Review: Cthulhu Dice

The dark lord rise’th.

THE PREMISE OF CTHULHU DICE

Cthulhu Dice is a dice game (no new news so far) set in the HP Lovecraft universe and created by Steve Jackson. In the game you control the servants of Cthulhu who are, in the great Lovecraftian tradition, trying to drive each other mad. You start the game with three sanity tokens that you are trying to keep, whilst robbing sanity off everyone else. That is the premise.

The game is played with a custom 12 sided die (to be fair, it should be called Cthulhu Die and not Cthulhu Dice) with each face showing one of five symbols. These are:

  • Yellow Sign (three swirly lines): Whoever you roll against loses one sanity. It goes in the middle of the table and can be claimed by others.
  • Tentacle (it’s a tentacle): Whoever you roll against loses one sanity and you gain one sanity. In effect, you rob the person you are casting the die against.
  • Elder Sign (a five pointed star): You, as the caster, can gain one of the sanity tokens in the centre. If there are none then it is a dud.
  • Cthulhu (a winged octopus): Everyone loses one sanity to the middle of the table.
  • Eye (it’s an eye): Choose any other result, like a wild card.

Once you are out of sanity you can keep playing, so long as more than one other player has sanity. It can be taken off them, but cannot be gained. Once everyone is out of sanity the game is over.

QUALITY AND COMPONENTS OF CTHULHU DICE

The die that is Cthulhu Dice is very high quality. It is a good solid die, with incredibly well engraved symbols. The tokens are standard glass tokens that could come with any game. I also use them as inspiration points in D&D so they do have their uses. The die does come in various colours and with various finishes. The green die is the standard one (pictured below).

Beautiful Die
I love beautifully designed die, and I have to say that this game has one of those.

WHAT IS IT LIKE PLAYING CTHULHU DICE?

First let me caveat this by saying that I love Steve Jackson Games. Munchkin was my gateway game, introducing me into a whole world of gaming. I have a great admiration for GURPs, and Car Wars, both of which were incredibly influential in the world of tabletop games.

I remember buying Cthulhu Dice and, still new to gaming, taking it around to a friend. We played a round, rolling and stealing sanity, and rolling, and giving sanity back, and rolling (etc.). When the round was over the response was “is that it?”. I was fairly gutted as I hadn’t introduced the group to that many games, and I was fairly new to the whole gaming thing.  Is that it? Yeah, kind of, it is.

Cthulhu Dice is a one dimensional game based on pure luck. There is no strategy, bar potentially choosing your target and this leads to a game that isn’t overly fun to play. The game is cheap, coming in at only £6.62 on the UK Amazon; however, it also isn’t really a game. It resembles a gambling game like Craps more than it does a real, modern day, board game.

That being said, if that is your thing then great. Some people love games of chance, some don’t. In my opinion, they do have their place; however, often I would prefer something like a “push your luck” mechanic to go with it.

VERDICT FOR CTHULHU DICE

Cthulhu Dice is, to be frank, disappointing. There is only one aspect to the game (luck) and although Board Game Geek suggests it may be party game, I would suggest that it would result in a kind of disappointing party. If you want to try a Steve Jackson game I would suggest starting with something more substantial like Munchkin, which is, in my opinion, revolutionary in the world of card games. If you want a die game then I would recommend a game like Age of War.  All in all, get Cthulhu Dice if you like games of chance, but otherwise it probably isn’t for you.

EDIT: I have actually come across an interesting idea about Cthulhu Dice (link here) that may be worth considering – and that is by mixing it with other games. In other words, take other Cthulhu games and use Cthulhu Dice as a way of determining who the first player is. That way it can be thematic and determine the first player in a way that is fun and in keeping with the rest of the games you plan on playing. It is an interesting idea.

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