“That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.”
–H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu
Cloistered within the dank confines of an Arkham basement, at the base of a building set back among the city’s darkest alleyways, several cultists offer blood sacrifices in a dark ritual dedicated to an ancient and unfathomable being of tremendous power. They seek to wake this terrible entity, hoping to be rewarded with power and the freedom to act wildly amid a world set to ruin, lawless, with its governments shattered, with the very idea of morality severely battered and broken. Likewise, there is a group of sinister cultists living in the wintery darkness of Alaska, north of the Arctic Circle, and its members carve hideous runes into bone and utter foul words in evil chants as they, too, offer themselves to the great Cthulhu.
These actions are reflected by those of other cultists in other sects, spread across the globe, all of whom have retained and communicated through the ages the tattered knowledge of a slumbering Ancient One, that will someday awake, and when it awakes, it will shatter human civilization.
Simultaneously, there are professors, police officers, and scientists who have stumbled across these cults, their rituals, and their sinister intents. These unlikely heroes seek to prevent the cults from attaining their goals. There exist, also, a handful of secret societies who have learned of Cthulhu and other elder ones, and they seek to control these powers, even as alien cultures such as the strange Mi-Go, elder things, and Yithians secretly operate within our world, driven by motives utterly incomprehensible to humanity.
That fact that all of these different factions enter Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game to pursue their various objectives leads us to the game’s struggles, and within those struggles, each faction plays toward its own strengths. Now, the upcoming arrival of The Sleeper Below will change those struggles significantly, as it not only provides the Cult of Cthulhu with new fuel and new strength to conduct their foul rituals, but it adds two new mechanics. The first of these is the Dormant keyword, which we’ve explored in detail within an earlier preview . The second, however, is something even darker and deadlier; it is the ability to permanently remove cards from the game.
Doomed Beyond Death
The idea of removing cards from the game was first introduced with the conspiracy The Mage’s Machinations ( Terror in Venice , 30), but this first foray into the “remove from game” mechanic was limited in two ways: It only targeted characters, and its removal was temporary. Once the conspiracy was won, the winner would gain control of both characters that had been removed from the game.
Now, a few cards in The Sleeper Below give new teeth to the mechanic and, in so doing, define a fate that, to the game’s many characters, is worse than madness, injury, destruction, and even death. After all, death is not always permanent within Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game . Characters who are destroyed or who suffer enough wounds to “die” are placed in the discard pile, but there are many secrets and many powers that can rip a soul out of the discard pile and bring it back into play. Many of these are dark, like Unspeakable Resurrection ( Core Set , 119), and they fall under the domains of those hideous powers that threaten humanity. Other effects, like that of Professor Nathaniel Peaslee ( Core Set , 24), aren’t quite so dark; they don’t bring subjects back from the dead, altered and ghoulish. They simply cheat death.
In fact, the game incorporates so many different effects that interact with your discard piles that the use of the discard pile as a second “hand of cards” has become a prominent element of the game. For this reason, characters such as the Stalking Hound ( Perilous Trials , 39), Yithian Scout ( The Key and the Gate , 15), and Descendant of Eibon ( The Terror of the Tides , 75) have become some of the game’s most resilient and pervasive characters, while other characters such as the Lost Oracle ( The Key and the Gate , 9) have introduced powerful effects that are extremely hard to cancel.
However, in The Sleeper Below , we find some new answers to the questions these cards can raise.
First of all, the Bone Sculptor ( The Sleeper Below , 10), is a Cultist who can potentially remove any character from the game, even an Ancient One . Better yet, he allows you to gain control of that character for a phase, meaning that you can potentially use your opponent’s most powerful characters against him.
“ Action: Exhaust Bone Sculptor and pay X (minimum of 1) to choose 1 character in any discard pile with a cost of X or lower. Put it into play under your control. At the end of the phase remove it from the game. Limit once per turn.”
The fact that the Bone Sculptor can trigger his ability any time he can exhaust means that he imbues each of your open domains with a profound sense of menace.
Next, the support card Even Death May Die (The Sleeper Below, 37) attaches to your opponent’s discard pile. Then, so long as it is attached, you can choose to disrupt your opponent anytime he would place a card into the discard pile. That card is, instead, removed from the game, and you place a success token on Even Death May Die. Because Even Death May Die has the Fated 4 keyword, you can add four success tokens to it before you must place it on the bottom of your deck, but this support, like Snow Graves ( At the Mountains of Madness , 15), can severely disrupt a wide range of powerful combinations that rely upon the ability to dip into the discard pile. Unlike Snow Graves, though, Even Death May Die can permanently disrupt some combinations by removing key elements of those combinations from the game, and even if Even Death May Die is later destroyed, your opponent will have no way to regain access to those cards.
Finally, the third instance of this new mechanic that appears in The Sleeper Below is The Stars are Right ( The Sleeper Below , 33). Unlike the expansion’s other two cards that remove cards from the game, The Stars are Right offers this removal as a sort of penalty. If you can’t meet certain conditions by the end of the phase in which you play The Stars are Right, the Dormant character that you bring into play is forever removed from the game:
“ Action: Put a Dormant character into play from your hand. At the end of the phase, attach it as a Dormant card at a story where you have no success tokens, otherwise remove it from the game.”
Altogether, these cards and the whole “remove from game” mechanic suggests that the Cult of Cthulhu is more powerful than we had ever imagined. Their dark worship of the great devourer has opened a gateway to some realm from which nothing shall ever return – an out-of-play zone in which cards cannot be targeted. There are no interactions with these cards. They are beyond the abyss of Azathoth. They are doomed forever.
Gather Your Strength in the Face of Absolute Annihilation
How will the proliferation of the “remove from game” mechanic impact the struggles of Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game ? The world trembles as its different factions become aware of this impending threat…
The Sleeper Below expansion for Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game is coming soon! Stay tuned for word of its official release, as well as a sample deck list that makes good use of the Cult of Cthulhu, the Dormant keyword, and the “remove from game” mechanic.
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.