|Call of Cthulhu LCG | Published 25 February 2010|
Tessie sat blowing smoke up to the ceiling and tinkling the ice in her tumbler.
"Do you know, Kid, that I also had a dream last night?" I observed. I sometimes called her "the Kid."
"Not about that man," she laughed.
"Exactly. A dream similar to yours, only much worse."
- Robert W. Chambers, The Yellow Sign
It's safe to say that Hasturs' reputation has been repaired; What once was regarded as a mere support faction has grown into a versatile beast, able to take the offense as well as the defense. Today we'll move the Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game spotlight to a card that is comparatively weak, narrow and ridden with little drawbacks. But for good reason: It does something Hastur decks aren't usually allowed to do.
Those marked by the Yellow Sign are expected to deal with insanity; Hasturs' power grows with the number of people gripped with insanity. There is one rule: Only sensitive individuals can be influenced by the mind control of the Tattered King. Those sound of mind and strong of will are not that easy to fall. And thus, to wither away Willpower, players where forced to look at other factions. This has been a conscious decision, even though Insanity is an important part of Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game. Factions are defined by their strengths, but even more by their weaknesses.
When making a deck, you are offered a choice: Focus your strategy, by exploiting all the power of one faction (making sure that your resourcing is consistent), or dabble with multiple factions so you can fix the chinks in your strategy, at the cost of slightly more trouble building your domains. Fortunately, the resource system also allows you to use a few narrow cards to deal with specific problems – In case your match-up doesn't need a particular card, you can always resource it.
There have been ways of mono-Hastur to deal with willpower, although they're few and far between. There are some conspiracy cards that fit the bill: The Bootleg Whiskey Cover-Up (Core Set, F155) does an admirable job, but requires a voluntary action from your opponent. The Underwater Conspiracy (The Spawn of the Sleeper, F20) also bypasses willpower, but requires you to race against those very Willpower characters you seek to defeat, all the while they will have more access to Investigation icons. Should you win this uphill battle it will also mean you'll send some of your own off to the funny farm.
Another way Hastur interacts with insanity is by attacking the player himself. Several Hastur cards are geared towards attacking the 'mind' of a player by forcing him to discard cards from his hand, until he is too 'mindless' to interact with what is happening on the table. Where Toughness is an ability that comes in degrees, Willpower is just on or off – But this is where the power of Hastur combines into creating gradients in the amount of sanity your characters have left.
Keeper of Dreams (Journey to Unknown Kadath, F109) offers a cruel choice: Someone is going to lose a piece of their will... but is it the player, or a character? How far are you willing to go? Would you discard a card at random to keep your characters from falling into madness? Part of the Keepers' weakness is that it indeed does offer a choice, at least as long as you have cards to discard. Byakhee Attack (Core Set, F95) and other discard effects make the will needed to choose dwindle very fast. On the other hand, Miskatonic is skilled at healing insanity and the research ability of cards like Obsessive Insomniac (In Memory of Day, F24) creates a buffer of story elements to keep your characters' faculties from failing. Hand management is everything.
This is the mirror universe of the Dreamlands: Hastur now actually gets a little power from willpower, if your opponent wills it. Yes, you have to keep some drawbacks in mind: Without willpower on the table it's 'just' a unique, villainous character with that also happens to be a Creature Monster: Richard Finchington III (Ancient Horrors, F7) and other Ancient Horrors characters will have a field day. But when great minds commit themselves to stories, it's either losing a random card, or seeing The Greatest Fear come true.
Special thanks to Marius Hartland, who provided this week’s Call of Cthulhu spotlight.
Based on the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and his literary circle, Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game takes two players deep into the Cthulhu Mythos where investigators clash with the Ancient Ones and Elder Gods for the fate of the world. The Living Card Game™ format allows players to customize their gaming experience with monthly Asylum Pack expansions to the core game.
Another great write-up Marius! These cards just keep getting better.