Those Who Have Seen
A Preview of The Mark of Madness for Call of Cthulhu
"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far."
–H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu
As we saw in our last preview of The Mark of Madness deluxe expansion for Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game, Hastur's followers will soon gain tremendous strength and versatility from a maddening array of new cards that begin to erase the boundaries between delusion and sanity. With these cards, we find an awesome new relevance to the game's iconic Terror struggle, ensuring that the consequences of winning or losing a Terror struggle can reach far beyond the mere spread of madness. Still, there are plenty of effects to return Madness to the foreground, as well.
Naturally, these new cards allow Hastur and his followers to race forward with their vile agenda, spreading terror through Marseille, then France, and then the world. However, those who dare to explore the expansion more closely may find that some of the cards contained with The Mark of Madness begin to describe another theme. Even as we find Hastur's Lunatics and Artists deriving an eerie power from the madness that grips them, we find a handful of other characters – one for each of the game's eight factions – who also gain strength from their madness.
Sailing the Seas of Infinity
In addition to the characters it will soon drive mad, The Mark of Madness presents us with an elite number of unique characters who aren't driven mad by the actions of others, but enter play insane, perhaps after having stretched themselves too thin in the pursuit of knowledge and power. It's not entirely clear why any of these characters may have left the "placid island of ignorance" to sail the "black seas of infinity," and, in fact, it's likely that they all set out with different motives.
However, as is the case with Benjamin Herriot (The Mark of Madness, 14) and Walter Gilman (The Mark of Madness, 43), these characters all share a number of similarities. For starters, they enter play in the grips of madness, but we then find that their shattered sanity is the price they have paid for the power they've gained.
Additionally, these characters all cost three resources to play and all bring four icons to the stories they attempt. Moreover, all but one of them boast four skill and lack both the Terror icon and Willpower. Most importantly, however, is the fact that after they enter play insane, all of them come with powerful Response abilities that first ready them and then trigger other powerful effects.
The result is that playing one of these characters may cost you an initial tempo hit, which may seem like utter madness, but then, on the next turn, will warp the game in some unfathomable way. Benjamin Herriot will draw you a massive three cards. Walter Gilman will steal a success token from your opponent's side to place it at a story on your side, potentially winning you that story. Maria Suleman (The Mark of Madness, 45) will search your deck for a non-Ancienct One character and add it to your hand. And Mandy Aurel (The Mark of Madness, 41) forces your opponent to choose and sacrifice a support card.
Of course, you can derive further advantage from these characters by adding other cards to your deck to restore their sanity all the earlier. Arkham Asylum (Core Set, 146), Dr. Carson (The Spawn of the Sleeper, 3), and Whisper in the Wind (Written and Bound, 6) are just a few of the available options.
Another such option is Mu (Seekers of Knowledge, 24), which might prove particularly effective given that, with one exception, none of these characters who have peered beyond the shores of ignorance gained a Terrror icon in the process. That means you can freely send them to lose Terror struggles wherever your opponent commits characters and then, after the stories have resolved, trigger first the Response of Mu and then that of the character you allowed to sink back into madness.
If you find yourself in a position where all your opponent's characters have Terror icons, you might even send one of these characters to a story on his or her own. Then, your opponent has to make a choice: will he oppose your character to deny the success tokens, or will he allow you the success tokens in order to deny you the benefits of your character's Response ability?
An Altered Consciousness
All told, this elite group of characters who enter play insane add another dimension to insanity within Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game. Now, it's not just a setback that's less grievous than death, nor is it just the cost that your Lunatics for their powers, but it becomes something more thematic within the game's setting.
Lovecraft's fictional world is full of characters pushed to the edge by the mysteries they unravel. Their minds recoil, and they worry others will think them mad. Yet had they never ventured beyond the thinking of the men and women around them, they would never have learned of the powers that threaten their world, nor found themselves able to take action. In Lovecraft's fiction, the men and women who delve into the forces of the unknown almost always find their former ways of life irrevocably broken, along with their former patterns of thought.
Soon, The Mark of Madness will allow you to explore the secrets that lie beyond the safety of sanity. Benjamin Herriot, Walter Gilman, Mandy Aurel, and a handful of other new characters will prove that what others may call madness is just an altered form of consciousness or a new way of thinking about the world – and in the face of such utter horrors as one faces in Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game, it just may be prove to be one of the most successful ways of thinking yet!