1-4 players, Competitive, Cult Devouring Action Selection
Designer: Christopher Kirkman, Richard Launius, Darrell Louder
Artwork: Lucas Durham, Chad Hoverter, Christopher Kirkman, Darrell Louder
Publisher: Greater Than Games
Release Year: 2017
Starting off my October Spooky Review month is Fate of the Elder Gods, a game where you will be attempting to summon into the world an Eldritch Elder God. I’ve always been a big fan of the whole Cultist Eldritch style horror theme in games so Fate of the Elder Gods was a no brainer purchase on my end. Especially since in this game you actually play as the cultists trying to summon in one of the many different Elder Gods. So, naturally I went a bit wild with excitement when I set this game up to play seeing all the different varieties of Elder Gods you can choose to summon.
Overview of Gameplay
Fate of the Elder Gods has players going through four phases in a round before moving to the next player to take their four phases. These phases are: Prepare, Move, Activate and Conclude. Preparing is as simple as unexhausting any artifact cards you might have used the previous round. Moving is a little more complicated however. You see the game has these “Astral Symbol” cards that depict a total of six different emblems, one for each card. Each symbol also corresponds to a particular location on the board. During the movement phase you will play the astral symbol card of the location you want to move to. This card will be placed at your current location along the outside edge of the board and then you will move the nifty Cthulhu Miniature (Fate Piece) to the new location. Now, IF there are 3 or more Investigator minis at that new location you will collect all of them and place them on your player sheet (your Lodge). Regardless, then proceed to place 1 investigator mini from the supply and one of your cultist minis from your lodge on the location. This way each location is always gaining more investigators and cultists with each new player turn.
Next is the Activation Phase. During this phase you will complete the action of the location you moved to AND if you have control of the location by having at least three cultists there and more than any other cult you can do a special bonus action. You can also gain temporary control by rolling a single die when you move to the location, if you roll the Cthulhu face then you gain temp control! As I mentioned above there are six different locations on the board, let’s go over those now. Streets of Arkham – Here you manipulate the investigators, placing new ones on the board by removing them from your player sheet or from the supply. Then you can initiate a RAID on all the other players by causing them to roll a dice for each Investigator they have on their player sheet. This is the quickest and most sure-fire way to delay/prevent them from winning the game.
Next up is the Gathering location. Here you can return three of your cultists from the Abyss (middle of the board) back to your Lodge (Player sheet). You see as you place more and more cultists out on the board you will eventually run out and if that ever happens you gain an elder sign token…….which is what the investigators add to your player sheet as well. If a player ever fills up their sheet with these, it’s game over. Oh, but that’s not all! You may also move one of your cultists from the Gathering location to any other location and if you have control you can move ANY number of cultists. This is a great way to load up cultists on the OTHER WORLDS location, which I’ll explain now.
In the Other Worlds you will be rolling one die for each cultist you have at that location. For each tentacle or Cthulhu you roll you will sacrifice one cultist to the abyss and also advance 1 space on your Summon Track. Now if you ever complete a full revolution of your summon track you win the game! If you have control of this location you can return cultists from the abyss for each Cthulhu you roll during this action.
Next is the Library. This location allows you to draw three new Astral Spell cards to give you more options of where you can move during your turn AND also give you more Spell options of things to cast……..ominous. You can also ready 1 additional spell this turn, so two instead of one. If you have control you can sacrifice one of your cultists from the library location to ready a spell at no cost.
The Museum location allows you to take either one face-up artifact card or draw one from the deck. These are powerful cards that really enhance the game play in different ways. If you have control you may also discard and replace the artifact display before you choose AND sacrifice up to three of your cultists from that location to remove elder sign tokens. This is a great way to get rid of those pesky elder signs that other players may have been slapping on your player sheet.
And finally we come to The Ceremony location. Here you will gain a single Gate Card, which acts as a wild card for any symbol/location, and you can activate your unique elder gods’ special power on your player sheet. These powers are different for each elder god and usually pretty strong so use them wisely. If you have control, you can sacrifice two cultists from that location to advance one space on your summoning track.
Once you have taken your Activate action you will move into the Conclude portion of the round. During this phase you can ready a spell if possible, draw one spell card from the deck and then you have to perform a Raid on your own lodge if you have five or more investigators on your player sheet. Let’s discuss those ominous spell cards for a moment. I mentioned how you use these cards to move to different locations based on the Astral Symbol on the back BUT you can also ready them during this phase to use as powerful spell abilities at any time. There are a TON of different abilities that can be utilized that range from helping yourself to hindering others in different ways but the only way you can ready a spell is IF your location has the matching Astral Symbols, and this is where the game get’s a bit thinky.
When you play a card for movement you are laying these cards out in a row next to your location, over time this will create a rather lengthy row of different Astral Symbol cards. Now, each spell card has a specific batch of astral symbols on the reverse side with whatever the spell does. In order to ready a spell, your location just needs to have the corresponding symbols of the spell you are wanting to ready. As a bonus, when you ready a spell this makes it easier to ready future spells as you can then use the locations Symbols AND any that you have readied. Once a spell is readied, you can flip it anytime to use the corresponding ability and then discard it, thereby losing that Astral Symbol. Of course you can only have a max of three readied spell cards so you cannot get super over powered either.
The components are out of this world excellent. The cards all have a very nice linen finish, the miniatures are detailed and the cardboard tokens………ohhhh those tokens. I only have about three games where I have seen the fabled “Black Core” cardboard tokens and this one of those games. Once you experience enough different board games you start to notice the difference in quality between the cardboard aspects especially. This game is top of the line when it comes to the cardboard components. Now, I don’t know much about “Black Core” cardboard but I can tell you it is extremely durable and has a weight to it that exudes this premium feel. If you are familiar with it, the most recent Brass: Birmingham game has the same kind of premium cardboard components.
The Dice are all custom with embedded designs for each side, look and feel great. There are even some seriously nice tarot sized player reference cards for each player. I mean all around excellent quality here. The game board is no slouch in the quality department either as a matter of fact. It has a unique shape, almost hexagonal but folds up perfectly to fit in the box and not only that, but it has bits of the spot UV treatment to makes some spots pop on the board. I mean I could not be happier with the production of this game.
Likewise, the box has a nice plastic insert that holds everything secure-ish. There is a tiny bit of gap between the box lid and the board which sits on top of the cards so if you store the game on its side, you might get a bit of card spillage. Nothing too severe in my experience but worth noting. The box is a pretty standard size to match most other board games and will easily fit in a standard Kallax shelf.
Visual Appeal /Theme
The visuals are hit and miss. On one hand, I absolutely love the board art and all the artwork done on the artifact cards and everywhere else in the game. On the other, the colors they used for the miniatures are a bit…..off. This is a game that doesn’t really strike me as an overly VIBRANT colored game and yet the cultist minis are separated into purple, yellow, green and red. These colors are VERY stark when sat upon the board and I’m so torn on this. I like how I can very easily find and see my particular minis from everyone else’s but at the same time it really pulls me out of the dark ominous theme of being a cultist trying to summon an elder god. On the flip side the two Cthulhu Fate piece minis that you move around the board are so muted that you can’t hardly tell them apart between the dark gray and dark green colors. Of course you won’t have to worry about using both of these unless you play the 2-player or solo game.
As far as the theme goes, I think they did a great job really pulling the player into the game. The board looks like a giant cauldron that you are summoning over, placing astral symbols on each edge getting more and more powerful as the game goes on ready for your elder god to jump forth from the world beyond.
I’ve read a few different opinions on the rulebook but to be honest I really enjoy it! I love the format and the way the information is setup in it and really didn’t have any questions after reading through it. There was one issue where the rules contradicted something on the player reference cards which I had to look up to confirm but other than that it was helpful all the way through. Lot’s of picture examples and a very nice two page spread of the board setup and even a full picture component list at the very beginning. All in all, very well done!
Player Interaction/Fun Factor
The player interaction is decent in this one. There are opportunities to slap your opponent with a curse card or elder sign or load them up with investigators all in an effort to hinder them. Not only that but players will assuredly utilize astral symbol cards that others have placed, now players keep these cards secret from one another so you really never know what spells another may have. Still, this is an interesting game play mechanic that, even though players are working against one another, they are still helping each other out in a way.
All of this rolls into a really fun time! I only wish there were more locations that could be acted upon. As it is the six basic location actions only go so far in keeping me entertained. I would love an expansion that added another batch of locations to further deepen this intriguing game. That said, the six locations do create an fun game regardless, especially for first time players just trying to get a grip on the actions.
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
So, the game has a 2-player and solo mode with their own respective pages in the rulebook explaining how to play them this way and the 2 player game does actually work really well with using the other Fate Piece to lock out locations. What’s more is that the game FEELS like it was designed with 3-4 players in mind and the 1 and 2 player were added on, BUT, if that’s the case the 2 player mode is excellent and plays perfectly fine. Personally, I would play this with 3 or 4 as my preferred player count but 2 players works in a pinch.
The solo game is setup like the two player game where you use both of the fate pieces but you also control each of them, one for yourself and the other acting as a piece for the Investigators. It’s a pretty easy to understand method for controlling them in which they are ultimately trying to seal your elder god away by loading you up with investigators, which load you up with elder signs. In addition, if they ever move into your location you draw a curse card and if you ever get five of these you also lose. It’s a fun way to play BUT there is A LOT of chance here because the movement of the investigators is entirely dependent on the astral symbol card that is drawn on their turn to determine where they go. Because of that you never really feel like you have any control over the game, you just need to win as fast as possible and HOPE they don’t hit certain cards.
The replayability is so-so. You do have a rather large variety of elder gods to play as (eight) each with its own distinctive ability AND the very large variety of spell and artifact cards are always changing things up. BUT, the game seriously bottlenecks at the six locations on the board. No matter how many variables you add I always find myself wishing for more board excitement. More ways to utilize my elder god and more ways to manipulate the board state. But, each game has the same six location actions which only go so far. There is an expansion (which I also have) that adds some monsters into the mix and a few more elder gods, but again, I still find myself bottlenecking at the same old location actions.
Positive Final Thoughts
A beautiful board game hands down. The table presence this game puts off is incredible once you start playing. Cultists everywhere and spell cards all over the place. The artwork is excellent all around and the rulebook is very well done. The components are all extremely good quality as well. The gameplay is intriguing and thought provoking…………
Negative Final Thoughts
………BUT bottlenecks at the six location actions you can take on your turn. I wish there were more locations with more options. The game plays fine at 2 players but feels more like a 3-4 player game.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, this is a good game that has the potential to be GREAT if it had more locations to choose from. Of course, this would probably have to be accompanied by an increase in player count as well….WHICH WOULD BE AMAZING. Please, release a 5-6 player expansion with more locations, that would push this game into gold territory for me.
The Fuzzy Llama Silver Seal of Distinction