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Barnes on Games- Cthulhu Wars

MB Updated
Barnes on Games- Cthulhu Wars

Game Information

Game Name
There Will Be Games

The Big Green One.

This is it. Cthulhu Wars in review. We’ve already jawed about it a bunch here over the past week, but let’s put it on the books. This is a long review, I don’t usually go so long. But I felt it warranted it, and I get into some stuff that I don’t usually cover in my reviews- more extensive product and price talk in particular.

It’s all I think about in terms of games lately. I invited a couple of friends over last night to play, the first two guys I played it with, and there wasn’t even any email discussion about what we were going to play. It was just a given that it was going to be Cthulhu Wars.

But I am reluctantly playing other games, I guess.

The two new VPG games are interesting. Wings for the Baron, I opened it up and looked it over and thought “wow, this game looks boring”. It’s about German aviation firms competing for government contracts during WWI. Granted, I like esoteric subject matter and I love economic games. But this looked spreadsheety as hell.

But wow, it’s actually really neat. It’s very Eurogamey, but more on the simpler end of things. It kind of reminds me, in a way, of Industrial Waste. But it’s all done up in GMT-quality style- lots of B&W photos, Very Serious Historical Background, that kind of stuff. You pick two actions per turn and then they go off in a specific order. Your player mat is basically a tech tree, and the idea is that you improve the effectiveness of your aircraft by developing innovative technologies. Everything you develop gives you a DRM (this game speaks in wargame language) and you want to keep increasing effectiveness to keep up with the Allies- because you can wind up peddling junk planes that the German government doesn’t want. The techs are on research cards and some you have to have prerequisites to build. The research cards also have actions on them for a little take that play. You can also perform espionage and steal techs from other players.

So what happens is that at the end of actions, the government doles out contracts. You get a die roll’s worth, but you can only take as many as you have factories. Then they pay you in papiermarks, which are basically funny money that can be stripped away from you due to inflation. So you need to take Bank actions to buy gold the papiermarks. And all of this is going on while the war grinds on, reducing everybody’s morale. It can end with a German or Allied victory, which affects the value of everything at the end.

I’m really digging it, not one for everybody but I think folks that like business games or are interested in the subject matter will really like. Sag, this means you. Strangely I somehow managed to get two games with sort of similar concepts in at the same time, I also have Secret Weapons of the Third Reich sitting here from Calvinus Games.

The other new VPG release is The Hunt, and it’s…interesting. I’m not sure if I like it or not yet. It’s gothic horror, so that is a +1 right there. 3 to 6 players (yes, this means 6 is best but I played with 4 and it worked) are in a mansion. One of them is a monster in disguise. So you don’t know that, nor do you know what _kind_ of monster it is. So you have to do a little deducing to come up with that by searching the house and interacting with other players. This is how you figure out WHAT they are so you can sort out what to attack them with. It’s kind of strange, because it is basically kind of a fighting thing where you’re going up and stabbing folks to see what happens…and it TOTALLY rides on player honesty and the honor system. Which also means that a player can flub it up by accident and confuse everyone. It’s kind of experimental, and it isn’t as streamlined as some of the other social deduction games out there (which is, BTW, my least favorite genre of games I think) but there’s something worth looking at here. It’s Jeremy Lennert, the dude that did Darkest Night.

It’s not a physical board game, but if you download the Star Wars: Battlefront IOS companion, there is a little game in it that is more or less Castle Panic: Star Wars. I mean, it is REALLY like Castle Panic. There are some differences, but I think anyone who has played that game will see the similarities as soon as you see the screen. It’s simple but I’m really digging it.

There Will Be Games

Michael Barnes (He/Him)
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of and as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film.

Articles by Michael

Michael Barnes
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Articles by Michael

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Ancient_of_MuMu's Avatar
Ancient_of_MuMu replied the topic: #214941 12 Nov 2015 15:41
One thing that keeps occurring to me is that everyone obsesses about $700 for the full game, but that is a huge overkill. Even the most obsessed Arkham Horror fan would never suggest you buy all 4 big box expansions, the 4 small box expansions, plus all the extra bling such as miniatures, dice and plastic elder signs. To do so you would be looking at $400+. I suspect a more realistic purchase in Arkham Horror is the base game, 2 big box, one small box and some dice or gate markers, which would be around $200 and the equivalent for Cthulhu Wars would maybe be $300 (base game, 2 factions, one map and the high priests). So in a way it is only 50% more expensive than a similar game, rather than this enormous expense that sucks up the budget equivalent to10-20 games.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #214943 12 Nov 2015 16:13

Sag, this means you.

I was sold long before that, sir.

Years ago Adam Starkweather was pitching a similar concept for WWII right here on F:At. I wonder if this is the design he was considering for development.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #214958 12 Nov 2015 19:00
I think if I'm spending this much, I'm going to spend it on a much more original game---I'd rather spend it on something like Kingdom Death that by all accounts is trying something very unusual you don't get anywhere else. But pure personal preference, not trying to negate your point.

Of course, I'm not buying either, so it's purely hypothetical.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #214959 12 Nov 2015 19:16
MuMu, that is a great point. It's easy to see that $700 Mysteries of the Worm package and say "yep, this is a $700 game". When the reality is that for you, it may be a $125 (figuring in discounts if you go to retail or aftermarket for it) for you. Or if you buy it with a group as some folks have done, it's less than that even. For me, it is a $700 game because I want it all. But you are also correct in comparing it to something like Arkham Horror- the retail for all that stuff AND got all of the "extras" like the dice, miniatures and so on you are looking at several hundred dollars right there. I think what it is more than anything is that a) the expansions are really expensive, comparatively and b) there is a lot of "extra" material that is truly optional and c) you are looking at the upfront price tag for an entire product line, not just a single SKU.

Sax, that is totally valid. For me, if I'm going to buy a big bucks luxury game, my #1 concern is "is this game going to actually get played". I do not want a $400, $500 shelf toad that never gets played because it's too complicated, too weird, too long, too hard too teach others, or that requires too much commitment to get the most out of it. I want something that like I said, you can have someone over that sees it, wants to play it, and you can be in-game within 15 minutes. AND get a great gaming experience out of it that allows for beginner-level play as well as deeper material that comes out with experience.
ChristopherMD's Avatar
ChristopherMD replied the topic: #214961 12 Nov 2015 19:59
I've certainly dropped a few hundred into games like Arkham as I did buy everything. Imperial Assault I'm sadly assuming I'll spend a few hundred eventually. As far as over-the-top production expensive games go, I think if it has any chance of failing in your group(s) then its not worth even considering it. Big box shelf toads are the worst. They're more like room toads.
OldHippy's Avatar
OldHippy replied the topic: #214962 12 Nov 2015 20:40
DoaM's and dex games are definitely my favourite genre. They are both over-represented in my collection but they all get use. This sounds exactly like something I would totally love. But I just don't have 150$ (edit: actually 205.95 + taxes at the cheapest Canadian retailer I know) right now to get it. I'm going to wait and see for the time being, there might be a chance in the future... you've certainly piqued my interest and I really want to play it now. I assume that the game is fine with some serious longevity right our of the box and the expansions just offer new factions so I don't see a need to jump all in right away even if I could round up the cash for it.
drewcula's Avatar
drewcula replied the topic: #214963 12 Nov 2015 20:59
I did it. I bought one of the last CSI copies of CW. $130 minus my 4% rewards discount. Free shipping. Now I'll only sink $600 into the KS, because I'm an expansion whore. I WANT ALL THE PLASTIC CRITTERS. ALL.
cdennett's Avatar
cdennett replied the topic: #214971 13 Nov 2015 02:16
I bought a copy from CSI when the price dropped, as well. I'm currently in for about $300 in the KS: all of the expansion factions (4x$50), Asaloth expansion (bunch of neutrals, $50), the plastic gates ($30), high priests ($15), and the better cardstock ($10, based this on comments here). I'm pretty comfortable with this, especially with the rules making all the faction GOOs into independents when not in play. I'm trying to resist getting any of the maps, because the closer I get to $600, the weaker my will will get. Realistically this will not hit the table very often with my group, so I really should be fine. Also, it's not so much the money, but the space. I can hide the cost from my wife, but I can't hide that pile of boxes...
Disgustipater's Avatar
Disgustipater replied the topic: #214977 13 Nov 2015 09:16
Plastic gates have always seemed like a bad idea to me. You are taking an already crowded area and making it smaller.
SuperflyPete's Avatar
SuperflyPete replied the topic: #214981 13 Nov 2015 11:03

Disgustipater wrote: Plastic gates have always seemed like a bad idea to me. You are taking an already crowded area and making it smaller.

Especially when the Black Goatlings can control them. I don't think they'll fit.
Disgustipater's Avatar
Disgustipater replied the topic: #214984 13 Nov 2015 12:58
It's been a couple years since I looked at them, but I'm pretty sure they have a wider platform built into them for just that purpose.
Da Bid Dabid's Avatar
Da Bid Dabid replied the topic: #214985 13 Nov 2015 13:09
I'm glad I recently splurged to be a Blood Rage late-late backer, it ensures my budget definitely has no room to even consider the possibility of CW. Other than Scott who has already posted his thoughts comparing them (with CitOW) I'd like to hear ya'll Uncle Pennybags' opinions once your games ship to ya.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #214993 13 Nov 2015 14:05
I'm still waiting for Blood Rage to hit MM, I'm doing the review there No KS stuff, but I don't really care as of right now.

Plastic gates, yeah...I dunno, that's on my "maybe not so much" list. The cardboard ones are fine (but are really kind of chintzy-looking compared to everything else) and I was wondering about the Dark Young on them too.

It was actually worth my $1 pledge to get Mr. Petersen's updates...he digs into design ideas, explains what everything does, etc. The neutral stuff actually sounds really neat, things that anyone can buy and use. That could add quite a lot of depth to the game.
Ancient_of_MuMu's Avatar
Ancient_of_MuMu replied the topic: #214997 13 Nov 2015 14:42
I am hugely wary of the neutral stuff. I remember when we used the mercenary rule in our blood bowl league and it was dominated by teams who had a structural weakness that was worth paying huge amounts to overcome (eg the slow teams loved having skaven runners who are the fastest players available to anyone). It meant that the asymmetry was lost, and and the asymmetry is an important part of Blood Bowl and Cthulhu Wars.
stoic's Avatar
stoic replied the topic: #215000 13 Nov 2015 15:21
I'm just going to imagine that my Nexus Ops DOAM pieces are 10 times larger than they really are and play it. It will save me some serious cash. In my leisure though, I'll continue to worship Cthulhu and calculate non-Euclidian geometry in the Louisiana swamps adjacent to my home... ph'nglui mglw'nafh cthulhu r'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn ...
SuperflyPete's Avatar
SuperflyPete replied the topic: #215002 13 Nov 2015 15:39
While you're at it, make up some cards for the factions that give them boosts every time they gain X amount of points or something.
stoic's Avatar
stoic replied the topic: #215035 14 Nov 2015 14:08

SuperflyTNT wrote: While you're at it, make up some cards for the factions that give them boosts every time they gain X amount of points or something.

There's been some discussion on that topic to make asymmetrical faction powers for Nexus Ops. I haven't experimented with it. You?
ThirstyMan's Avatar
ThirstyMan replied the topic: #215036 14 Nov 2015 14:13

stoic wrote: ...... and calculate non-Euclidian geometry....

Wow, I do that all the time. Does that mean I'm a Cthulhu worshipper? Is that the same as a physicist?
stoic's Avatar
stoic replied the topic: #215037 14 Nov 2015 14:21

ThirstyMan wrote:

stoic wrote: ...... and calculate non-Euclidian geometry....

Wow, I do that all the time. Does that mean I'm a Cthulhu worshipper? Is that the same as a physicist?

I'll consult Cthulhu and Lovecraft's interdimensional shade when I next see them in the swamp.
SuperflyPete's Avatar
SuperflyPete replied the topic: #215038 14 Nov 2015 16:02
@Stoic: No. I don't own Nexus Ops anymore. Played it a bunch and kind of realized it's not deep enough for my DOAM tastes.

So, this happened today:

The bits seem smaller now. The box seems like it's mostly empty. Shellie has the battle foam in it and it makes sense...mine has bags.

The more I think about this the less I am seeing $150.00 in value there. Mine is a KS version, and I'm not seeing any stretch goals or anything.

If they were painted, totally $150.00 or even $200.00 but unpainted, I just don't see a hundred fifty dollars in the box.
dfour's Avatar
dfour replied the topic: #215039 14 Nov 2015 17:00
Tell me more about how you're not seeing the value, so I can stay strong and not give in in these final days.
SuperflyPete's Avatar
SuperflyPete replied the topic: #215042 14 Nov 2015 17:44

dfour wrote: Tell me more about how you're not seeing the value, so I can stay strong and not give in in these final days.

  • There's only 30-40 miniatures in the box. Granted, they're big, but still, there's not a lot.
  • The cardstock is thin. The copy I got was sleeved and still my reference cards are bent up.
  • Player mats are thin cardstock as well.
  • The box is as empty as Yig's soul. The box is HUGE and mostly empty. This means less structure. My box had torn corners and seams.
  • It's a far better-than-average DoaM, based on one play, but it's not 100$ better.
  • 50$ per expansion is STEEP AS FUCK. 13 models, 6 cardboard counters, a thin character sheet....and that's 50$? Suck a dick.
  • The "grandiosity" wears off. I played in Mass on Oct. 20th or so. It's not even a month later and now I'm looking at my copy thinking "I remember them being bigger"

I hope this helps. I'd be in for $100.00-$120.00 but for $150.00 I think it's a bit much. If it had a built-in 5th faction I'd be all over it.
Hex Sinister's Avatar
Hex Sinister replied the topic: #215044 14 Nov 2015 19:35
Shoddy cardstock is a real downer for a "Premium" title like this. Close enough to being a dealbreaker for me. Even shitty DotR had decent player boards.

I'm toying with the idea of asking my crew if they will split the cost of this + a 5th faction. I'm not rich enough to own a $200 shelf turd. If dudes put money in then it would get played. And I know for sure this would be a perfect game for everyone since we all have roots in CoC + DoaM. I dunno, it makes me feel greasy to ask lol.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #215046 14 Nov 2015 20:28
In the update Mr. Petersen "respectfully disagreed" with me about the cardboard in the game but it's just a fact- they do not meet the quality of the plastics even half way. The punchboards are a little thicker, but they are also of lower quality (visually and materially) than what you'd see in an FFG, Z-Man or Asmodee title. The player mats and tracks are thin cardstock, mine were "pre-bent" from shifting around in the box.

And the dice...they really bug me. You can buy a $25 game that has custom, etched dice. But in CW you literally get stock D6s...little ones. Black, not even green or something.

The board is fine, but nothing special and it's visually pretty bland...this is one place I will compare it to CitOW, which had a GREAT looking board. In a $60 product.

The figures really do make up for those disappointments, I'm sure they were quite expensive to sculpt, mold and assemble (a couple are multiple pieces). And this is some hard ass, "toy grade" plastic, not the brittle or bendy stuff game minis are usually made of.

If the game were made on a bigger scale by a larger company, I think they could have hit their margin target without cutting those kinds of corners.

The game is so good I overlook some of that...but there again, it's up to you to do the math and determine if it's all worth it.
SuperflyPete's Avatar
SuperflyPete replied the topic: #215047 14 Nov 2015 22:05
With all due respect and speaking from my own personal experience, I do think that a critic can overlook some shit when it arrives free of charge. That's one reason I never tell my crew if it's a review copy or not because I don't want to bias anyone when they vote.

I know I can overlook a lot of shit when I get something free. If someone moves and I get thier kitchen table, for example, the nicks and scratches don't bother me, but If I paid for it at a garage sale, I'd be far more critical.

Just my 2c.

With regard to THIS game, I'd love to know their budened cost. If they're not clearing 75$ a copy then they suck at life.

The shipping bill I got for receiving my copy from St Louis was $14.50 + 3 for insurance