What was that wicked looking thing that Mer-Man was holding in the previous post? Can rolling with Cthulhu be fun? What does this have to do with Captain Olaf and why he lives in a desert?
Cthulhu Dice. Yes. And not much, but my love of The Last Lovecraft is mighty.
If you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, keep reading. Today I’m doing a review of Cthulhu Dice by Steve Jackson Games!
So recently a friend of mine and I were sitting around between rounds at a MTG tournament and he brought out a can of dice with a zombie on the side, asking if I wanted to play… Zombie Dice! It’s a great game that’s easy to learn and quick to play, and while I had fun with it, it was something else he mentioned that really got me interested. The same company made a game called Cthulhu Dice…
For those of you not aware, Lovecraft is a big influence on my writing. Not exactly for writing style, but his concepts and how he handled them. That’s a post for another day, but as fun as Zombie Dice was, hearing there was a kind with Cthulhu had me eager to know more.
Cost and Contents:
1 oversized, custom D12
18 glass beads
Surprised? I was, actually, as most dice games I’ve seen go for about $15.
But there’s a kind of minimalism to Cthulhu Dice, a stark contrast to the complexities of of bigger games. The contents are all centered around one object, a wicked looking thing that pulls your focus with thoughts of cold nights and creepin’ fog, the color out of space. Sure, those scaled, webbed hands might tickle a bit… I dare to even call em soothin’.
A die. It’s, it’s just a die…
And what a die! It’s a D12, which Steve used because of how it’s not used very often. Whereas most dice are pleasantly familiar as six-sided cubes, or even pleasantly almost round like the twenty sided versions, twelve sided dice are in a strange kind of inbetween. They aren’t almost round, but they aren’t cubic. From certain angles they look oblong, and in hand they feel… not quite right.
Maybe I’m just not familiar with handling twelve-sided dice. Maybe that’s a good thing.
You can get Cthulhu Dice in a variety of colors, from ichor green to sparkly pink. The one I have is dark green with yellow ink, and shines like demented mother of pearl.
The die is bigger than I expected, but that’s a good thing. It has a commanding presence in front of other dice, both in girth and color, as well as from the symbols on each of the pentagonal faces. The dark colors and the yellow ink look like carved runes, glowing on some forbidden artifact.
I may buy another, just to have one for Mer-Man to hold.
Here’s the jist. Two or more people can play, and you’re all cultists. Cthulhu lies dreaming in the middle of the table, waiting until the stars are right so he can rise up and devour your dinner. Until then he wants to steal your sanity.
But you want the others to go insane first.
Last sane cultist wins, and if no one is sane then Cthulhu wins.
Each player gets 3 Sanity tokens. The first player is the ‘caster’ and picks a ‘victim’, then rolls the die. Depending on what symbol shows up, different things happen to sanity tokens.
If it’s a Tentacle, the ‘caster’ takes one sanity token from the ‘victim’ and adds it to his pile. If it’s a Yellow Sign then the ‘victim’ loses one sanity token to Cthulhu, so it goes to the middle of the table. If it’s an Elder Sign, the ‘caster’ can take one sanity token from Cthulhu. (If there’s none in the middle yet, the caster gets nothing.)
If it’s the Cthulhu symbol, everyone loses one sanity to Cthulhu.
And if you roll an Eye of Horus, the player who rolled the die can choose any one of the effects they want.
Once that’s done, then the ‘victim’ rolls against the ‘caster’ with the same rules as above.
Well, almost. The Tentacle is always good for the ‘caster’, so if the ‘victim’ rolls one, they lose one sanity token to the ‘caster’ player.
After that, the next player is the ‘caster’ and so on.
But one of the great things about Cthulhu Dice is that when you’ve lost all your sanity tokens, you keep playing.
At that point, you’ve ‘gone mad’ and the rules change a bit for you. You still get turns, but you can no longer be chosen as a ‘victim’ since you’ve got no sanity to lose. You still pick a target to roll against, and then they roll against you in response, but when they’re the ‘caster’ they have to choose a ‘victim’ that still has sanity tokens.
In addition, because you don’t have any sanity to lose, things like rolling a Cthulhu symbol don’t bother you. In fact, you now are trying to drive the other cultists mad so Cthulhu wins.
Even if you roll a Tentacle when attacking a ‘victim’, you give that sanity token to Cthulhu instead of yourself.
That is honestly one of my favorite things about this game. How many times have you been playing in a group game of some kind and get eliminated, only to have to sit there and watch while all those other uppity jerks sit and have a good time with their smiling faces and their hands full of game related things?
What if you could keep playing, but instead of trying to win you just want no one to win?
Okay, so I tend to be nicer than that, and have fun watching the people still playing. But man, is it fun to indulge a bit sometimes!
Of course, you could become sane again, but to do that you have to roll an Elder Sign and take one sanity token from Cthulhu. But there’s a lot of Tentacles and only one Elder Sign.
And if you roll an Eye of Horus, you could choose the Elder Sign as the effect you want. But wouldn’t you rather choose Cthulhu, and make everyone else lose a sanity token?
Easy to learn.
Quick to Play.
Each game takes five to ten minutes to play, and all you really need to carry is the dice. Sanity tokens can be anything, and a great suggestion from Steve Jackson Games is to play it at a restaurant while you’re waiting for food, using sugar packets as tokens.
Teaching someone to play is easy if you’ve got the dice. And there’s also a fun and funny flash demo that will let you play a quick game. Go on, try it out!
And then talk to your friendly neighborhood game store and ask them to order it for you. If you don’t have a local store, you can also order from Steve Jackson Games here, but you also have to pay shipping.
So, that’s my review. I’m not getting reimbursed for it or anything, and it’s totally unbiased. Okay, I’m biased towards cool Lovecraft things, but other than that I can genuinely say it’s a fun game even if you’re not familiar with the theme. I was happy when someone told me about it, and I hope you feel the same.
So what do you think, dear reader? Let me know in a comment!