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Climate and fear – review of game Cthulhu Deckbuilding

Not every king has  a beard, a  cloak and a crown. Don’t you believe? Meet Hastur, the King in Yellow. You can find him and another powerful creatures call Ancient Ones in the game Cthulhu Deckbuilding. But the meeting with Azothoth isn’t recommend – reputedly he is in state to destroy the world.

What  decides about success of board/card game? It’s combination of attractive theme and working well mechanic. Is seems Paul Davis, the author of Chtulhu Deckbuilding, discovered two components to create good game. The first is  an theme related  to myths created by H. P. Lovecraft. The proof of attractiveness of theme mentioned is not only popularity of Lovecraft’s novel but also the fact, that creatures from his novels are known in pop culture. You can even find mems in Internet with slogan: „Chutlhu for president!”. The second component of good game is mechanic. Paul Davis decided for tried deckbuilding – mechanic introduced by Donald X. Vaccarino. Gamers loved the mechanic and currently a lot of games contain elements of deckbuilding. Gamers loved also myths Cthulhu but will they get to like combination of the components mentioned? Let’s check.

 Monsters everywhere

In game Chtulhu Deckbuilding you expect  meet  Ancient Ones. In reviewed title there are ten of them, all look terrifyingly and they have powerful  abilities. There are also minor monsters (cards Horror). Part of these monsters attack when they appear in the game. But all of they you use in same way for our purposes (about  this matter – later). In the world of Cthulhu not only monsters and Ancient Ones are dangerous – the same you can tell about Events. In this threatening world gamers impersonate in   investigators who have inique ability. Fight with evil single-handely is hard. Fortunately, heroes can enlist Allies. In addition they buy cards of Equipment and Spell. Every type of card look differently – it facilitates the play. For  instance cards of Allies have blue elements,  Spell feature illustrations, that look like sketches. Cards in the revewied game are aesthetic,  their thickness  is  standard and their amount is huge ( there are over 200 cards). 

With allies you’ll defeat even Cthulhu

Revewied title is based on  deckbuilding – it means that players buy cards to  create own decks. In Cthulhu Deckbuilding make decks to fighting with Ancient Ones (Ones provide  victory points). Bought items, spell and hired allies also provide points. Next source  of poinsts are cards Horror but the process of gathering them is quite complicated. In order to get Horror to the deck some player must put the card to stack banished and paid the  power cost the card. Then any player can get the card in his turn if he has a card with such ability. All described action is worth of time because Horrors have got interesting and powerful abilities. They also introduce negative interaction between players. The mechanic of Horror is interesting and  rather unique in card games.

How does the party in Cthulhu Dechbuilding look like? In the beginning of the play gamers draw one card investigator for one person. Every hero has got unique ability, for example Professor can increase or reduce level of his insanity. Cards of investigator lie on the table (face up). Then players create firt deck – they get 7 Strength and 3 Fear cards. Gamers shuffle own decks. Then they shuffle Story Deck – cards to buy.  In the middle  of the table they put five cards face up. On both sides they put cards: Psychic Blast, Corruption  and properly  prepared deck of Ancient Ones. In his turn active  player takes  five cards to his hand. He adds cards from Story Deck to get five face up. When the turn starts happen first:

  • Events
  • effects Suprise (Horror cards)
  • effect Awaking of Ancient One if new One was exposed.

Then the gamer plays cards from his hand to get Allies, Spell or items from Story Deck. The currency is power. The player can also put the to   banished stack and bring them out from the stack. Then he can play the Horror from banished stack. Other played cards are discard (they put on the graveyard). The player can also get card of Ancient Ones if the gamer have power and  proper level of insanity. In same sense you also buy the Ancient Ones. Alle cards played or not are put to the graveyard of gamer and next person starts his turn.

This world needs heroes

Due mechanic and theme we can compare Cthulhu Deckbuilding to Ascension and Thunderstone. In mentioned titles players buy cards of creatures/items and fight against  monsters. However in Anscension and Thunedstone players always decide to fight or not. If they don’t want combat – nothing happens and they don’t suffer any  wounds. But in reviewed title the situation is different. Part of monsters from cards Horror have abbility „Suprise attack” – that means they attack when  they appear. Besides, they attack all player so every hero can suffer wounds.  Ancient Ones attack in the same turn the appear and they  infflict  injuries to all players. In Cthulhu Deckbuilding defence against monsters is  harder and world seems more dangerous.

Mechanic of the revewied title generate atmosphere of fear so it  fits in with  theme of the game. The effect was achieved not only due monsters. Events are also dangerous and they can entire  change the party, e.g. event that stop drawing card from Story Deck. So the is unpredictable. The climate of horror and threat isn’t the only advantage of the game. The next of them is two-step process of gaining Horrors, described  earlier. Due „effort of gaining Horror” we get cards with unique abbilites, we introduce interaction  interaction between players and we get victory points.  The mechanic of insanity is also very interesting. In the game we must pay attention our insanity – low level of insanity mean we can’t get car the Ancient Ones. But high level can cause death because all wounds in the game are psychic injuries. But the revewied title isn’t game without weakness. There is  same problem with  card of  Ancient Ones. On the card we can find „slogan”(e.g. harvest), that mean tasks, e.g. discard same amount of cards. In the first plays we aren’t in the state to remeber what actions particular slogan means. So we have to flick through the manual. There are ten the Ancient Ones so it can be awkward.

Cthulhu Deckbuilding is a  climatic game. The mechanic fits to heroes’ struggles in dangerous world. Combination theme from novels of H. P. Lovecraft with deckbuilding did good.I recommend revewied title all horror’s fans and enthusiasts of adventure games.


  • climate game
  • mechanic fits in with  theme of the game
  • interesting mechanic of gaining Horror cards
  • tried deckbuilding shows new face


  • slogans on the Ancients Ones make players flick through the manual

Profile of the game on Board Game Geek

Profile of the game on publisher’s website

Site of the game on Kickstarter



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