News for October 2013
Deeper into the Dreamlands
Exploring Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game Beyond the Core Set
Call of Cthulhu LCG | Published 30 October 2013

“In what outrageous form or forms terror would next reveal itself, Carter could by no means imagine. He felt that his visit had been expected, and wondered how close a watch had all along been kept upon him by the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep.”
   
–H.P. Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath

Tomorrow is Halloween, and if you’re looking to celebrate the evening with a thematic game, you would do well to consider one of our Arkham-themed games: Arkham Horror, Elder Sign, Elder Sign: Omens, Mansions of Madness, or Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game.

Yesterday, we provided an overview of Call of Cthulhu. One of our longest-running Living Card Games®, Call of Cthulhu nicely balances the rich and evocative nature of its themes with mechanics that reward strategic play and (especially) innovative deck-building.

However, if you’re not a veteran deck-builder – or even if you are – you may find yourself overwhelmed by the array of existing expansions as you look to delve into the game deeper than the Core Set. Accordingly, today’s article is meant to guide you through the process of expanding your Call of Cthulhu collection.

Additionally, we’ll look at how Matt Lippay built his playgroup in Portland, OR from scratch and transformed it into one of the nation’s largest and most vibrant Call of Cthulhu communities.

Pushing Past the Core Set

At the time of this article, Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game already boasts a deep and dynamic card pool. Five deluxe expansions and forty-two Asylum Packs permit newcomers to explore an astonishing array of themes, mechanics, and strategies.

  • You can slither along with the Serpents and Cultists devoted to Yig, the Father of Serpents (Screams from Within, 85).
  • You can explore dark Rituals and use magical weapons to ensure that the Order of the Silver Twilight remains shrouded in secrecy as it works to insinuate itself more fully in positions of power and influence across the globe.
  • You can participate in the great Interstellar Migration (The Key and the Gate, 37) across space and time with other Yithians.
  • Or you can study dark Tomes in the deepest of Miskatonic University’s archives, looking for ways to safeguard the world from extradimensional terrors…

The possibilities within the game are almost as staggering as the fictional world that drives it, so where do you begin?

To answer that question, it’s best to understand yourself as a player and your interest in the game.

The Call of Cthulhu community has historically been a friendly, welcoming, and helpful group. Over the years, they’ve worked to guide other would-be dreamers along their exploration of the game, and some of the responses they have posted on our community forums to address similar questions have proven truly insightful. For example, one member helped identify three types of players:

  • Super Casual: You consider your investment in the game a one-time purchase. You want to build a number of balanced decks that you don’t intend to change, and you aim to play the game with your friends much like you’d play a board game.
  • Casual: You enjoy building and breaking down decks on occasion, and you likely base them on themes of mechanics or card subtypes. You enjoy the variety enough to keep up with the recent releases, but you don’t feel the need to pick up every expansion.
  • Competitive: You enjoy the challenges of deck-building and the intricacies of the game’s timing structures. You want to twist and tweak cards in new ways to dominate the world or your best friend’s kitchen table.

Naturally, these three types of players are looking for different ways to get into the game. Whereas the “super casual” player may be looking expressly for purchases that help him develop four balanced decks simultaneously, the “competitive” player may be happy to pick up an Asylum Pack simply on the strength of the one card he needs for his next tournament deck. Each will likely pursue a different path through the game.

Super Casual A super casual player looking to expand his game beyond one copy of the Core Set should consider any of a number of possible routes:
  • Typically, such players enjoy the thematic unity of the deluxe expansions, Secrets of Arkham and Terror in Venice. Secrets of Arkham adds a second set of story cards to the game while Terror in Venice reintroduces the popular Day and Night mechanics, dividing their influence across the game’s factions.
  • The Core Set introduces seven of the game’s factions, and the eighth appears in the Order of the Silver Twilight expansion. If you’re looking to add the Order of the Silver Twilight to your core game experience as an eighth, balanced faction, several players have posted recommended “core” Silver Twilight faction lists on CardGameDB.com.
  • The Shifting Sands Asylum Pack introduces the game’s third set of story cards.
Casual

A casual player will likely benefit as much as a super casual player from the expansions listed above, but his greater interest in deck-building may be better served by expansions that allow deeper exploration of available mechanics, even while they continue to promote unified themes.

  • The game’s primary divide is between its human factions and its mythos factions. Casual players looking to balance these two elements against each other may wish to pick up the Seekers of Knowledge and The Key and the Gate deluxe expansions. Seekers focuses on the learned professors and explorers of Miskatonic University and promotes an entirely different play experience than Key and the Gate, which explores the themes of Yog-Sothoth, as well as that faction’s focus on discard pile manipulation.
  • Conspiracies promote interesting choices in games, especially when they favor one faction or another. The Terror in Venice expansion includes seven neutral conspiracies that introduce powerful, wide-ranging effects, but the Conspiracies of Chaos, Lost Rites, and Touched by the Abyss Asylum Packs introduce faction-specific conspiracies that can make fun focal points for your decks.
Competitive

Competitive players may wish to begin by exploring the tournament-winning deck lists posted in our Hall of Heroes and on CardGameDB.com. Then, you can find the expansions that contain those cards by searching for them in the CardGameDB.com search engine. However, there’s more to consider, especially if you’re willing to hunt for key utility cards.

  • The current, tournament-legal story deck is the one included in The Shifting Sands, making that Asylum Pack a must-have purchase for any tournament player.
  • Multiple copies of the Core Set help you stabilize any strategy you develop that uses its cards. You can play as many as three copies of a given card in your deck, so three Core Sets will complete your play set.
  • The recent Seekers of Knowledge and The Key and the Gate expansions have given real strength to the Miskatonic University and Yog-Sothoth factions. Competitive players would do well to explore these expansions and the rush and mill mechanics they promote; they both make excellent “second step” purchases after the Core Set.
  • The At the Mountains of Madness Asylum Pack contains Snow Graves (At the Mountains of Madness, 15), a zero-cost support that can play in any deck and works against myriad loops and combo decks.

  • The Into Tartarus Asylum Pack contains the Master of the Myths (Into Tartarus, 101), a highly versatile, three-skill character with Willpower and Toughness +1, as well as three Arcane icons. With his ability to enter play until the end of a phase for a mere one cost, Master of the Myths is a masterful defensive character.
  • Competitive players may also wish to consider the cards that appear on the Restricted List in the FAQ (pdf, 12.0 MB). These are powerful cards that can easily define how you build your decks.

While the recommendations above focus primarily on the game’s deluxe expansions, it’s also helpful to note the central themes for each of the game’s seven cycles of Asylum Packs. The degree to which any one pack in a cycle upholds the overarching themes may vary, but you can always find full pack spoilers on CardGameDB.com.

Forgotten Lore The Forgotten Lore cycle is the least thematically unified cycle of Asylum Packs. Still, it’s the cycle that’s arguably truest to H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos, as many of its cards and pack titles are drawn directly from Lovecraft’s fiction. In this cycle, you’ll find cards inspired by the polar expedition of At the Mountains of Madness as well as the protagonists and monstrosities of The Dunwich Horror.
Summons of the Deep The six Asylum Packs in Summons of the Deep each focus on a different aspect of the game’s story phase. Touching upon each of the four icon struggles, the skill challenge, and the strange transformations that occur as arcane secrets come to light, its Asylum Packs permit you to pick and choose your battles.
Dreamlands The Dreamlands cycle of Asylum Packs introduces the popular Day and Night mechanics, which add a sense of time to the game’s struggles. Additionally, its Dreamlands locations and Dreamer characters explore some of the realms beyond our mortal world.
The Yuggoth Contract In The Yuggoth Contract, players find alternate versions of each of the core Ancient Ones, like Shub-Niggurath, Dark Mistress of the Woods (The Cacophony, 114).
The Rituals of the Order The Rituals of the Order Asylum Packs are the first to develop the game’s eighth faction, the mysterious Order of the Silver Twilight. It bolsters the faction with characters, supports, and events, even as it explores some of the more secretive and subterranean aspects of each other faction.
Ancient Relics Each of the Asylum Packs in the Ancient Relics cycle explores the global influence of the Ancient Ones, focusing on a different location. Additionally, this cycle introduces the Relic, a subtype of support that shuffles itself back into the deck when destroyed.
Revelations Dark Tomes and dark knowledge lie at the heart of the Revelations cycle of Asylum Packs. Drawing deeply from Lovecraft’s themes of forbidden knowledge, each pack in the Revelations cycle introduces powerful, foreboding Tomes and the ambitious Relic Hunters who hope to unearth and decode them.

Finally, it’s worth noting that both casual and competitive players may find much to appreciate in the Syndicate-centric Denizens of the Underworld, as well as future faction- and theme-based deluxe expansions.

Matt Lippay on Building Your Call of Cthulhu Player Base

Call of Cthulhu appeals to a more casual gamer than most competitive card games, and players who want to grow their play group would do well to recognize this fact. While tournaments serve as the centerpieces of many competitive card games, Call of Cthulhu players may seek different play experiences. Whether you look to draw more players to your local tournaments or you want to find new players to mix into the group of friends with whom you already play the game, you might want to look to Matt Lippay for ways to grow your player base.

In 2012, Matt Lippay decided that he wanted to host a Call of Cthulhu Regional Championship in Portland, OR. The problem was that the local player base didn’t really exist. However, he didn’t let that stop him. Instead, he took it upon himself to build a local play group from scratch, and he ended up running one of the year’s largest Regional Championship events.

Here’s Matt’s advice:

“First, make a plan. I decided to host the 2012 Call of Cthulhu Regional Championship in hopes of gathering together as many players as possible. With that event, I planned to create a long-term Cthulhu group. Let me be clear: I'm not a store owner or part of a local gaming club. I keep my hobby in the closet, I'm actually quite hesitant to play in public, and I had never participated in a tournament before. However, I love Call of Cthulhu and wanted people to play against, and I realized it was up to me to make things happen.

“When I approached the store, they had never heard of Fantasy Flight's Regional Championship events. I told them how to fill out the registration form and informed them of my long-term goal: creating a group that would meet at their store once a month. They were skeptical. To win them over I said I would be handling everything, they just needed to provide the space. I also told them I would host several demos at their store, leading up to the tournament, and I would preregister enough players to cover the cost of the Regional Championship prize kit. It was a bold move.

“You have to be your own champion. For these demos and practice sessions, I bought prizes with my own money, and as an added bonus to encourage people to preregister, I purchased bags of mini-Cthulhu statues to use as travel-sized domain markers. Again, with no help from the store. These giveaways and bonus prizes for preregistering made a big difference.

“Get the word out through multiple forums, fliers, and talking to local store owners. Be visible and persistent. In my case, I posted on every forum I could find, including those for players in nearby states and even in Vancouver, B.C. I also made fliers and put them up at restaurants, bars, and other establishments where gamers hang out in Portland.”

Matt also explains that growing a group and sustaining it are two different activities:

“Embracing the role of host is crucial to maintaining your group's longevity. Understand the different aspects people like about Cthulhu, and cater your meet-ups to suit their tastes. If they're getting what they need out of your community, they're much more likely to come back each month. Foster a sense of community.

“Growing your community goes beyond Call of Cthulhu. It's really about friendships – people brought together by a shared passion for the game. Get to know your players and celebrate their accomplishments. We often buy drinks for players who've had something nice happen to them (or vice versa), and I've made a tradition out of bringing Cthulhu birthday cakes to our tournaments. This helps downplay the competitive tension on such days while simultaneously reinforcing a sense of unity. In the end, it doesn't matter who in the group wins and loses, it's about the chance to game with good friends.


Will the Elder Sign prevent this cake from being devoured? Probably not.

“Try running your events over multiple formats that cater to different play styles (e.g. thematic play versus raw power). Our season started with a Highlander tourney, then a Triple-Faction event, and then the Regional Championship in June.

“Finally, you want to protect your newbies. This is the most challenging part of building a gaming group, and it's something I had to learn the hard way.

“Not everyone plays nice, which can be a big turn off for your beginners. While this may be expected with other card games, Call of Cthulhu draws a different crowd. Often your newbies are attracted to this game as fans of Lovecraft's writings. They don't care as much about constructing tournament winning decks or creating unstoppable combos, at least not at first. Having their theme decks repeatedly blown out of the water can quickly crush their enthusiasm for Call of Cthulhu. Therefore, during the first few months watch over your new players and match them up with opponents you know are respectful and understanding.”

Thanks, Matt!

Other tournament organizers have shared stories similar to Matt’s, and we’re happy to share his advice as a roadmap to developing your Call of Cthulhu player base.

Once you have players and cards, a strange panoply of worlds and unforeseen encounters awaits you within the eerie mythos of Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game.

The Final Word Is Never Final

Halloween is nearly here, and there’s no more thematic time to start building your Call of Cthulhu player base. This Thursday, gather your friends to celebrate the spooky and supernatural by competing for success tokens.

Then, use the advice in this article to explore more of the game’s horrifying twists and turns. If you still find yourself confused, however, look to the examples of the dreamers that arrived in this strange, nightmarish realm well before you. The Call of Cthulhu community is a welcoming one, and you can always take your questions to our community forums or the Call of Cthulhu forums on CardGameDB.com.

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.

    
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