Using Game Elements to your Advantage in 8-Bit Attack

Using Game Elements to your Advantage in 8-Bit Attack

8-Bit Attack by Petersen Games is a game of manic cooperative battle, inspired by the old side-scrolling console games we all loved. Each player controls a gallant 8-bit hero who, with his friends, must take out a series of mini-bosses.

Power-up your heroes until they’re tough enough to take on the final boss- none other than Cthulhu himself! The five expansions to 8-Bit Attack add new final bosses in their own way as tough as Cthulhu.

You’ll need to apply both tactics and strategy as you work with your friends to defeat the fearsome foes. Three of the many game elements to assist with this are Ascension, Potions, and Runes.

A single Ascension is huge – you get an extra combat die, a new active ability, and a new passive ability. It’s terrific. Of course, it costs 2 medals. My son Lincoln always goes for Ascensions first. I’m not sure agree with his theory here.

I really like getting the potion sets. With a full set of potions, a hero can survive 2-3 extra rounds with the health potion, fire off 1-2 extra abilities with the energy potion, and then survive another 4-5 rounds PLUS fire off more abilities with the resurrection potion.

I think it’s better than an Ascension any day. Of course, it’s just one-use, as opposed to the Ascension’s permanent boost. Who’s right, me or Link? Hard to say. I think my plan of getting the potions is better if you then use those potions to take on a significantly higher Assault. In effect you’ve then paid 1 medal (for the potions) to earn perhaps 3 more. Well worth it, if you can pull it off.

But let’s talk Runes. Unlike an Ascension or set of potions, a single Rune won’t change everything, but it certainly makes a difference. It’s like an always-on buff in a sense. For example, look at this randomly drawn hero: Ava the Adventurous.

Her first Rune is HP+5. An extra 5 Hit Points typically lets her survive 2 more rounds of combat without needing a heal, depending on her enemies. She might last even longer against some foes. Two extra rounds mean two extra attacks for her, possibly enough to finish off an enemy or to get enough energy for another ability. 

Her second Rune is two slow armor. This is even better than the extra Hit Points, but only if she is being targeted by the right enemy. The King in Yellow champion for instance, only inflicts fast hits, so her armor is useless. But the Hellhound champion inflicts 2 slow hits in a counterattack, which means she can attack the Hellhound with impunity. That’s priceless. So, this Rune is situationally valuable. 

Her third Rune is an extra fast damage for every attack. It’s like rolling a whole extra die every turn – a predictable one! Most characters seem to manage to last 3-4 rounds in combat. This means the damage rune lets her inflict 3-4 extra damage, about half the hit points of a minion.

So, if she rolls into action without the damage rune, she’ll probably be able to kill 1 Minion in her 3-4 rounds of life. But with the damage rune, she can kill her own enemy quicker, and then kill off half of another player’s Minion. This has a snowball effect, letting all the players take less damage and finish their foes faster. Is it better than her two protective runes of Hit Points or Armor? It kind of depends on your play style. 

If you like precision, I’d go for the hit points. They’re reliable. If you’re a gambler, I’d go for the slow armor – it can be great vs. the right enemy. If you fall somewhere between these extremes, I’d say go for the fast attack. 

Or even more sensibly you could look and see what your fellows have for their abilities and boosts? If they are able to give everyone slow armor, you probably don’t need bonus slow armor on top of that. If they give everyone fast attacks, you may want your fast attack to add to it and make it even more effective. If they suck at healing, you may want the extra Hit Points for survival purposes.

The take home message is that you must craft your hero over the series of battles to get him or her tough enough to take on that final boss, and you have lots of choices in how to do this.

About Sandy Petersen

Sandy got his start in the game industry at Chaosium in 1980, working on tabletop roleplaying games. His best-known work from that time is the cult game Call of Cthulhu, which has been translated into many languages and is still played worldwide.

He also worked on many other published projects, such as Runequest, Stormbringer, Elfquest and even the Ghostbusters RPG, and was instrumental in the creation of dozens of scenario packs and expansions. He also acted as developer on the original Arkham Horror board game. In 2013 he founded Petersen Games which has released a series of highly successful boardgame projects, including The Gods War, Evil High Priest, and the much-admired Cthulhu Wars. His games have sold tens of millions of copies worldwide, and he has received dozens of awards from the game industry.

Why doesn’t Sandy play Call of Cthulhu in the 1920s setting

Why doesn’t Sandy play Call of Cthulhu in the 1920s setting

Call of Cthulhu (the RPG) was the first ever game based on H.P. Lovecraft’s works, and it’s considered the most successful horror game of all time. Since its release in 1981, a popular way to enhance the role playing experience has been the introduction of miniatures, used to represent the characters in the game.

Petersen Games has now released our own line of Cthulhu mythos miniatures, previously only available by ordering our board games. While you are considering adding them to your role-playing activities, here is some background behind Lovecraft’s popularity, how I came to design CoC, and why I don’t play it using a 1920s setting.

How did Lovecraft become so Popular?

Lovecraft was a forgotten author – except among authors and a tiny loyal group of fans. He was reviled by critics, those few who read him, and the assumption was that his stories were terrible. His popularity started in 1981, when Call of Cthulhu the RPG came out. Then, starting in 1985, some good films also started coming out, based on Lovecraft’s works.

Also, in the 1980s S. T. Joshi, a literary critic, started the re-evaluation of Lovecraft as an author. He more-or-less singlehandedly redeemed Lovecraft in the eyes of arrogant academics.

These three factors combined. My game moved through the roleplaying audience – even people who hadn’t played it had heard of it. Stuart Gordon’s movies moved through the horror geek audience. And S.T. Joshi influenced the intellectuals– he also successfully edited new editions of Lovecraft’s books, with HPL’s original language.

All these things happening simultaneously popularized Lovecraft in a way that had never happened before. I’m not sure which was the most important – probably Joshi had less effect than either me or Stuart Gordon, but all of us spread the news. Today, Lovecraft is well known. Games, books, films, toys, all thrive thanks to this.

I am proud to be the person who started this renaissance, so let’s discuss how my games did this, and why I don’t play in the 1920s, as the game seems to prefer.

How I Came to Write Call of Cthulhu

In 1980, I had started writing a few supplements for Chaosium. The biggest one was Gateway Bestiary, which actually misspelled the name Runequest on the cover. In this product, I introduced some Lovecraft monsters – shoggoths, deep ones, and so forth. I loved Runequest and played it plenty.

The difficulty was that Chaosium had the rights to publish a Lovecraft game, but they had no respect for Lovecraft’s writing. They realized if they wrote it, they would not do the game justice. Simply because they had contempt for Lovecraft, they realized this contempt would seep through the game, and taint it. You’ve seen this happen in other genres, such as movies, when a director doesn’t respect what he’s doing.

That’s why they hired me to write the Call of Cthulhu. They didn’t tell me of their lack of respect for Lovecraft. But they knew I loved it and would do the best job I could. That’s what they wanted. The best job.

But … Chaosium also knew that to do a full roleplaying game would require them to put in lots of work into it anyway. How could they somehow get a love for the topic? How could they find interest in the work of this so-called hack?

Why I don’t Play Call of Cthulhu in the 1920s

Chaosium’s genius was that they said, “The stories mostly take place in the 1920s. The 1920s are cool. Let’s set the game then!” and thus the 1920s era for Call of Cthulhu was born. They did a whole great big sourcebook for the 1920s and put it in the box. Folks loved it. Not just horror, but the 1920s.

Because they’d hung their hat on the 1920s, they were able to love the topic and get into it. Because they had a Lovecraft fan write the rules, I was unfettered and able to make it as creepy and horrifying as I liked.

Now, you must understand that Lovecraft wasn’t writing in the 1920s. He was not creating nostalgia – he was creating horror and science fiction and incorporating the latest discoveries. His tales feature airplane exploration of Antarctica, submarines, ultraviolet light, the discovery of Pluto, and so forth. He was cutting-edge. So, to me it was natural to set Lovecraft’s stories in the modern world. And I’ve usually played with that assumption.

So, when I played a game of Call of Cthulhu, mostly I ignored the 1920s setting. Sure, it was ostensibly 1920s, but the players drove cars, and carried guns, and there were police. It was close enough to the modern time that usually it made no difference. It gave me an excuse to force the players to travel overseas by boat, which was cool, and occasionally in dark corners of the earth there were groups or tribes no longer in existence.

But generally, I played it without reference to the time period. Not so the rest of the Chaosium team. They exulted in talking about the quaint old cars, flapper costumes, zeppelins and so forth. But the important thing is we all had fun, and so did the gamers.

Making Horror Horrific

In short – horror to be most effective has to be brought home to the players. In general, it’s harder to imagine yourself in the 1920s, because we never lived then. That becomes an additional obstacle to feeling terrified.

If you can set the horror in the same time as the players themselves live, it’s that little bit easier to scare them. It just gives you an edge, and I want all the advantages I can use.

But in reality, you can set horror in any era you choose. Just remember that if it is not set in the here-and-now, you may have to do a little extra work.

But that little extra work may be worth it!

About Sandy Petersen

Sandy got his start in the game industry at Chaosium in 1980, working on tabletop roleplaying games. His best-known work from that time is the cult game Call of Cthulhu, which has been translated into many languages and is still played worldwide.

He also worked on many other published projects, such as Runequest, Stormbringer, Elfquest and even the Ghostbusters RPG, and was instrumental in the creation of dozens of scenario packs and expansions. He also acted as developer on the original Arkham Horror board game.

In 2013 he founded Petersen Games which has released a series of highly successful boardgame projects, including The Gods War, Evil High Priest, and the much-admired Cthulhu Wars. His games have sold tens of millions of copies worldwide, and he has received dozens of awards from the game industry.

Planet Apocalypse: All About Dice

Planet Apocalypse: All About Dice

Planet apocalypse is an exciting cooperative game for 1–5 players. You are post-apocalypse heroes confronting the hordes of hell! Every game is different, and every game is tense, as you battle demons from the circles of hell, and in the end, strive to take down their demon lord.

This game features an upending variety of game play, with strategies and tactics changing every time. The demon figures in this game are huge, with miniatures a true 28mm scale, and demons up to 104mm.

Why are the dice so plain?

The dice are simple solid colors. Nothing fancy, like Q-Workshop’s tribal dice, or SJG’s Cthulhu dice. Why? Because we are going for functionality here. 

This is not just theory either. You see, when I play tested this game for the last 18 months, we obviously didn’t have the official dice, so I just used dice from my collection. Naturally, they came in all the colors of the rainbow. Some were even multi-colored. 

Almost every time someone rolls dice, there are adjustments. Someone helps you, so your d6 grows into a d8. Every time you roll for a demon attack it’s a different number and often type of dice. So, you can’t just grab your hero’s dice and plop them in front of yourself and use them. You need to swap them out.

This meant in our playtests every time dice were rolled, someone had to poke through the dice pile looking for one last d10, and the less experienced players had trouble telling the difference between d8s, d10s, and d12s (d4s & d6s were easy though). 

By making the dice flat easy-to-read colors it’s super-simple to grab the dice you need. If you need a d8 and a d10 for your attack, it’s super-easy just to grab a green & a blue die from the pile that Gilberto selfishly amassed in front of his seat.

We also didn’t pick the colors arbitrarily. They are assembled in such a way that colors that COULD be confused are on physically distinct dice. For example, if you have green-red colorblindness, blue and purple are sometimes difficult to distinguish. Well the blue & purple dice are the d10 and d6 which are really easy to tell apart via shape. And of course the d12 is almost black, making it really easy to tell apart from the d10, which is a sort-of-similar shape. The d10 & d8 are similar in shape to the untrained eye, but their colors, green & blue, are easily distinguished by almost all color-blind types. 

How Many Dice Do I Need?

Let’s break this down. You have I am sure noticed that there are 6 dice of each type in the dice pack. No doubt part of your brain is thinking, “Those lazy bastards. Why didn’t they carefully parse how many we’ll need instead of just dumping 6 per type.”

Well, let’s look at the individual cases. 

THE FOUR-SIDED DIE – only humans (and Chthon) roll the d4s. Sometimes a human might roll 2d4 (Chthon frequently rolls 4). Every human needs a d4 by his seat all the time for Recruiting anyway, so we give you 6. This way, a human who rolls 2d4 for his attack can have the extra die available, even in a 5 player game. 

THE SIX-SIDED DIE – the Larvae roll these. While in theory 10 Larvae could be in one area all rolling dice, this never happens in practice. They are divided among several areas, and by the time they get to attack, 1-2 have always been killed off. So really 6 is the upper-level of what you’d ever need. I’m trying really hard to think of a time we needed more than 6d6 for a Larvae attack, and cannot remember it happening in all 18 months of prototyping and playtest. 

THE EIGHT-SIDED DIE – these are rolled by humans (who never need more than a few), some 4th circle demons, and some demon lords. The demon lords roll six, so we give you 6d8 to handle this situation. 

THE TEN-SIDED DIE – most of the lesser demons roll these. However, more than 6 doesn’t really happen. You might have 2 cacodemons in an area, who would roll 6d10. Rarely (or with the Gehenna legion) you might find 3 fiends, who again roll 6d10. The theoretical maximum of Grylluses in an area is 6, so they won’t bust the limit. And of course a number of demon lords roll 6d10. Really, the only way to need more than six d10s is if you somehow get all four fiends in the same area. In that case you have bigger problems. Or if you have a really big Argus attack with a ton of minions. 

THE TWELVE-SIDED DIE – Plenty of demon lords roll d12s and of course they “only” ever need 6. It’s theoretically possible to need more with Chthon, but I doubt it.

What Do I Do With The Red Dice Pack?

As I see it, the red dice pack has two prime functions.

  1. As game owner, you can bogart the red (or blue) dice pack and tell your gaming buddies, “Okay, you parasites. THESE dice are mine. You guys get the other color.” Then you always have all the dice you need and they are easily distinguished. 
  2. You can set aside the red dice and say “We use these for the demons. The blue dice are for us.” There are enough blue dice that everyone will have enough most of the time. After all, humans don’t roll as many dice as the demons. You still may have to swap dice (or borrow a demon die) from time to time. 

Why can’t I buy more Despair Dice?

Because the number of Despair Dice (12) is a hard game limit. It’s integral to the late-game that 12 is the cap. “But Sandy!” I hear you plaintively, “What if I lose a die?” Well, heaven forbid, but if you do, just use a normal d6 in its place, reading a 1-3 as the First Circle icon, 4-5 as the Second Circle icon, and 6 as the Third Circle icon. It works fine. How do I know? We did just that for many months on end. 

Another solution, if you own the Cthulhu Wars custom dice, is to grab a custom Cthulhu battle die and use it as a replacement. You don’t REALLY need 20 of them in Cthulhu Wars, after all, and it has the same numbers of faces as the Despair Dice (3, 2, 1). I guess I’m in a rut design-wise. Either that or I’ve struck gold and am still mining it. You be the judge. 

About Sandy Petersen

Sandy got his start in the game industry at Chaosium in 1980, working on tabletop roleplaying games. His best-known work from that time is the cult game Call of Cthulhu, which has been translated into many languages and is still played worldwide.

He also worked on many other published projects, such as Runequest, Stormbringer, Elfquest and even the Ghostbusters RPG, and was instrumental in the creation of dozens of scenario packs and expansions. He also acted as developer on the original Arkham Horror board game.

In 2013 he founded Petersen Games which has released a series of highly successful boardgame projects, including The Gods War, Evil High Priest, and the much-admired Cthulhu Wars. His games have sold tens of millions of copies worldwide, and he has received dozens of awards from the game industry.

Why doesn’t Sandy play Call of Cthulhu in the 1920s setting

How To Use Ghoul Island (Vol 1) In Your 5e Fantasy Campaigns

Ghoul Island (Vol. 1) is my first campaign for the Cthulhu Mythos. It lets you introduce the Cthulhu Mythos to any 5e fantasy RPG campaign and setting. Before taking this step however, you will want to understand horror fiction and how to create a believable horror scenario.

H.P. Lovecraft, the master of horror fiction, had a favorite ghost-story author M. R. James. James wrote some rules about making horror effective, and his chief rule is “The Ghost Must Be Malign”. In other words, he didn’t write about friendly spooks that just wanted to show you where their lost treasure was buried.

Now, how does this apply to the Cthulhu Mythos? You’d think that the horrors of Lovecraft are pretty solidly malign in nature. Oddly enough, there exist folks who try to “whitewash” Mythos entities. For example, they may have a plot or a tale in which Yithians figure as good guys. Or in which the Mi-Go from Yuggoth just want to be left alone to mine their blue metal in peace. Or something similar.

But if you want to keep true to Lovecraft, remember that contact with these beings is always inimical to humankind. Sure, the Yithians might not be focused on killing a particular human, but they are remorseless and deadly. Remember the Yithian lifecycle is based upon the periodic extermination of sentient species. Though the Mi-Go do want their minerals, they are willing to wipe out millions of humans if needed to ensure access.

Always, to the powerful races of the Mythos, humans, dwarfs, elf, and similar riffraff are mere encumbrances or obstacles. If a Mythos race got established in a significant way on your fantasy world, one of the first items on their agenda would be to reduce humans to a stone-age state. Why tolerate competition? Of course, the Old Ones, Mi-Go, or whoever wouldn’t see this as “evil” any more than humans, dwarfs, or elfs would feel bad about extermination an infestation of ants.

But there’s more — having the elder races be indifferent to the player-races survival isn’t always interesting enough. You can punch it up. What if in your adventure, the Mi-Go, mining their blue metal, leave tailings of mutagenic ore, which is transforming local wildlife into dreadful monsters. The Mi-Go don’t care. But the elf-woods down the road are becoming a hellhole.

Or, what if a Yithian faction is scouting out the dragonborn species as a possible new host. Imagine a million dragonborn suddenly becoming super-intelligent Yithian hosts. How would this affect your campaign world? Even if the Yithian/dragonborns aren’t organizing an immediate attack on other races, they are a dire threat.

Other such malign plans are easy and fun to come up with.

In Ghoul Island, a band of ghouls has been more or less cooperating with the humans on the island for centuries. Ghouls usually operate as a parasitic/symbiotic race with humanity after all — they eat our dead. On the island of Farzeen, things haven’t entirely changed. The ghouls are still cooperating with humans, but now they are allied to a secret cult plotting horrors which menace the entire island’s civilization. Plus, the Deep Ones are somehow involved, and they are always enemies to humanity. The plot is intricate, and the ghouls, Deep Ones, and human destinies are interwoven in an exciting and we hope fascinating reveal for you and your players.

About Sandy Petersen

Sandy got his start in the game industry at Chaosium in 1980, working on tabletop roleplaying games. His best-known work from that time is the cult game Call of Cthulhu, which has been translated into many languages and is still played worldwide.

He also worked on many other published projects, such as RuneQuest, Stormbringer, Elfquest and even the Ghostbusters RPG, and was instrumental in the creation of dozens of scenario packs and expansions. He also acted as developer on the original Arkham Horror board game. 

In 2013 he founded Petersen Games which has released a series of highly successful board game projects, including Glorantha: The Gods War, Evil High Priest, and the much-admired Cthulhu Wars. His games have sold tens of millions of copies worldwide, and he has received dozens of awards from the game industry.

Horror in Plastic

Horror in Plastic

In 2015 Petersen Games published the game Cthulhu Wars, which included 72 plastic figures, all in 28mm scale. Since then we have produced dozens of expansions and supplements, almost all of which feature additional plastic figures in that scale.

Eventually, we realized that we accumulated the most complete range of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos figures ever made, ranging from obscure entities such as Eihort and Ghatanothoa to better-known creatures such as Shoggoths and the King in Yellow. Many, if not most, of these figures have never been seen before as figurines.

In league with Chaosium, Petersen Games is now releasing these figures in blister packs as an official Call of Cthulhu figure line. Now, roleplayers of all types can acquire these figures separately. Or really, anyone who has need of some fungous horror in their games.

Creating Lovecraft’s Universe

I am of course an obsessed fan of Lovecraft’s work, and so even small details of the figures were scrutinized to ensure their successful creation. For example, look at this starspawn figure:

You can see that the creature tails off into a rather grub-like stump, and that its brain-case is open, as though its head is not yet complete. The idea here is not that this is a “small Cthulhu”, but that this is a larval Cthulhu, which will someday perhaps grow up into a Cthulhu – a terrifying thought.

In another example, these Undead are not zombies, but are covered in mummy-like wrappings.

These wrappings not only give the undead a more ancient, occult feel, but also echo the tattered ribbons that cloak the King in Yellow figure, a possible origin for these undead horrors.

In yet another case that of the Deep Ones, I took care to have these creatures be portrayed as quadrupeds. Lovecraft specifically states in his texts that the Deep Ones are largely quadrupedal, yet they are almost never portrayed in this way. I wanted to be the first.  

Some creatures from the Lovecraft universe are notoriously difficult to portray. One example is Ramsey Campbell’s Daoloth entity, which is described as a mass of rods and spheres, yet with an impression of peeping eyes between the elements.

We created Daoloth as a twisted mass of rods, but when viewed from one specific direction, it can be perceived as an eye.

Lately we have started to also produce figures of the Elder Gods – a pantheon apparently at least in part opposed to the Great Old Ones. Our first was Nodens, who is an ancient Celtic God also known as Nuada. Lovecraft describes him as riding in a seashell, but I didn’t want this being to just look like some beardo in a chariot. 

So, drawing up on his description as an “Elder God,” he is mummified and sere, hooded, and creepy, but without tentacles, which are the hallmark of the Great Old Ones, his rivals. Instead of a normal seashell, he is emerging from a gigantic extinct ammonite.

Because Nodens in Celtic myth is described as having an artificial silver hand, I gave Nodens a technological weapon as one of his hands, perhaps some kind of energy weapon or sensor. This also helps differentiate it from the Great Old Ones, which are ­wholly biological. I intend to continue this art style for future Elder Gods.

Nodens (CW-U28)

But, of course no one has to know the backstory of a particular figure to find it useful in a tabletop game, or to enjoy painting it.

About Sandy Petersen

Sandy got his start in the game industry at Chaosium in 1980, working on tabletop roleplaying games. His best-known work from that time is the cult game Call of Cthulhu, which has been translated into many languages and is still played worldwide.

He also worked on many other published projects, such as Runequest, Stormbringer, Elfquest and even the Ghostbusters RPG, and was instrumental in the creation of dozens of scenario packs and expansions. He also acted as developer on the original Arkham Horror board game.

In 2013 he founded Petersen Games which has released a series of highly successful boardgame projects, including The Gods War, Evil High Priest, and the much-admired Cthulhu Wars. His games have sold tens of millions of copies worldwide, and he has received dozens of awards from the game industry.