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Review: Call of Cthulhu – The Card Game (LCG) Core Set

Posted by Denny Koch on May 31, 2010

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Published in: 2008
Designers: Eric M. Lang, Nate French
Topic: Fantasy / H.P. Lovecraft Universe
Game Type: Living Card Game (LCG)
Contents: 1 rulebook, 140 faction cards, 15 neutral cards, 6 Cthulhu miniatures, 1 mounted mapboard, 24 Story markers

HFC Game-O-Meter: D


Our Rating (1-10):

Graphic Presentation: 10
Rules: 6
Playability:
7
Replay Value:
6

Overall Rating: 7

Important! This review deals with the Core Set exclusively – and the question of how suitable it is as a standalone game played “out of the box”. It doesn’t rate the entire CoC LCG game system (Core Sets+expansions) or the general gameplay of the CoC LCG, only the contents of the Core Set “as is”!

PRO Introductory game for a LCG system that can be played “out of the box” without purchasing further cards, components are of a high quality, great artwork, Lovecraftian atmosphere, short playing time, 7 very different factions…
CONTRA …which cannot be exploited with the 20 cards per faction contained in the core set, no custom deck building, balancing issues with some combinations, official FAQ required (card errata, clarifications)

Introduction

Call of Cthulhu – The Card Game is an offspring of the Call of Cthulhu franchise. Initially, it was a Collectible Card Game where players had to buy random booster packs in order to build and improve their decks. In 2008, publisher Fantasy Flight Games decided to change the game concept into a “Living Card Game” where players still build and improve their individual card decks, but they don’t have to spend large amounts of money in buying randomized card packs with unknown contents in search for the rarest and most powerful cards.

Instead, the game is supplemented by the monthly release of “Asylum Packs” which contain cards for all seven factions as well as neutral cards. Their contents are fixed and public knowledge, so all players have access to all cards all the time. This provides for fair chances in deck building because there are no more “rare” cards as secret weapons and whether your deck is a success or an epic failure depends on your deck building skills and on how many Asylum Packs you buy.

If you want to start with Call of Cthulhu – The Card Game, you only have to buy the “Core Set” first, which serves as a starter pack. You can play it “out of the box” without buying further cards, if you want to get an impression of the game and if you want to decide whether you like the game concept. If you are a casual player and only want to play the game from time to time with friends or family members, you could probably be content with the Core Set alone, without ever buying any add-ons. It contains 20 cards for each of the 7 factions in the game, and 15 additional neutral cards which are divided between the two players. You simply choose two factions of your choice, combine their cards to a deck, add 7 neutral cards and you are ready to fight your opponent, who does the same. Combining 2 factions and fighting 2 other factions allows for 21 different decks with 105 different combat constellations.

This review deals with the Core Pack and how deep the gaming experience with the basic starter set – without any additional cards! – really is. It doesn’t deal with the “Call of Cthulhu – The Card Game” system in general!

If you are interested in more details about the Call of Cthulhu LCG, the game mechanics, Asylum Packs, and basic gameplay, please check out our introductory article: An Introduction to Call of Cthulhu – The Card Game (LCG). I won’t repeat the basics here, but concentrate on reviewing the Core Set and its value as a standalone game.

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Introduction to Call of Cthulhu – The Card Game (LCG)

Posted by Denny Koch on May 13, 2010

Call of Cthulhu – The Card Game is a Living Card Game (LCG) by Fantasy Flight Games. It is the successor of Call of Cthulhu – the Collectible Card Game (CCG) which was discontinued when the new format was introduced in 2008.

What’s the difference between a Living Card Game and a Collectible Card Game?

The main game concept is identical: players choose factions and then try to build a powerful deck which will “beat” other players’ decks. This genre is known as “Dueling Card Games“. Depending on the game, you have to follow a basic ruleset for constructing your deck (a minimum or maximum number of cards, a point or cost system, allowed number of copies in one deck), but apart from this, you are free to build and explore the “ultimate deck“.

In contrast to a traditional Collectible Card Game or Trading Card Game (Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, Marvel Vs, The Lord of the Rings TCG, Pokemon), the Living Card Game breaks away from the Collectible Card Game model.

A Magic Booster, containing 15 random cards

In a Collectible Card Game, you have to buy booster packs if you want to improve your deck and if you want to find rare and powerful cards. You don’t know the specific contents of a booster pack, though, so it can happen that you have to spend $100 for a very rare card while finding 85 copies of a cheap card. Since most game systems regularly publish new booster packs, you have to spend a huge amount of money if you want to stay up-to-date and if you want to improve your deck and counter other players’ new cards.

This “blind buy” purchase model is the most problematic aspect of Collectible Card Games. The collecting and the thrill of buying new booster packs without knowing what’s inside can be somewhat addictive, so often players are forced to quit the hobby because they cannot keep up the pace and spend too much money in buying useless boosters with multiple copies of cheap cards they already possess. If you want to play competitive, you are forced to invest your money in booster packs or to pay tremendous prices for specific cards sold on eBay.

A Living Card Game (LCG) offers a new card distribution model. Instead of selling randomized booster packs, cards are sold in fixed add-on packs. The contents of such a pack are public knowledge and fixed. In Call of Cthulhu, these add-ons are called “Asylum Packs”. They are published monthly and belong to certain “story cycles” with focus on different aspects of the game: focus on certain battle types (terror, combat, arcane, investigation), characters, locations, or skills. You don’t have to buy all Asylum Packs, if you don’t want to. Instead, you can choose which packs would really improve your factions or your deck or your strategy – and which are worthloss for your individual style.

Most players buy all Asylum Packs nevertheless, just to “have them all”, but this doesn’t hurt as much as buying booster packs. One Asylum Pack costs about 7-11 $, depending on the shop where you buy them, and that’s it. You don’t have to hunt a rare card anymore, you simply order the Asylum Pack with your favorite card on amazon or buy it in your local game store. Even if you are a hardcore competetive player who duels on tournaments, you don’t have to buy more than three copies of each Asylum Pack because you aren’t allowed more than 3 copies of each card in a single deck. If you play Highlander format (“there can be only one”, no more than one copy of each card per game), one of each Asylum Packs is more than enough. Publisher FFG even listened to their fans – the newer Asylum Packs contain three copies of each card, so there’s absolutely no need to buy more than one copy of each Asylum Pack any more.

Besides from the different distribution model, a LCG still offers the same dynamic customizable game play as a CCG. You can customize and build your perfect deck, but without the blind purchase model. In the end, the LCG model gives you the best of both worlds.

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Posted in Call of Cthulhu LCG, Fantasy Games A-Z, Games A-Z, Living Card Games | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »