Friday, 30 December 2016

Elder Sign

Following on from Pandemic Cthulhu, this evening Lovecraft-based gaming concluded with an old favourite, Elder Sign.

I guess we're just gluttons for punishment!

When my wife and I "two-player" Elder Sign, we take two characters each as, well you can't put an Elder God back in its box with just two investigators.  Tonight's team consists of the redoubtable Wilson Richards, the amazingly useful Amanda Sharpe, Mark Harrigan (indeed a "one man army"), and the pious and extremely powerful Sister Mary.

The game is set up ready to go and tonight we shall be attempting to defeat the Crawling Chaos of Nyarlethotep.

Yeah, we're doomed...
Elder Sign is actually a simple game to play.  Each turn you select one of the "tasks" to attempt, roll some dice to try to match the sets of symbols.  

If you fail your character suffers a penalty (usually a loss of stamina, sanity, or both).  If you succeed you gain some bonus like extra equipment to use, or a coveted "Elder Sign".  While you are doing this, the game is racking up "doom" or the conditions needed to awaken the Elder God (at which point you typically lose the game).  If you can stack up enough Elder Signs before the Elder God awakes, you win!  Of course, every time it hits midnight bad things happen.

So, day one, three successes!  However, the Slithering Shadows stymied us and this would become a serious problem we struggled to deal with.

Midnight hit, and as the clock chimed nothing happens...although there is a looming feeling that monsters are lurking in those shadows...

Midnight chimed again and monsters appeared in abundance.  This was not good at all.

Also, having failed to investigate this quiet area is was discarded, denying us one of our six locations to investigate for Elder Signs.

Day three saw a good measure of success.  Mark Harrigan finally solved our Slithering Shadows problem, and managed to loot a good store of items and spells to help us.  He was also blessed which helps a great deal!  And we managed to succeed at The Key to Beyond, calling forth Another Time and giving us an easy option for next the next day's adventures.

Check out the bling!
Midnight brought more monsters.  things were starting to get out of hand.  We also knew that the ever increasing "Doom" would get worse at the end of the following day, and there were precious few Elder Signs stacked on Nyarlathotep.  Things were looking grim and we were facing a second defeat at the hands of the Elder Ones.

Day four brought us some serious successes.  Victory at Walking the Ledge and Another Time netted three of the eleven Elder Signs we needed.  The tide was turning.

Midnight hit and another Doom token racked up.  We were now four Doom tokens off Nyarlathotep waking up (very bad), and five Elder Signs off sealing the nightmare in (very good).  The Elder God definitely had the upper hand.

Day five saw us pull back two Elder Signs, so now we were just three away from victory.

However, midnight brought another Doom token.  This game was going down to the wire.

Day six was brutal.  We failed Transported by Magic, gifting Nyarlathotep another Doom token.  It was now just two tokens from waking up.  However, two more Elder Signs put us one away from sealing it in.  The next Doom or Elder Sign will decide the game. 

Midnight hit, and Wilson Richards took the sanity hit to avoid a Doom token...

And so, day seven, and Riot in the Streets was our only Elder Sign option.  If we failed though though, we would forfeit a Doom and Nyarlathotep would awaken.  Wilson Richards ventured out into the riot and nailed it!  The final Elder Sign secured from the crowd, he slugged down the whiskey in his hip flask to keep him sane.

And so, the world was safe once more.  Unusually we did it without losing a single character, and in this incredibly tight game we only just made it!  Any victory is Elder Sign is a rare thing to be savoured and its an excellent tabletop game with a solid mix of tactics and luck.

Pandemic Cthulhu

The last couple of years have been a bit hit and miss for me regarding wargames at least.  This is why this here blog has been more sporadic than I'd like.  My regular wargaming friends are in a "different place" to me with what they're focused on, so my gaming hasn't been as regular as I'd like.

However, I have been playing a lot of other types of games including roleplaying and, apposite to this blog post, boardgames.  I guess "tabletop games" covers everything quite nicely.  Anyway, my beloved wife is also an avid boardgamer and so aside from one or two weekly sessions with our boardgaming friends, we regularly while away an evening flipping cards and pushing tokens about.  

Tentacles dude....

This evening we decided to take on the sanity-shattering horror of Cthulhu and his nefarious ancient god-like monstrosities.  First on the table we played our newly acquired gem; Pandemic Cthulhu.  

We're big fans of Pandemic of course, so we've been delighted by the Cthulhu version that, while using the same basic rules engine, is theme-soaked and plays in a slightly different way.  
Generally we've found you have more mobility, but the "clock" ticks down far faster.  We've yet to play this with 3-4 players so it'll be interesting to see how it works with more than two when we finally do.

Pandemic Cthulhu is of course a cooperative game where the players are attempting to work together to defeat the game, or in this case, attempting to prevent Great Cthulhu, Destroyer of Worlds from waking up and eating everyone's sanity.

OK...OK...uh...nope...I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.

So, how did this evening's game go?

We played a pair of investigators; Marcello the Magician who was fascinated by the relics of the Old Ones and magical objects of all kinds; and Betty Lane, and intrepid reporter who, it seems, has an Oyster Card.

We arrived by train at Arkham, New England (USA), and set about the business of uncovering and thwarting the evil plans of the Cthulhu cultists infesting the towns of Arkham, Innsmouth, Dunwich, and Kingsport.

Arkham itself seemed near overrun and we would quickly stumble on the foul form of a Shoggoth.

Steeling himself with a mind-guarding box, the Magician took on and destroyed the mutated beast.

I say!  I say!  You there, gribbly thing of off with you, there's a good chap.

However, it was all a distracting ruse and the cultists immediately summoned the Elder God Dagon.

With Dagon awake, its cultists came out of the shadows and immediately called forth Yig the Father of Serpents.  With our first few turns done, and two Old Ones awake, things were not looking good for us!
Yig would make our task of sealing the four Gates across the towns VERY much more difficult.

More Shoggoths spawned and cultists spread over the next few turns as we managed to close the Gate in Dunwich. Yay!  

Between us we had also gathered nearly enough resources to close the Gates in Arkham and Kingsport and the race was on.  Innsmouth was a different matter however, as it was all but overrun by cultists and a mind-tearing Shoggoth...

Matters took a turn for the worse however, and in quick succession Hastur The Unspeakable One, and Ithaqua The Wind Walker woke up and caused us no end of trouble.  Elder Gods eh?  Tut!

Things got no better when Tsathoggua the Sleeper of N'kai joined the party to rob us of our gate-closing cards.  The fiend.

Only Great Cthulhu itself remained to awaken but by then the towns of New England (USA) were overrun with cultists and we were soundly defeated.

Up yours Cthulhu!

Pandemic Cthulhu is much more than a simple re-skin of Pandemic, and although it shares the same basic rules (the enemies spawn and multiply each turn while the players desperately try to keep a lid on the growing chaos), there's a lot of thematic flavour and rules in here to make it feel like a different game.

We've only played it a few times but so far its a great addition to any collection.

Anyway, battered by our failure we moved onto the second game for this evening: Elder Sign.