Sunday, 9 March 2014

Eldritch Horror: Fighting Cthulu with a Shotgun

Here at 103% we don’t like to limit ourselves to any one type of game, but rather discuss gaming as a whole. As such, we occasionally discuss games that aren’t electronic but more traditional. In the past we’ve covered the stone-cold classic “Settlers of Catan”, and we’ve also talked about various 2 player games that serve as a great alternative to sex (after all, sex isn’t always the best way of interacting with any given person).

Sex may not be appropriate at a job interview, but Yu Gi Oh sure is!

I recently acquired a brand-new copy of the Fantasy Flight game “Eldritch Horror”, a sequel to the relatively popular “Arkham Horror” game and it’s various expansions. The mythos of the game is based around the works of H.P. Lovecraft (I always like to pretend that the “H.P.” stands for “hit points”), and as such features various monstrous abominations to be fought, as well as a heavy focus on Lovecraft-crafted narratives. After playing half a dozen times I felt I should share my thoughts and reactions with the 103 community.

The game is a co-operative effort to win against the game itself, that can be played by 1 to 8 players. I for one like to envisage the battle-hardened nerd opting for a solo playthrough yet still reading every single card aloud. Each turn involves each player taking 2 actions in an attempt to prevent the advancing of the Ancient Ones, before moving on to the encounters phase, where each player has a narrative encounter of some sort, before the monsters make their moves against humanity. These encounters tend to be the most entertaining part of the game. Either the collective players choose to embrace these Lovecraftian nuggets with a horrified gravity or they laugh knowingly at the melodrama of it all; every game I have played thus far has fallen into the latter category. A particular highlight was when a “partially insubstantial insect” flew out of Jak’s brain “leaving knowledge of an alien world”. I hate it when that happens.

After a couple of test games where we had put the game together with a very easy set up we decided to go for the full Eldritchian experience, pushing aside the casual menace of Azathoth for the famed insanity as that internet favourite, Cthulu. Team 103 (myself, Jak, and Liam) did everything we could to make the game as hard as possible, thinking ourselves invincible after our near-victory over Azathoth. Oh, did I not mention that even when scaling the game to super-easy mode we lost? Yeah. Azathoth devoured our planet. You have us to thank for that one, humanity.

We're sorry.

Needless to say it was a massacre. The focal point of Cthulu’s Blitzkrieg of insanity ended up being Sydney. You see, if a character dies surviving investigators can attempt to recover their belongings, and eliminated players can respawn as a new investigator. Sydney rapidly became 103’s folly, as the more dead investigators piled up there the more tempting booty appeared. Also, on an unrelated note, “Cthulu’s Blitzkrieg of Insanity” would make an excellent name for a band. That’s a freebie.

As the patented “doom” counter hit zero and we had failed to make any substantial progress we set ourselves the makeshift win condition of killing Cthulu himself (this can happen in the game, but we were a long way off it happening. Lovecraft was quite right in describing him as “an excessive motherfucking badass”). We piled all our weapons and buffs on to my character, Norman Withers, the aged astronomer, and flew headlong into battle. Wielding a double-barrelled shotgun with an axe in case things turned ugly, I tried my luck. Did I win? No.

And so, as I left that accursed object on the table where it lay, I knew my mind was only a few days away from complete collapse. I leave this document as a testament to my time table-topping a really, really hard game.

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