Hungering Darkness: Seals of Cthulhu
Cold starlight shines down upon the city of Arkham. Behind those stars lurks ancient inhuman eyes that have watched the cosmos throughout the countless eons. Eyes that hunger and scheme, with no concern for the lives that play out upon the streets and in the houses of old Arkham. Hidden within the dark corners and forgotten alleys of the city lurk its servants and worshipers. Those who will stop at nothing to release the ancient horrors from their slumbering death.
- # of players: 2
- Ages: 10+
- Designer: Sean Epperson
- Publisher: Thing 12 Games
- Price Point: $15 (preorder price)
Seals of Cthulhu finds Investigators and Cultist engaged in a battle of influence and subterfuge in an attempt to either prevent or help one of the great old ones from breaking through into our world. Should the investigators win, the world lives another day. However, should the cultists win… It isn’t likely anyone will be around to witness the devastation.
Disclaimer: This is only a review for the base game of Seals of Cthuhlu. There is more lurking in the shadows, for those who dare seek it out.
Disclaimer: I received a free Print and Play copy of this game for my review.
- Fast gameplay
- No downtime
- Very engaging and tense gameplay
- Not a game for new players
- Not a game for casual players
- Has a steep learning curve for the metagame
Players begin Seals of Cthulhu by selecting one of the two 6 card game decks, either the cultist or investigator. Players then take turns offering their opponent a facedown card from their hand and a bid, in the form of influence, to keep that card for themselves. Influence is obtained either from the player’s influence pool or from cards they have face up on the table. It is then up to the opposing player to either take the offered influence or to bid more influence in an effort to gain control of the offered card. The bidding goes back and forth until a player either takes the offered influence or cannot bid higher than their opponent. Play then moves onto the next round, and the next card.
Each card is worth an amount of influence and control. Each card is also part of a set, and each set has a special ability that can only be used when a player has control of both cards.
The game continues until players have one card left in their hands. Players then tally up the total control they have from their faceup cards. The player with the most control wins the game, while their opponent faces the inevitable consequences of their defeat.
Seals of Cthulhu is a game that combines strategic and tactical gameplay with metagaming. To have any chance of winning you must find a way to separate your opponent from his half of the artifacts you need to bring your plan to completion. To do this you need to bluff, risk, sacrifice and manage every resource.
At the start of the game, you have only four influence and no cards in play and if you are not careful you will quickly find yourself with no influence, and no cards in play. You have very limited resources in this game, and the additional resources you do get come from the very cards you need to win the game. The game literally comes down to what you are willing to sacrifice to your opponent. And you are never sure what you are getting for that sacrifice until the bidding is done.
Another difficulty posed by Seals of Cthulhu is that in order to actually use any of the artifacts you must have both halves. The potion card is the exception to this, since it can be used without having the set. However, as important as it is to have both halves of an artifact, using that artifact is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it allows you to either turn a card that your opponent needs face down or to turn a card you really need face up. The drawback is that you have to turn half of the used artifact face down, depriving you of that cards control and influence.
That brings us to the metagame aspect of Seals of Cthulhu. Seals of Cthulhu isn’t a game that has some metagaming thrown in, the metagaming is the game. You can play Seals like a regular board game, but it won’t be much fun. The game is set up so that you actually have to offer your opponent cards that you have in play to gain other cards. However, you don’t know what card your opponent is offering, since the cards are offered facedown That means that whenever you offer something you are taking a big risk. If you can’t read or bluff your opponent, you will not win this game. The game comes down to figuring out how to force your opponent into giving you what you need, without giving up too much of what you already have.
Seals of Cthulhu isn’t meant for new players or casual. These players can play and enjoy the game, however, they will not get the full experience. For these gamers I say, unless you wish to delve into deeper waters, don’t break the seal.
Now, if you think the metagame is where the game is at. If you love the art of mental combat and wish to engage in a tense mental duel for the fate of the world, and potentially existence, then I urge you to open the Seals of Cthulhu and step inside.