Further forays into the factions
Marc: Back to the factions? I’m a huge Yog-Sothoth fan. (One might almost say… a believer?) In the dearly-departed Call of Cthulhu LCG, I loved The Key and the Gate. That was my faction above and beyond anything else, because it reminded me of playing Blue/Black control in MTG. I’m almost as enamored of Opener of the Way in Cthulhu Wars. Remember when I said Crawling Chaos was the opportunist faction in the base game? Opener takes that theme and runs (through a gate! With a key!) with it. Like Chaos, it can be very mobile. Like Black Goat, it can be very widespread with They Break Through; perhaps the winner of the Most Annoying Spellbook for your opponents.
[Summons Mutant at opponent’s gate. Opponent glares.]
Them: “So now I HAVE to spend an action protecting my Cultist!”
Me: “No, you don’t. I’m just sitting here. Your doorway was just closer to where I wanted to go. Trust me.” [Don’t trust me.]
The convenient part of that whole move is that, whether you capture the Cultist or not, they’ll usually try to clear you out by declaring a battle. Losing that Mutant just means you get another spellbook. That condition (Lose 1 of your own units in battle) is a weird outlier to the others, which are mostly centered around gates and your proximity to them. I think it was Sandy kind of dropping in a check on Opener so that they actually have to participate in the theme of the game (Cthulhu Wars) and can’t just win by dancing around the board with The Beyond One. That said, I’ve won more than once with Opener by actually forcing someone to fight me to get that last spellbook because I spent most of the game just touring the map and waiting for someone to leave a Cultist unattended. Who can really understand the motivations of an Outer God?! Not you, petty human!
Wade: So, let’s get down the hard question. What would be the first thing you add to the base game. As I’ve stated before, I really want another faction. If you could only choose one to add to someone’s collection (i.e. me), which would you choose? Or would you go with High Priests? Or something else?
Marc: High Priests should be baseline, period, regardless of the presence of another faction. It’s the first and only expansion I would call “essential” for the game and I always include them when teaching new players. The versatility that they provide for that time (or two. Or three.) that you screw up and spend too much Power is great. Suddenly, you have two more and can maybe finish off that move you thought you were going to be able to do. However, it does require a word of clarity that the High Priest is a Cultist, but not an Acolyte, so abilities that specifically target the latter don’t work on them (like, say, Cannibalism for Windwalker.)
As for factions, despite my deep affection for Demonic Mr. Bubble, it’s quite possible that my favorite faction in CW is Sleeper and it’s the first I would suggest to people looking to expand. There are so many tricks one can pull with the Frog and his minions. Sooooo many! First off, let’s examine the cost savings of his base ability. Spend a couple turns dumping Wizards and Serpent Men on the map and you can often be dropping free Formless Spawn every Doom phase. You need that cost savings because you’re going to be spending no less than 17 Power to get your spellbooks, in addition to monsters and gates. But the key phrase is “... in an area containing any of your Units.” In other words, no gate required for those free (potentially) Spawn.
The fun continues with Energy Nexus. An opponent about to win a fight and take a gate? As long as there’s a Wizard there, you can Cursed Slumber. If Cthulhu is in play, you can throw the Frog into any fight you like, because you can always Ancient Sorcery to Cthulhu’s faction sheet and resummon Tsathoggua for 4 Power. Oh, and get an Elder Sign, too. Share the Feast with Yellow Sign. Fly and Burrow thanks to Chaos. Take advantage of the movement powers of Opener and Ancients or the Doom point penalties/bonus of Tcho-Tcho. Serpent Men can get redonkulous and they return to anywhere on the map on the following turn, with 1 Power in tow.
Also, you’ll never realize just how paranoid other players get about the Frog using Capture Monster until you see it happen. What’s even better is that you can Lethargy until everyone else is out of Power and then (ahem) hop around the map grabbing whatever you like. You remember those times when Tzeentch would play zero cost cards until everyone else was out of power in Chaos in the Old World? Same thing. Your opponents will learn to fear the lazy Frog.
Wade:While I love painted miniatures, the time and (more importantly) the desire to paint isn’t something I can muster up. Do you paint, or plan to paint your copy of CW?
Marc: I do not. I have given up the painting lifestyle (This one is an actual choice!) In the late 90s and all of the 00s, I was hardcore into every minis game that GW ever produced and I still have 8000+ points of fully painted Skaven in my basement. I’ve gone through more sprues, razor blade cuts, rapidly drying pots of paint, and frayed brushes than I want to think about. Not happening.
Wade: I’ve seen some fantastic sets that have a “simple” wash done to them. I’d like to go this route, because it not only keeps the “base” color of each faction but because I really like the final results.
Marc: Sure. It’s a pretty easy technique that you could probably do with just black ink. Just make sure you thin it to the point where you question whether you’ll even see the effect and then give the mini a once over. LET IT DRY (This will happen quickly.) and then take a look at what you have. If you want more detail/shading, then hit it again. Depending on the material, ink occasionally brings a bit of shine to the surface and these are already very shiny figures, so once you get them to the level you want, you may want to hit them with a quick matte sealant spray. That will dull the glare and make their details rise to the eye even more.
Speaking of which, one of the best factions for said wash would be Windwalker, especially Ithaqua itself. The light color of the miniatures kind of glosses out their detail, above and beyond the type of plastic involved. You want the full visual effect for one of the stranger factions in the game. There’s a real love/hate relationship out there for Windwalker. Some people think it’s the weakest of the nine, while others know that it can be unstoppable in the late game. It just really takes some patience and careful play. You kind of have to be unassuming like Yellow Sign and Chaos early on, but once you get a couple Wendigos and/or Gnoph-Keh on the board with Rhan-Tegoth, you can start to wreck people. It’s almost like Windwalker is… bipolar. Really. Just look at the map.
However, he’s tricky. His spellbook conditions are among the most difficult/nuanced in the game and a lot depends on other players. Someone has to get six spellbooks before you do. You’re almost obligated to run across the board to the other polar region to open a gate, weakening your home base, if someone else doesn’t. And it’s also a good idea to “waste” Power early on in order to use Hibernate so you can be the first player in the next round. Wasting Power is not something I’d advise for any other faction, but WW basically has to do it. But, again, once they’re up and rolling, they can be a combat machine as ferocious as Cthulhu. Arctic Wind across the board with a Gnoph-Keh and a couple Wendigo with Ithaqua’s combat rating hovering around 15? Thanks. Thanks very much. ‘Scuse me while I exterminate your entire army.
Wade: My single experience with Wind Walker was playing against them during a late night game at a Con. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that certain situations don’t mix well with evaluating a faction. I’m sure my sleep deprivation and the fact that WW wasn't a contender in the end game meant that I didn’t get a good feel for them. But your explanation has me leaning toward moving them to the top of my expansion list.
Marc: It’s worth it, not only because it’s something new to try, but it forces you to evaluate the game in a different manner; again, a lot like Yellow Sign.
Wade: Independent Great Old Ones dropped into the base game looks like it would be a great idea. Summoning a GOO is always a benchmark of progress in the game.
Marc: I’m… interested. With reservations. I think there’s enough going on in the game right now, especially with the requisite High Priest expansion, that I’m not sure all the neutral stuff is worth the extra complexity. Certainly, if you’ve played enough and want to throw in some curveballs, there they are. My Outer Gods bias would be served by getting Azathoth, too. But CW is such a quick game that I wonder how often neutral GOOs and other beasties are worth their cost because, almost by definition, summoning something other than your own units is often just delaying where your faction is supposed to be at any given stage of the game.
The exception might be The Ancients. They’re so strange. They’re like the ultimate background noise to the game. Putting it in HPL terms, think of the Ancients as that strange buzzing noise out there in the hinterlands of wildest New England. The locals are all used to it but you, intrepid journalist from more urbane environs to the south, can’t help but be unnerved by it. What is it doing? Why are the Ancients helping you? Why aren’t they doing what everyone else is doing? Now there’s a pounding on the door! … sorry.
Ancients are not a faction I would suggest playing unless you and others involved have played multiple times. Playing the Ancients successfully involves not only you working to skirt the edges but also your opponents realizing that having you around summoning Un-Men and building Cathedrals is actually a net positive for them… until that last turn where you unleash your giant snakes (Yothans) to capture a couple gates and then in the Doom Phase you’re suddenly out ahead of everyone. Surprise! Game over. The other reason to not play them with novices is that the Ancients are essentially an accelerator to the game, what with you giving your opponents regular Power boosts and free monsters.
All of that said, since the Ancients actually lack a GOO, they’d be the most likely candidate for adding in one of the neutrals. However, as noted, they do accelerate the game and are kind of dependent on getting out their Cathedrals as rapidly as possible to really get their engine rolling. If you’re lucky, you only have to pay 1 Power for those Cathedrals and with the appropriate spellbooks, all of your monsters are dirt cheap, if not free, so you might have some excess to add in your spare Abhoth or Yig. (For me, it would always be Y’Golonac, not only because it’s a gigantic infant with fanged mouths in its hands, but because of the absolute chaos he can add to the game just by being around. That chaos would serve the Ancients well…)
Wade: I always find it interesting that people will swear that “(Insert Faction here) is so overpowered..” But the thing is, they NEVER agree on which faction it is that is overpowered. If you had to pick which faction would you brand as OP?
Marc: Um… it depends which one I’m best with? I don’t really think there is one, except the turtling problem with the Tcho-Tcho. Mr. Pink can follow a very feasible strategy of sitting on a couple gates and just earning Doom off the efforts of others, not to mention having a GOO faster than everyone else. Sandy tried to fight against the problem for a long time, but people started talking about outlawing Tcho-Tcho in their games, so he’s produced a “Tcho-Tcho Tribes” expansion which breaks up the accelerated Doom combo that their spellbooks create, since you can conceivably be raking in 4(!) Elder Sign trophies every time you Ritual, in addition to gaining another Doom point when anyone else Rituals (since they’ll never want less Doom.) It can lead to a situation where everyone feels obligated to pressure the pink guys every turn, which isn’t really fun for anyone.
Wade: The arms may or may not have come off Nyarlathotep in my core game. Ever had any experience with this? Any tips on surgery on some Great Old possibly broken ones. I’m sure I can just glue them back on.
Marc: Given my GW history, I’ve had tons of experience with that problem; typically with metal minis, but occasionally with plastic. You should be able to glue them as they were unless serious damage was done to the body of the figure. If you find that you end up with a solid block of glue between plastic surfaces that won’t hold the weight/usage, then try roughing the surfaces by cutting slits in the end of the arm and the spot you’re gluing it to. Don’t cut anything away. Just change the texture so there’s more surface for the glue to spread into and seal. If it’s still not working, you might be forced to do some surgery: Get a dremel and the smallest bit you can find, drill holes in the body of the figure, cut two short lengths of paper clip, drill holes at the appropriate angle in the arms, and then glue the posts to the body and the arms to the posts (only do the latter when the glue has cured and the posts are secure.) Thankfully, we’re talking about a figure that stands 8” tall. Doing it with a 35mm model is much less entertaining.
So, that’s Cthulhu Wars: Beyond the Base Dimension. There’s a lot more to say about the game, especially when you start talking about the more esoteric stuff, like neutral monsters and the alternate maps. But, for now, you should have plenty to get you started before sacrificing too much of your bank balance to the Elder Gods.