Official Release Date for The Anatomical Guide to Lovecraftian Horrors

Official Release Date for The Anatomical Guide to Lovecraftian Horrors

This project has been under development for two years, and is finally completed and printed. This book is being shipped now, and you can officially purchase it from our website beginning March 29.

What is the deep one skeletal structure? How does the byakhee hune organ allow them to travel through interstellar space? What organs and biological material make up the mysterious and ancient flying polyps?

These questions and more will be answered in Luis Merlo’s groundbreaking scientific study of the anatomy, biology, and ecology of more than two dozen Lovecraftian horrors! Luis Merlo, a doctor from Ecuador, turned his medical knowledge to analyzing the many beings from beyond he had encountered.

Knowing of Sandy Petersen’s knowledge and experience with such beings (being Cthulhu’s Van Helsing, if you will), he contacted Sandy with the intent to publicize and publish his esoteric findings. Unfortunately, through a series of mysterious events, Luis Merlo has been missing, but luckily his writings have been found and preserved to be published posthumously on his behalf. 

Sandy’s Design Corner: Cthulhu Wars Duel

Sandy’s Design Corner: Cthulhu Wars Duel

Back in 2013 when I first launched the campaign for Cthulhu Wars, the single most-heard comments were “Why is it so big?”, “Why not use cheap meeples?”, “Why can’t I play it 2-player?”, “Can you make a travel version?” I had just done my absolute dream game. It was so popular and had such strong reviews that naturally those who couldn’t afford the price tag wanted me to do a less expensive version. I resisted — in my opinion, one important reason Cthulhu Wars was such a success was BECAUSE of its size and impact, not in spite of it.

The two-player fans were easier to ignore; Cthulhu Wars is emphatically a multiplayer game, and its interactions are seriously distorted in two-player mode. We tried it several times, but it lacked the “mouth feel” of Cthulhu Wars, and left us cold. “Combat” factions, such as Cthulhu, dominated “Infrastructure” factions, such as Black Goat. 

So we moved on and basically forgot about it. Then came 2018. In our Planet Apocalypse campaign we’d included a Super-Pledge which we internally called the Masterminds. Those who backed it got to come to my house for a weekend; play unpublished games, hang out, get design practicums, and so forth. Well in September the Masterminds showed up. We had 5 Superfans on hand, all of whom loved my games, and so I decided to use them for my own dark purposes.

Quivit Designer Diary!

Quivit Designer Diary!

Game Designed by Andrew Frisch & Jason Wallenfang

Another upcoming Spring Release! Andrew Frisch recently sent us this explanation for how he got the idea for Quivit. Since he is also a very talented Graphic Designer who does freelance work for us, we were the logical place to present his ideas!

The Idea for Quivit! The Card Game came to me in 2019 while I was taking a shower. I had been wanting to create a game for the longest time, and was already working on another game that had been causing me huge frustration. I thought to myself “Maybe I need to be more simplistic,” and it was at that moment this 4 color idea hit me and a flood of ideas came rushing to my brain.

I jumped from the shower and headed straight to Target for supplies. with Supplies in hand, aka “Construction Paper and Tape,” I proceeded to cut out hundreds of colored squares, tape them together and arrange them into a grid and “PIVOT” (original title) was created.

Cthulhu Wars Duel

Cthulhu Wars Duel

Back in 2013 when I first launched the campaign for Cthulhu Wars, the single most-heard comments were “why is it so big?” “why not use cheap meeples?” “why can’t I play it 2 player?” “can you make a travel version?” I had just done my absolute dream game. It was so popular and had such strong reviews that naturally those who couldn’t afford the price tag wanted me to do a less expensive version. I resisted – in my opinion, one important reason Cthulhu Wars was such a success was BECAUSE of its size and impact, not in spite of it.

The two-player fans were easier to ignore; Cthulhu Wars is emphatically a multiplayer game, and its interactions are seriously distorted in two player mode. We tried it several times, but it lacked the “mouth feel” of Cthulhu Wars, and left us cold. “Combat” factions, such as Cthulhu, dominated “Infrastructure” factions, such as Black Goat.

So we moved on and basically forgot about it. Then came 2018. In our Planet Apocalypse campaign we’d included a “super-pledge” which we internally called the Masterminds. Those who backed it got to come to my house for a weekend; play unpublished games, hang out, get design practicums, and so forth. Well in September the Masterminds showed up. We had 5 superfans on hand, all of whom loved my games, and so I decided to use them for my own dark purposes.

No, I didn’t sacrifice them to Yog-Sothoth – I sat them down with my assistant game designer, Lincoln P., and we forced them to work on a two-player version of Cthulhu Wars hot and heavy. It’s not all they did – we had plenty of other frolics going on – but it had the most lasting result. uring the course of the weekend, and lots of plays, we worked out what was needed. A few rules changes ensured that the game was still fun but was absolutely balanced.

The Decay Marker

One of the major strategic elements of Cthulhu Wars is to try to run out of Power last, so you get the last few turns without interruption. In multiplayer, this was a fine aspect to the game – usually the end player didn’t have too many turns in a row, and if he did, he would “spread the love” among all his enemies. But in a two player game, this game element was problematic. With only one target, even just 3-4 turns in a row could nearly destroy a victim and ruin the game.

To fix this problem, we added the Decay marker to the game – now if you run out of Power first, the other player has to pay an ever-rising “Power Tax” each time he takes an extra turn. This has two effects. First, it means he does not want to draw out the turn – paying the Power Tax multiple times is painful. Second, it means players feel rewarded for going out first – the complete opposite of the ­“real” Cthulhu Wars experience. It’s different, but it’s super fun.

Doom Kill

Also, in Cthulhu Wars you are not directly rewarded for combat. I mean it’s its own reward to an extent – by battling you can move an enemy out of a desirable area, eliminate cultists, and many factions require combat to achieve spellbooks. The main controlling limiter to combat is that both players get units lost and/or scattered, which means in a multiplayer game, if you fight too much a third party will take advantage of your weakness. Nobody’s got time for that. But in a two player game, this weakness vanishes – which is why Cthulhu was so dominant against Black Goat in our original 2 player games. Sure Cthulhu still loses units when he fights, but he’s never “weak” with respect to the enemy because he generally inflicts more losses than he takes. Combat is win-win for Cthulhu and other combat factions such as Windwalker. But we didn’t want all of the 2 player games to be combat-heavy matchups. We wanted ALL the factions to be fun. And a faction that inflicts its damage by capturing (Sleeper) or nuking units from a distance (Black Goat, Opener) was just plain disadvantaged.

So we added a new rule –for every kill you inflict on an enemy, you earn Doom! Suddenly you are scoring points directly every time you use one of those weird special abilities. Cthulhu is still a battle titan – but now Black Goat’s Ghroth spellbook, formerly obscure and little-used, becomes a devastating source of victory points. When Sleeper goes on a capturing rampage, instead of just earning Power, he also is gathering Doom, so even the least-battle-oriented civ suddenly becomes interesting.

To balance this bigger Doom bonanza we changed the Doom phase such that you don’t get Doom simply for controlling Gates. You must not only control a gate but also perform a Ritual of Annihilation.

Collect Them All?

In Cthulhu Wars you can’t win the game unless you have 6 Spellbooks. This was awkward in the 2 player game, because a lot of the Spellbooks require actions from the other players. In a multiplayer game it’s not an issue, because someone always fuilfills the task. But in two player this is not the case. Take Windwalker for instance –one of his spellbook requirements is “another player has 6 spellbooks”. Well if his opponent is a dog in the manger, he could refuse to take his last spellbook, thus preventing Windwalker from ever winning. That sucked.

Our solution was quite simple – we removed the 6 spellbook rule. Now you didn’t HAVE to get all the Spellbooks to win.  This had the unexpected side effect of making Spellbooks easier to get – now that you couldn’t actually keep your enemy from winning by holding out, players were actually much likelier to take actions that might score you a book, because it was no longer such a constraint. So the game became more fun AND more balanced.

Creating Cthulhu Wars Duel

We trimmed a bunch of other tidbits, made sure that all spellbooks made sense in two player, etc. In the end we had a good two player game. But it wasn’t exactly Cthulhu Wars. We had these niggly rules that weren’t in the base game (Decay, Doom for Kills, etc.) that players had to remember. It felt … clumsy.

So last year I was pondering whither the two player version of Doom and it came to me like a thunderbolt. THIS could be the “smaller” Cthulhu Wars so many people desired! With a new rulebook incorporating all the old 2 player changes it would now be a game in its own right. Not a competitor or replacement to the “old” Cthulhu Wars, but a peer, to stand alongside.

How to do it? Well first off, I decided it wouldn’t have ANY figures – this was to be an inexpensive, easily-transportable version of the game. But I still liked the panoply of the big figures, so we went for cardboard standees. This way we had big, full-color units, but not hard to transport or print.

Next, we made the board smaller. Now that we were using standees instead of 3-d figures with bases as wide as 100mm across, it was plausible. In doing this I went ahead and created a wholly new map for the game, too. Well I say “wholly new” but really it’s a simple variation on the tried-and-true Earth map.

Third we only needed two factions – it’s a two player game after all. Cthulhu and Black Goat were now super-fun to play against each other, and felt utterly different, so they made the cut.

What next?

We only did two factions so far, so our current plan is to release the other factions in new boxes – each its own complete, fully-playable, affordable game with its own unique map. Of course though the factions and maps will come in different boxes you can mix and match them as you please. But only two players at a time!

It’s gone full circle in a sense. Some fans have asked for a multiplayer version, or even about having figures. But the way I see it, I’ve already designed that game. 

Marry the Monster Design Corner

Marry the Monster Design Corner

Once upon a time a huge foot crushed my home. It was connected to a fachan – that mythological monster which has one of everything (one eye, one arm, etc.). I had been tinkering with a game design, but now that it was crushed, I decided to make a new one based on the Fachan.

I couldn’t really be upset at the fachan. After all, everything is one for him. That meant there can only be one fachan in the world. It makes sense, right? Furthering this line of thought, it’s long been my supposition that the fachan is very lonely, and wanders the world looking for another of his kind. Just like The Monster in Bride of Frankenstein, he recognizes that he is not like a human. He is different, singular and single, and completely alone in the wide world.

When I told all this to my brother Grant, he supposed that he’d probably go looking for one of his kind everywhere, including settled lands, which means he’d bother villagers all the time, inquiring, but also just being a monster – sometimes eating them or causing havoc generally. Something about this struck me as unique for a game.

Grant and I tinkered with some basic mechanics involving buildings that the fachan crushed, and the idea of a fake bride came swiftly, wherein each player uses this to destroy rivals. The game went through plenty of early stages – it was a grid of squares before moving to hexagons, for example. And there was an “anger” track that ramped up each time he found that a potential mate was fake. The purpose of this was to note how many buildings he could destroy (the angrier he was, the stronger, like Hulk, I guess). This mechanic didn’t make it in the final game for a variety of reasons, but I always thought it was neat.

Eventually, the game sat around, unfinished, as I simply didn’t have the bandwidth to design a game between all my actual duties at Petersen Games (design is not among them). At some point we were approached by Zoran Dobrijevic who showed us Potions & Profits, a fun little game that we decided to buy from him in order to publish. I showed him Marry the Monster, he liked it, and suggested some rules tweaks – and then more of them. He was hired to develop it further into the form you see now.

Although the theme is convoluted (you trick the fachan into thinking there’s a bride for him, but it’s false, and draw him towards you where he’ll trample your rivals’ buildings), it actually matches the gameplay precisely. That’s because I took to heart a mantra I’ve heard my father, Sandy Petersen, repeat about game design – that theme and gameplay must be married* tightly.

*That was shrodinger’s pun; both intended and not intended until you read it.

This game is weird. But it is also weirdly fun. I thoroughly enjoyed designing it, and I hope you enjoy playing it!

– Arthur

Quivit – Designer Diary

Quivit – Designer Diary

The Idea for Quivit! came to me in 2019 while I was taking a shower. Wanting to create a game for the longest time and while working on another game that had been causing me frustration, I thought to myself maybe I need to be more simplistic. It was at that moment this 4 color idea hit me and a flood of ideas came rushing to my brain. I jumped out of the shower and headed straight to Target for supplies. With supplies in hand, aka “Construction Paper and Tape”, I proceeded to cut out hundreds of colored squares, tape them together and arrange them into a grid and “PIVOT” (original title) FYI. After fusing with the size of the grid, I realized that this would work, so being a graphic designer I was not going to be happy with play testing with construction paper squares. I literally set up the whole game in Illustrator and had it printed to start play testing and tweaking. Shortly after playtesting I realized I had the design knowhow to graphically set up the game but lacked the written and mathematical knowledge to truly balance that game and knew I needed help and that when I asked my now partner in crime Jason.

-Andrew

As mentioned, I am an analytical guy, afterall I write commercial software for a living and went to school for Engineering. I have “built” D&D and Battletech campaigns since I was 13. I can see most things in my head, but it’s not until I write it on paper (sometimes literally) that I can start to see the imaginary lines connecting the thoughts in my head. Over the many years, I have perfected my ability to organize and “feel” the flow of my thoughts and put them into words.

Unfortunately for me, my brain is more mechanical than artistic. The wording of a game, layout and mechanics are not unlike writing technical design documents for software, but artistic I am not. Fortunately, Andrew and I talked and our partnership in games was the perfect setup. With Quivit! I did have to fight my nature to add rules and make it more mechanical, grin, but the simple nature of the game allows it to be highly approachable to everyone.

We definitely hope you like the game!

-Jason