packs out at this point that add even more scenarios, tiles, characters and monsters to the base game. WHICH also can affect base game scenarios which is really cool. I have a number of them and can say they each offer something new and unique to the base game BUT more isn’t always better. In this case I LOVE all the new stuff that is auto integrated into the older stories to breathe them new life. However at this point I have had to use an entire other box to store the torrential downpour of board game tiles I have collected. This is very problematic when it comes to trying to locate a particular tile when playing the game even when sorting them out by size.