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Review: Cards of Cthulhu (DVG)

Posted by Denny Koch on August 12, 2014

CardsofCthulhu_boxGame: The Cards of Cthulhu

Publisher: DVG
Published in: 2014
Designer: Ian Richards
Era and Topic: Contemporary / Hypothetical / Cthulhu Myth
Components: 8 Investigator cards, 8 Follower cards, 10 Item cards, 8 Cult Gate cards, 4 Minor Horror Cult cards, 4 Major Horror Cult cards, 4 Unspeakable Horror Cult cards, 60 Minion Cult cards, 7 Custom Cthulhu Dice, 4 8.5″ x 11″ Cult (player) boards, 10 Metal Custom Cthulhu Coins, 1 player help sheet
Game Type: cooperative card game (1-4 players)

HFC Game-O-Meter: Ebullet1

Our Rating (1-10):

Graphic Presentation: 8
Rules: 8
Replay Value:

Overall Rating: 7

PRO Cthulhu! Can be played as a solitaire game or cooperatively. Great artwork. Very simple and fast game for the Cthulhu quick bite. Fast game play, almost no setup time.
CONTRA Very high random element: game can be unbeatable or a stroll in the park. Very simple mechanics without surprising elements (like special events). Not all required information are printed on the cards, which unnecessarily forces the players to refer to the rule book during a game. All cults have the same cultist types, which appears somewhat generic.


 Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fthagn!

As we already mentioned in our Hornet Leader – The Cthulhu Conflict review, we are Cultists. We are avid fans of Cthulhu and the other Great Old Ones, so we love playing games about the Cthulhu myth. It’s always interesting to see how a game approaches the topic and how it deals with the signature features of this universe: Great Old Ones, gates, minions, cultists, investigators. There is a vast plethora of Cthulhu games on the market, monster games like Arkham Horror, quick and fast games like Elder Sign, or the Call of Cthulhu LGC.

So – when we played the new “Cards of Cthulhu” game in our HFC Test Lab, the most interesting question about “Cards of Cthulhu” was: is the game bringing any new angle or unique feature to the topic?

Why do we need another Cthulhu game and what sets the game apart from the other games?

Cards of Cthulhu is a quick, very simple game. It can be played as a Solitaire game as well as with 2-4 players who play the game cooperatively vs. the paper AI. Both options work without any adjustments to the rules. Each player assumes the role of an Investigator. The goal of the game is to fight 4 cults whose cultists try to awake a Great Old One by opening gates and raising minor, major and unspeakable Horrors. The time limit is set by the card deck; if the cultists don’t manage to overrun the world before the deck runs out, the players win.

The game was designed by first-time designer Ian Richardson and published by Dan Verssen Games (DVG). It was a Kickstarter game where all stretch goals had been reached by the backers, so the game offers some nice bonus features like mounted boards and metal coins.

Game components and graphic presentation

Box contents plus Bonus pack

Box contents plus Bonus pack

The game is shipped in a sturdy, solid box with cool Cthulhu artwork on the cover.

The box contains 10 Investigator cards, among which players choose their character. The other cards are shuffled into one large deck, containing all types of playing cards like Cultists, gates, Minions, items, Followers. The cards are of a good printing quality, but appear to be somewhat thin. Since we sleeve all our card games, this wasn’t a problem at all.

Generally, the illustrations on the cards are quite thematic and true to the topic. What we didn’t understand, though, was the simple fact why the Investigators and the Followers have the same illustrations. We know that each character is meant to be a “generic archetype” and not “Susan Miller, the journalist”, so that’s the explanation why each character can appear as an Investigator as well as a Follower. So you can “be” the Priest and at the same time recruit the Follower “Priest”. But to us, it would have been more atmospheric if each Investigator was a unique character with a unique picture. Playing a character and then getting the exact copy with the same illustration as a Follower simply felt awkward.

In addition, there are 4 mounted cult boards, representing one cult each (the Cults of Cthulhu, Arwassa, Chaugnar Faugn, and Yog-Sothoth, respectively). During our first game, the boards warped heavily and tended to turn around on the table when we touched them, but the warping was entirely gone when we unpacked the game for the second time. Since then, the boards remained plain and didn’t warp at all anymore.

There is also a Help Sheet which offers quick rules reference for the players. We always appreciate help sheets, regardless of how simple a game is (and Cards of Cthulhu is certainly one of the easiest Cthulhu games out there) – it serves as a rules reminder and is especially helpful when you didn’t play a game for a while and want to return it to the table without re-reading the entire rule book.

The game contains three types of special dice, Health dice, Body dice, and Spirit dice. These dice are used for combat resolution. The black dice are nicely done, but one of our players had slight problems in distinguishing some of the numbers, which are printed next to a colored tentacle-shaped object. Other players didn’t have any issues at all, so this doesn’t appear to be a general problem.

The currency within the game is “Experience” which is represented by golden metal coins. These were added as a Kickstarter stretching goal and we thought them to be really cool. Pure cosmetics, but much more evocative than counters.

3 types of special dice are used to resolve combat

3 types of special dice are used to resolve combat

Besides the full-color rule book, the game also contains an artwork book, which illustrates the origination process of many illustrations with comments and explanations by Cloud Quinot, the artist (who also did the artworks for Hornet Leader – The Cthulhu Conflict).

The overall production quality is, as usual with games published by DVG, very good. Especially the artworks are very atmospheric and true to the topic with painting-like illustrations. As in Cthulhu Conflict, the artist did a great job to convey a very special, very dark Lovecraftian atmosphere.

There is also a “Cards of Cthulhu Bonus pack” available which includes 7 more Cthulhu dice and 10 more coins. This is helpful if you play the game with more players, so players won’t have to share the dice – and you can never have enough coins. But the Bonus pack doesn’t include any additional cards, or rules, it isn’t a game expansion! So whether additional dice and coins are important enough for you to buy this expansion, is a matter of personal preference (you could also share your dice among all players and use coins of your local currency).


The 24-pages-full color rule book is very comprehensible with lots of illustrations, examples, and short, clear instructions. Only the first 15 pages are rules, though. After the rules section, you will find a sample game, and several Cthulhu short stories by renowned professional authors (you can download the rulebook here on the official DVG website)Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Fantasy Games A-Z, Games A-Z, Misc. Fantasy games, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Review: Hornet Leader – The Cthulhu Conflict (DVG)

Posted by Denny Koch on February 27, 2014

Cthulhuconflict_boxGame: Hornet Leader – The Cthulhu Conflict

Publisher: DVG
Published in: 2013
Designer: Dan Verssen
Era and Topic: Contemporary / Hypothetical / Cthulhu Myth / Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground warfare
Components: Expansion to Hornet Leader, Basic game required!
Game Type: Mixed: Board, counters, card-driven

HFC Game-O-Meter: D

Our Rating (1-10):

Graphic Presentation: 9
Rules: 8
Replay Value:

Overall Rating: 8.5

PRO Cthulhu! Hornet Leader! Both combined in one game!! Combining both games is a very cool and innovative idea. Can be played as a solitaire game or cooperatively. Great artwork, includes many elements from the Lovecraft universe
CONTRA Higher random element and more luck dependent due to Chaos caused by the Great Old Ones (which fits perfectly to the setting, but could be a turn-off for conservative Hornet Leader players because your careful planning and strategies can and will be destroyed within minutes)


 Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fthagn!

As you may have guessed (for example from reading our Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game articles), we are Cultists. We love everything dealing with Cthulhu and the other Great Old Ones. We play games like Arkham Horror, Elder Sign, the Call of Cthulhu LCG, or video games like Dark Corners of the Earth. And, of course, we watch even the most esoteric movies like the modern silent movie adaption of Call of Cthulhu.

The game can be played solitaire or cooperatively

The game can be played solitaire or cooperatively

So, you can image that we were very happy when Hornet Leader: Cthulhu Conflict arrived in our HFC Test Lab!

We are also fans of DVG’s “Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations” game (which we play cooperatively, since despite the fact that it is marketed as a Solitaire game, it also works great as a Coop game). So when Hornet Leader: Cthulhu Conflict was published as an (quite strange and unexpected) expansion to a down-to-Earth realistic Air combat warfare game, we got very excited.

Cthulhu Conflict isn’t a standalone expansion; ownership of Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations is mandatory because the game uses all material from the basic game and adds new rules, cards, counters, and markers to the mix.

This review will not deal with the core game mechanics and the gameplay sequence of Hornet Leader, so if you don’t know what this game is about and how it is played, you should read our extensive HL review first. It will give you a good overview about how the game works and what kind of game to expect.

It is assumed, both by the expansion and by our review, that you have basic knowledge of Hornet Leader and know how to play the core game. In this review, we will focus on the differences, how the expansion works, and how (good) the setting is portrayed in the game.

Like Hornet Leader, Cthulhu Conflict is scenario based, following the same choice options (game length, difficulty level) you already know from HL. In addition, the game is suitable for Solitaire play as well as 2-player cooperative gameplay vs. the paper AI. Both options work fine and coop games don’t need any adjustments to rules or gameplay. 

Game components and graphic presentation

The game is shipped in a box which is smaller and lighter than the Hornet Leader (HL) box. The HL box, of course, is a heavy monster full of cool stuff, and remember: you will use the contents of both boxes.

Box contents

Box contents

The box contains 56 additional cards (additional aircraft, new target cards, new event cards), 178 counters (bandits, sites, phobia markers), 4 Campaign sheets, and a full-color rule book. All components have the specific “HL look & feel” and fit to the main game seamlessly.

The game includes a Player Log Sheet, printed on a somewhat stronger paper. This serves as a master copy sheet and you can copy it at your local copy shop (or any photocopier at home or at work). There is no pad with several sheets in the box, so if you want to take the box to a friend, you should make sure that you photocopied enough player log sheets. If you don’t want to make physical copies, there is also a PDF version of the log sheet available from the official web site for free download, which can be printed out. The combination of adding a physical photocopy master and offering a digital download version is very user-friendly (adding a full pad with sheets would be the friendliest version, but this is, of course, a question of cost).

The overall production quality is, as usual with games published by DVG, very good. Especially the artworks are outstanding – in contrast to the usual technical images on the cards, the artworks (especially on the target cards) are true to the topic and very stylish with almost painting-like illustrations of creatures and places. The artist did a great job here to convey a very special, very dark Lovecraftian atmosphere.


The 12-pages-full color-rule book (which is also available as a free download from the official DVG website) doesn’t repeat the original Hornet Leader rules but refers to the HL rulebook for basic gameplay purposes. It details only the differences and rules changes as well as descriptions for new units and additional rules.

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Posted in Fantasy Games A-Z, Games A-Z, Historical Games A-Z, Leader Series, Misc. Fantasy games, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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
Replay Value:

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)


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 »