Cthulhu Wars: Playing Great Cthulhu

Cthulhu is not only the most widely known Great Old One in the Lovecraftian mythos, he's also the figurehead of the easiest faction in Cthulhu Wars: you start out relatively safe from two of the Factions, you rake in Spellbooks very quickly (and essentially freely), and once you Awaken Cthulhu he becomes insanely, King-in-Yellow cheap to bring back if he dies.

We finally managed to do a Hangout game last week, and Shane easily beat everyone despite not having played before, playing via Hangout (so he didn't always have a good view of the entire board), having blurry images for a Faction sheet and Spellbooks, and forgetting to use Cthulhu's Devour ability throughout the entire game.

Anyway, not that you're really going to need them, here are some tips to playing the Great Cthulhu Faction.

Minions, Monsters, & Masters
Where other Factions have 0 Combat Monsters that can gain special abilities (Black Goat's Ghoul and Crawling Chaos's Nightgaunts), or Monsters with variable Combat (everything from King in Yellow), your Monsters are pretty straightforward:

Like most factions these can't fight. Aside from giving you Power, building Gates, and soaking up hits in a Battle, they're also useful for feeding to your Shoggoths with the Absorb Spellbook, or getting some extra Deep Ones in a pinch with the Devolve Spellbook.

Deep One (4)
A basic 1 Combat monster. Unlike other 1 Power Monsters they lack Spellbook-bestowed special abilities, but at least they're always good offensively in a Battle.

Like Cultists they're also useful for soaking up hits when you Battle (or sacrificing to Nightgaunts and Flying Polyps), or feeding to Shoggoths if you have the Absorb Spellbook.

If you have the Devolve Spellbook, try to keep one or two in your Pool so you can swap them out with your Cultists as needed.

Shoggoth (2)
The perfect middle-ground, these guys have 2 Combat (putting them on par with the 3 Power Monsters from other Factions), but can be really souped up with the Absorb Spellbook to the tune of +3 Combat (just for one Battle, obviously).

Starspawn (2)
At 3 Combat (the highest Combat of any individual Monster) these not only pack a huge punch, but if you have the Regenerate Spellbook they can soak two Kills before dying (or one Pain and one Kill to just run away).

Unlike the rest of the Great Old Ones, Cthulhu has a static 6 Combat. This isn't too bad early on, but in mid- to late-game he'll most certainly lag behind the rest (especially fucking Nyarlathotep). The upside is that every time you Awaken him you get an Elder Sign Token, he gets to automatically Devour a monster for free before Combat dice are rolled, and he only costs 4 Power to re-Awaken.

Given that you get a Spellbook during the first Doom Phase, for controlling three Gates in ocean zones (which you can do in the first game round), Awakening Cthulhu, fighting, and having five Spellbooks, you're probably going to finish your collection first. Crawling Chaos can get some pretty quickly, but you have to use up your Action and spend Power: Cthulhu just gets them by virtue of doing shit you were gonna do anyway.

Absorb (Pre-Battle)
For each Cultist or Monster you feed to your Shoggoth, it gains +3 Combat for that Battle. You should get this pretty early on.

Devolve (Ongoing)
At the end of any player's Action you can transform a Cultist into a Deep One.

This can be used if a Monster or Great Old One tries to mosey on in and Devour one of your Cultists: as soon as it moves, just turn it into a Deep One. Yeah, it'll probably die anyway, but at least the opposing Faction won't get a small Power bump later. Unless the other Factions are giving you a lot of grief, I'd hold up on this.

Dreams (Action: Cost 3)
You pick an area with an enemy Cultist and replace it with one from your Pool. The opposing player gets to choose which Cultist gets replaced.

I've rarely seen this used, as it costs 3 Power and you're likely to end up spending more Power to keep your Cultist safe. It's best against a faction that is starved or out of Power, so you can also benefit from the controlled Gate on the following round. Unless there are lots of isolated Cultists scattered about, you can probably wait until your forth or later Spellbook for this one.

Regenerate (Post-Battle)
Your Starspawn can now soak up two hits per Battle. This means they can take two Kill results before dying, but if you apply a Kill and Pain result then it's still only Pained. Definitely get this sooner than later.

Submerge (Action: Cost 1)
Cthulhu and any Cultists and Monsters you want are removed from the map, and on your following turn you can spend 1 Power to drop them anywhere on the map. This should be one of your earliest Spellbooks.

You can use this to move a huge mob of Units about quickly and cheaply. Just removing your units can put pressure on the other Factions, but if you have all six Spellbooks you can drop in and Battle immediately (since Battle becomes Unlimited with all six Spellbooks).

Yha Nihlei (Ongoing)
As long as Cthulhu is Awakened you gain +1 Power for each enemy-controlled gate that is in an Ocean zone. Unless the other Factions are building in Ocean Zones (which they shouldn't be), you can probably wait on this.

Obviously how well this game plan works depends on what the other Factions do and how they react to you, but here's a solid opening strategy:

You need 10 Power to Awaken Cthulhu (which you want to do as quickly as possible), so start out by moving two Cultists (ideally into ocean zones) and building a few Gates. This will not only give you a serious Power boost on the next round, but if you manage to get both of your new Gates in the ocean you'll also get a Spellbook (control three Gates in ocean zones).

If you think other factions might gun for your Cultists, go with Devolve so you can turn them into Deep Ones and at least deny them a bit of Power by Sacrificing your Cultists. Otherwise get Absorb.

You want Absorb, because on the second round—assuming you have three Gates and enemies aren't trundling towards you—you'll have just enough Power to Awaken Cthulhu and Summon a Shoggoth. With the Shoggoth and Absorb, you can gobble up a Cultist for some extra Combat dice in case another Faction tries to attack you.

Now if you couldn't get a third Gate then hold off on Awakening Cthulhu for now, otherwise you might find yourself powerless, literally, to stop other Factions from moving in and/or eating your Cultists: Crawling Chaos can cover distance quickly (remember that even 0 Combat Monsters can Devour Cultists), and Black Goat can use Shub-Niggurath to swap places with lone Cultists using Avatar.

Instead Summon a couple Shoggoths and/or Deep Ones, and really try to get your third Gate (and even a fourth if you can swing it: Australia is a good spot). If you get the third Gate up on this round, take the Devolve Spellbook so you can pop out some Deep Ones if you have to, or Regenerate if you think you'll be safe.

Once you get Cthulhu up that's when you take the Submerge Spellbook. This will allow you to cover great distances quickly and drop him in on crowded areas. Yellow Sign is probably an easy target, since they need to run The King in Yellow around the board to desecrate specific zones. Don't be afraid to heedlessly throw Cthulhu into Battle as often as possible, because:

  • He gets to auto-Devour a Monster or Cultist, which means you'll always get a Spellbook right away unless you're fighting a Great Old One one-on-one.
  • If you land in an area and Battle multiple enemies, you might get lucky and Kill two more, which will net you your fifth Spellbook.
  • Cthulhu costs a paltry 4 Power to re-Awaken.
  • You get an Elder Sign Token each time you Awaken him, and Doom Points are really the name of the game.

After you get your fifth Spellbook, on the following round you'll get your sixth. Once you have all six Spellbooks everything changes, because now you can use Submerge, and on the following turn appear and Battle right away. You can combine this with Devolve to put a Cultist back in your Pool, appear on top of a gate, slaughter everyone, then Recruit a Cultist to claim the Gate.

The only Faction I'd be wary of is Crawling Chaos: in any Battle in which Nyarlathotop participates in, if your Great Old One is Pained or Killed, they can snag 2 Elder Sign Tokens. Technically they can opt to gain Power equal to half the cost of your Great Old One, but since they'll only get 2 off of Cthulhu they're likely to just snag the two tokens.

I'd recommend leaving your Monsters at home guarding Gates, because other Factions might try attacking once you send Cthulhu out. Again, Cthulhu is cheap and helps you rack up Doom Points.

If Great Cthulhu has a weakness, it's that the only way you can get Elder Sign Tokens aside participating in the Ritual of Annihilation is to Awaken Cthulhu. Other Factions have a fairly reliable way of doing it one or more times each round: Black Goat can sacrifice a Cultist, Yellow Sign can get them via Desecration once Hastur has been Awakened, and Crawling Chaos can get two if they Kill or even merely Pain a Great Old One.

So, be aggressive with Cthulhu, build and control as many Gates as you can, and once you've got a bunch definitely do the Ritual of Annihilation if you have the Power to spare. Use Dreams to snatch an isolated Gate whenever the opportunity presents itself.

February Announcements
First things first, The Cultist went on sale (on Friday the 13th, no less). Though it's been very well received, there's been a...whisper of "criticism" about it.

Second, throughout the entire month of February we're putting both The Witch and The Bard on sale.

We've also modified their prices in our Awfully Big Playbook and All of the Playbooks bundles, making them just that much more tantalizing than they already are: $22 nets you eleven twelve—now that The Cultist is out—classes, which come with design notes and clarifications, custom character sheets, additional moves, magic items, and even compendium classes.

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