Sleeper Cult Board
The Sleeper board is full of Skulks, including the unique Ritual Skulk, the Flex Skulk, and the Block Skulk.
Sleeper also has a site which rewards the user with 4 Treasure. However, the player must have at least one cultist on any Skulk (including the other cult board Skulks) to use this site. More than one Skulking cultist won’t increase the reward.
The Ritual Skulk lets the player place a cultist on the Start (only) of any ritual track. He must pay the 2 Treasure price at this time. When the Ritual board activates, this cultist does advance to the next stage and gain rewards, because the Skulk is placed before the Rituals are advanced. Of course he must still leave his cultist on the ritual board for the next turn (or longer, if he chose Dragon Ascending). You may be familiar with the Ritual Skulk from the Black Goat board, which also features one.
The Flex Skulk lets you place the cultist as per EITHER the normal Town Skulk or the Ritual Skulk. Your choice. The Block Skulk must be the first Skulk assigned. It acts exactly as a Flex Skulk except no other Skulk can be assigned to its spot! I.e., it blocks other Skulks (hence the name).
The Artist is another investigator who can give you a break. Perhaps he has a short attention span, or he only cares about the real threats. Anyway, his effect is that all players have to quickly add up their victory points. This doesn’t take too long. Even at the game end, when the most resources are available it is typically only a 30-60 second process tops. This leads me into a side quest.
Adding up VPs
I’ve played plenty of games where VPs take quite a bit of time, and some investiture of effort, to calculate. We may all be able to remember landing on Income Tax in Monopoly and needing to figure out what 10% of our total money was. What a pain. (Pro Tip – always do the calculation. Almost invariably you’ll save money over the default $200 fee.) I love 7 Wondersand Agricola, for instance, but calculating the victor can take as long as 5-10 minutes in those games. It’s not really a problem, because everyone is involved, but still. Even Ticket to Ride takes a little time, and may involve pen-and-pencil. Evil High Priest is by comparison quite simple, though of course you COULD use paper and pencil. Let’s look at the process.
Example: it’s the end of a game and Lincoln has 2 Elder Signs, 3 spellbooks, 1 magic, 2 blood, and 5 treasure. Only resources are scored for VPs, so he ignores his monsters, cultists, chambers, etc. First Lincoln lines up his elder signs for 10 points each – that’s 20. The spellbooks are 5 points each – 15 more for a total of 35. The magic is 2; up to 37, and the blood is 2 more. Final total is 39, and it took maybe 10-20 seconds. Then he looks up and says, “Anyone have more than 5 treasure?” It turns out that Frank also has 5 treasure, but everyone else has less, so Frank and Lincoln tie for most treasure, and each get 5 extra points. Lincoln’s final total is 44 points.
For proof of the ease of this calculation, check out our game playthrough videos – skip ahead to the last couple of minutes, and you’ll see us doing it, all simultaneously. It’s lightning fast.
What does this mean for the Artist?
When the Artist is the attacker, before dice are rolled everyone has to calculate their points. So there’s a brief hush while all the players tot up points. It’s even quicker than the game end VP calculation, because of course this attack is often in the middle of the game, when players have fewer VPs anyway. (If all you have is an elder sign and 2 magic, it’s a piece of cake to shout out, “12!”). The important part of this whole process is that the player with the fewest VPs is ignored by the artists. So only the most deserving (i.e., most in the lead) players are affected. Note that if it is a tie for the fewest VPs (which is rare), then both players are skipped. It’s conceivable that all players could be in a multiplayer tie, and no one gets attacked, but I’ve never seen it.
The Sleuth (investigator)
For our non-English speaking fans, or those without a classical education, a “Sleuth” is a crime-solver extraordinaire. For example, Sherlock Holmes is a Sleuth. So is Gary Sinise’s character on CSI: New York. Incidentally, there is a great movie named Sleuth from 1972 which I recommend without reservations. It was remade in 2007, but I haven’t seen the remake, so can’t say one way or the other. (It is lower-rated on IMDb though.)
Anyway, the Sleuth investigator forces all the players to add up their VPs before his attack is calculated. This doesn’t take long. Then, the player with the MOST current VPs adds 3 to his raid’s strength, which basically means it usually is able to eradicate his first Trap or skip over his asylum barrier. Of course since he’s in the lead, no one ever feels sorry for him. Sometimes more than one player is in a dead heat for most VPs. In that case they could feel sorry for each other I guess. But usually they don’t.
The Bhole (monster)
The Bhole is an easy monster to understand, and also extremely popular with our players. It was discovered as a result of S. T. Joshi’s amazing editorial work on Lovecraft’s original text. You see, before S. T. Joshi, the huge worm-like monsters that periodically show up in Lovecraft’s tales were called “Dholes”, I believe as a result of Farnsworth Wright’s meddling.But in HPL’s original text, they were termed “Bholes”. So we have introduced the Bhole, under its correct early name. Since Bholes nastily burrow forever, the Bhole ability is that when you gain it, you ALSO gain a chamber. This sets off a cascade of events – because usually when you earn a monster (via the Silver Twilight Lodge or the Spectral Horror ritual), you also get a chamber. This means if you pick a Bhole for your critter, you basically get TWO chambers at once. This can really give you quite a good defense. You should have little to fear for the foreseeable future.
Then What the Heck is a “Dhole”?
Well, Dholes are still a “thing” in my adaptations of Lovecraft’s works. For one thing, other authors who used Lovecraft’s creations (Derleth, Frank Belknap Long, for instance) used the word “Dhole” or “Doel” as a monster (probably because they were unaware that Lovecraft’s original term was “Bhole”). And Arthur Machen, whose work Lovecraft adored, also uses the word “Dol” for a monster.
So what is a Dhole? Lovecraft mentions Bholes in two tales. One is “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath”, where bholes burrow in the Vale of Pnath, and are never, ever, seen, only heard and felt. They are colossal in size. The other tale is “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”, where they are extraterrestrial behemoths destroying the world of Yaddith. In the second tale, the Bholes are totally visible.
What I posit is that these two different worm-titans should be two different beasties. The bholes of Pnath don’t seem like they are going to destroy the world, but are nonetheless creepy as hell. But the bholes of Yaddith are a threat to the world. So anyway I decided that “bhole” was the Dreamlands monster, and “dhole” was the extraterrestrial monster. (In my Sandy Petersen’s Cthulhu Mythos for Pathfinder book I go into more detail on this topic.)
John Scott (priest)
John Scott was Carl Stanford’s chief aide and administrator in the Silver Twilight Lodge, an organization created for the first Call of Cthulhu campaign– Shadows of Yog-Sothoth. John Scott was a good friend of mine – John Scott Clegg (Hi Scott! If you see this.) So since the writer, Bill Hamblin, had already placed me as a villain in the tale, he saw fit to do the same with John . At least I got to be John’s boss in the story (notin real life though – we were always equals).
John Scott in the game & the original adventure is a magician par excellence, and has a really terrific ability which as with many you must prepare for. Basically, when your priest activates the John Scott card, for the rest of that turn your acolytes don’t have to pay 2 treasure to enact rituals. Instead, they EARN 2 treasure when they are placed on a Ritual track. Even if you only have 2 cultists, that’s 4 treasure for placing them, plus of course at the end of the turn you get the ritual bonuses. Obviously, you can really make bank if you have 3-4 cultists to place in this way. The only drawback is that next turn, your cultists are tied up in rituals, but at least you’re rolling in wealth. Another drawback is you can’t use John Scott until the ritual track is unlocked (immediately after the first investigator raid).
John Scott is also beneficial because it’s pretty common for someone to want to place on the Ritual track, only to realize he doesn’t have any money! (In fact, you can see this exact event in the Ancients board video playthrough we uploaded). With John Scott, you don’t need money. Just acolytes. Naturally I’d suggest that you place John Scott to use his ability as your very first action of the turn so your remaining actions can all take advantage of his power.
If you facing UP against John Scott, the only antidote is to quick place your own cultists on the Ritual track, blocking him. Good luck.
The author, like the Vampire and the Minister, is another investigator with an obsession. Basically, if you are personally willing to give up a spellbook, the author skips you in his attack. Of course, a spellbook is a hefty investment, and not always available, but it’s worth spending to save an elder sign or often other resources. It still hurts, though. On the other hand, even if you refuse to spend the spellbook, you’re no worse off that before.
The Great Race of Yith (monster)
This critter is an excellent example of how Lovecraft rarely gave his creatures actual names. I mean, Cthulhu is a proper name, but his species is just “the star spawn”, which is rather generic. Even the “Yith” part of the Great Race’s name is particularly inapt, because in the first place when they’re encountered, they are not on Yitg. Yith isn’t even their place of origin. It’s like someone claiming that I, Sandy, am a Marylander because I lived in Baltimore for five years (which I did). The Great Race is the focus of one of Lovecraft’s most dramatic and subtle tales – “The Shadow Out of Time”. One of the rather subversive undertones of this story is that it turns out that the Great Race, which regularly wipes out entire species (at least mentally) by taking them over, poses no threat to humanity, because we are not worth conquering. Instead, they skip over Homo sapiens, and conquer the beetles which replace us. My theory is the beetles are what take over after we humans nuke the earth. After all insects are notoriously resistant to radiation.
Why Aren’t Insects Subject (As Much) to Radiation?
You can skip this if you’re not of a scientific bent, but I actually studied entomology at the graduate level in college, and don’t often get a chance to strut my stuff, so here goes. Basically the issue is that radiation inflicts damage on living organisms by literally shattering DNA. Now, DNA is at its most vulnerable when a cell is dividing (the rest of the time, the DNA is bound up with various repair mechanisms which can fix a lot of mistakes). Mammals, like humans, have constantly-dividing cells. Our hair grows, our bone marrow creates blood cells, skin cells are shed, intestinal lining is being replaced, etc. This means that at any given time, a large number of our cells are vulnerable to radiation, and thus we get radiation sickness comparatively easily. Well, no easier than any other mammal, but still. Reptiles are slower-growing and slower metabolistically than humans, so are slightly more resistant to radiation. (A tortoise can handle 4-5 times as many rads as a human.)
But insect cells don’t divide, at least not often, once they reach adulthood. Even when they are immature, the cells mostly only divide when they’re getting ready for a molt. This means that most insects in a given population are quite resistant to radiation and cansurvive an ionizing burst. Another feature which helps insects survive is their fast breeding cycle. A grasshopper, for instance, lays around 2000 eggs. This means that even if only 1 in 1000 eggs survives, they have 2 survivors per female. If humans had a similar survival rate, we’d typically only have 1 survivor per 500 couples (the average woman in the USA has slightly over 2 kids)! So, picture this – nukes go off, and 1 in 1000 newborn critters survive. The next year there is the SAME NUMBER of grasshoppers, but only 0.2% as many humans. The math is terrifying.
What does the Great Race do?
Anyway I don’t blame the Great Race of Yith for picking beetles over humans. Now, back to Evil High Priest. (Please don’t start an argument thread that mammals are “better” than insects. That’s not the point of this essay, really. I guess really what I’m trying to say is “let’s not nuke ourselves and let insects inherit the earth.”) So, in Evil High Priest, when you take the Great Race, you also take an acolyte from your asylum and place it on top of the Great Race card. Unlike every other monster that “steals” a cultist, this time it’s a good thing. If you have an acolyte on the Great Race card, then from then on you don’t use the Escape site – instead, your rescued cultists are moved directly to your Pool.
This is naturally a pretty sweet deal. It doesn’t affect cultists who are already on your Escape but from then on it is mighty handy.
Mr Shiny (priest)
Mr. Shiny is an old creation of Chaosium’s – he is a jolly fat person, unfailingly polite and cooperative, but with something sinister beneath the surface. He is likely a proto-shoggoth (or even a shoggoth) inside a rubberized human shell. Or maybe something worse! To celebrate his nature, to use his ability you must first have a monster in your lair. You don’t have to sacrifice the monster – just have it in your possession. Thus, you can’t use him too early in the game. Activate his one-time ability to both gain a Magic AND move a cultist from the Asylum to your Escape. This symbolizes you discovering that this monster is in fact a person, or maybe the other way round. The combination of these is obviously quite useful, and it also makes him pretty flexible. His only drawback (that you need a monster) is more than made up for by the goodies he brings.
The Proto-Shoggoth (monster)
Monsters have four basic types of abilities.
- In a Raid– some monsters modify attacks. These can be complex abilities, but you don’t need to worry about it most of the time – only when there’s danger. The Hound of Tindalos is a good example.
- Each Preparation Phase– these monsters give you a benefit (and sometimes an associated cost) each turn. For example, the Maniac gives you 2 treasure every turn, during the preparation phase.
- Just Before You Place a Cultist– these monsters are always discarded for their effect, which means you can’t afterward keep them for defense. On the other hand, they often are fairly powerful monsters, to make using them a real choice. The Ghoul, for instance, kills an enemy cultist if you discard him this way. But he’s also a 6-barrier monster, so you may want to hang onto him.
- When Taken– a “when taken” monster has a one-time effect, which only occurs (if at all), when you first gain that monster. For example, the Proto-Shoggoth itself. Read on.
The Proto-Shoggoth is of course a blob monster which is able to masquerade as a human. To represent this, when you take the Proto-Shoggoth, you can choose to pay 1 blood. If you do, you immediately rescue a cultist from the Asylum (placed, as always, on the Escape space). Presumably that guy was always a proto-shoggoth, and simply squeezed out through a drainpipe or something. Of course any ability that gives you cultists is always terrific – it saves you a priest action and also a bundle of resources. As in any worker placement game, cultists mean wealth as they are literally your engine. Plus, in Evil High Priest, cultists are also useful as defenses. You’ll see us sacrifice them to save other resources during raids in every playthrough we’ve released.
Have you found the Yellow Sign?
The Start space on the Yellow Sign board costs nothing, and gives you the King in Yellow card. Place this card by your priest board. It acts as a new action space that only you can activate (while you have control of the King).
To use the King in Yellow, place an acolyte on the card (it cannot be your priest!), then pay the cost: 1 each of treasure, blood, and magic. Then add an acolyte from your asylum directly to your pool, ready for action. If another player takes control of the King in Yellow while you have a acolyte on him, that acolyte goes to your escape space.
Once the King has been unlocked, the start spaces of 3 ritual tracks become available on the cult board. These tracks must also be unlocked, step by step, and cannot be accessed until at least 2 Elder Signs on that track have been shattered: the first Ritual Start space, and at least one space past that. Because of the way you shatter Elder Signs and unlock spaces, you can never use all 3 ritual tracks in their entirety in any one game. When you have a cultist on a ritual track, he returns to your pool when, at the end of the Action phase, no more spaces beyond the one he is currently on are unlocked. You could, therefore, have a cultist already on a ritual track, and if the next site was unlocked before he’d reached it, he could continue along the track.
One of the tracks costs you a chamber to embark upon: discard any of your chambers, placing any resources in it on your exposed resources space. The other 2 tracks are free to you! However, you must select an opponent, who gains 1 magic or 1 blood (depending on the track).
The Zoog (monster)
The Zoogs were invented by Lovecraft in his tale “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath” which isn’t really horror, but actually adventurous fantasy, and one of my favorite fantasy stories. It’s also one of Lovecraft’s two “novels”. I mean it’s still pretty short by modern standards. My copy is just 138 pages long. By comparison, Stephen King’s “The Stand” is over 8 times as long (over 1100 pages). I think even Mr. King would agree that “The Stand” is far from 8 times as good as “Dream-Quest”. Just shows how tight Lovecraft’s writing was. Consider that the iconic and world-renowned Cthulhu itself was made so by a story less than 40 pages long.
Anyway, in Evil High Priest, Zoogs are sometimes just another monster, but occasionally they really pay off. The ability is that when an investigator strikes that has a Post-Raid ability, if you discard your Zoog to defend, you get to take control over that effect. For example, in the Blood Ceremony box, out of 10 investigators, four have targeted post-raid effects (Miskatonic Professor, Journalist, Police Detective, and Parapsychologist). Of course certain Dark Ritual investigators also have this feature.
Since these post-raid effects are often nasty (or sometimes beneficial) the ability to control them is highly useful. And since the Zoog ALSO gets to defend against the raid at the same time, it’s icing on the cake. Imagine you are in a game and the Miskatonic Professor attacks. First you sack your Zoog, stopping most of the attack. Then post-attack, instead of being forced to cash in one of your spellbooks, you can make your hated enemy take the hit. Pretty fine. Sometimes this discourages other players, so they are less likely to unlock an elder sign, knowing they won’t control the post-raid effect. That’s fine, too. However, not all investigators have a post-raid ability, and the Zoog’s ability is useless against those. In addition, the Zoog’s ability does no good when you launch the raid (since the raid’s instigator gets to target post-raid effects anyway). On the other hand, even if you don’t get to use the Zoog’s ability, it’s still a 5 point monster, so you’re not really losing anything. So … to celebrate the Zoog, we have decided to give you TWO investigators as well, both of which have post-raid abilities.
Zoog’s effect – of course, you are safe from losing your cultist. So he’s a pretty sweet monster. (Or is the Zoog a she? I’m not sure.)
The Dilettante (investigator)
The dilettante is of course a spoiled rich kid, who seeks to justify his existence by oppressing our cult. I guess in the eyes of normal society he’s a hero, but naturally we as cultists still dislike him.
He adds an extra die to his attack, which is fearsome. But because of his wealth, he doesn’t value money, so he ignores your treasure. Of course your magic, blood, spellbooks, and elder signs are still at risk, but often folks keep treasure nearer the mouth of the sanctum, so you may get away without losing too much. Also in his attack, the dilettante bribes and pays off folks, including you, so at the end of the raid you end up with an extra 5 treasure. Again, this is post-raid, so even if you got wiped out, you still end up with 5 treasure.
Example: The Dilettante is launching an attack. It would normally be a 2-die attack, but thanks to the Dilettante’s deep pockets, it bumps up to 3, and a fearsome 14 is rolled. The players groan. Sandy, who launched the attack, has 2 blood, 1 magic, and an elder sign in storage. Unfortunately, no one is in a position to stop the attack at all, so everyone is completely wiped out! (This, while unusual, isn’t unheard-of.) But then post-raid, Sandy gets 5 treasure. The end result of the raid is that everyone is broke, except Sandy, who immediately goes about investing his wealth in useful rituals or trades. He’s a leg up on the rest – even losing his elder sign may have been worth it as an equalizer.
Zoog’s effect – pretty simple. If someone else launches the Dilettante’s raid, you get the cash reward at the end instead of him. Nice, eh?
The Alienist (investigator)
We already bypassed the Alienist in an earlier poll we took. BUT we figured you wouldn’t mind if we shoe-horned him into this stretch goal! Particularly because he pairs so well with the Dilettante & the Zoog.
“Alienist” is an old word for psychiatrist, or other mental health worker. I am not sure why it fell out of vogue, because it’s a terrific word. Maybe it didn’t have enough syllables to lend gravitas to the self-importance that is a modern “clinical psychologist”. (Like calling a janitor a “custodial engineer.”)
The Alienist’s raid is no different from any other investigator’s. Well I guess that statement is technically not true, because some investigators have pretty wack attacks. But at least it’s a normal straightforward attack. However, AFTER the raid, the Alienist goes to work on a cultist and cures him of his madness! While this might sound good at first, it means that cultist no longer is interested in bringing about the rise of the Great Old Ones, and leaves the cult forever. In other words, you pick a rival player, and he gets to choose one of his meeples and put it back in the box, out of play. He plays the rest of the game with only 5 total cultists. The victim can pick any of his cultists, and of course is likely to pick one still in the asylum. Which makes sense, as the Alienist probably works there.
The Alienist is more fearsome early in a game, when his effects are cumulative over time – if he’s one of the last 2-3 attacks, he is far less of a problem.
A bunch of Dudes!
The Shan Queen (Priest)
She is in fact an Insect from Shaggai (also known as Shans). Part-immaterial, she has the power to invest human brains and read, even control, their thoughts.
Her ability requires timing, and usually isn’t effective in the early part of the game, but when you do pull it off, it’s a doozy. Basically, every enemy that has at least one Magic resource has to give one to you. So for example, your maximum “take” would be in a 5 player game, if every other player had a magic. More often one or more players is void of this important resource, and you have to be satisfied with a partial looting.
This also has the side effect that alert enemies will see that too many players are accumulating Magic. Fearing the Shan Queen’s theft, they may spend their Magic prematurely on tasks, instead of getting their full value. This is cool too though. Enjoy this tiny horror when you get her. She’s a barrel of laughs.
The Hobo (investigator)
The hobo was probably just looking for a warm place to sleep, and blundered into your underground complex, perhaps you have a doorway in the sewer system. Or maybe he wandered into the same abandoned factory that you are using for your rituals.
The Hobo may seem weak, because you roll 1 less die for his attack. After all, he’s pretty poorly equipped as investigators go. (There’s a minimum of 1 die for the attack, though).
However, he attacks in reverse, because he comes from an unexpected direction. This means your closets and dimensional gates, normally kept at the end of your sanctum, suddenly are in the forefront. What’s worse, your nice traps and false walls, all carefully arranged to blast and terrify raiders, are nearly useless. The hobo has one redeeming feature however – he doesn’t understand the purpose of the shattered elder signs, which look like trash to him. So they are safe from his attack. Still, spellbooks, magic, blood, etc. are all still vulnerable.
Hound of Tindalos (monster)
The Hound of Tindalos is a creation of Frank Belknap Long, one of my favorite writers. I will say in passing that Amazon Kindle has several collections of Long’s writings available pretty cheap. So if you’re curious about him, you can check those out. My favorite stories of his are “The Hounds of Tindalos”, “The Space Eaters”, “The Man With a Thousand Legs”, and “The Horror From the Hills”. But he has lots of others. Look him up. You’ll be glad you did.
The Hound of Tindalos changes the nature of the whole attack. When raid dice are rolled, the master of the Hound has to make an immediate decision. Is he going to use the Hound, or not. If he doesn’t, there is no further effect (but you can’t change your mind). If he does, then the raid skips the first room for everyone but you. Usually this is good, because people put strong defenses as their first room, and now those are useless. But occasionally it will help someone.
Please note that if their “first room” is an Abditory it still counts, so they got no extra punishment from the Hound. I guess it couldn’t find that secret spot.
Incidentally, I first encountered the word “Abditory” in the Rex Stout mystery “Instead of Evidence”. In it, Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin are investigating a murder at a novelty design house. Inside the factory, there are lots of little hiding places, which the designers term “abditories”. Nero Wolfe hates the name, and refuses to let Goodwin use it. But I liked the word, and so here it is again.
Servitor of the Outer Gods (monster)
The Servitor is a little awkward to apply, but it is still clearly the best monster in the game. “Why?” You cry. “It’s only a measly 2 defense!”
Because when you take the Servitor, you then choose an enemy’s monster and take it for your own. Then you give HIM the Servitor in exchange. This actually means that the Servitor’s “measly” 2 defense is actually an asset to you – because it means your opponent lost something useful (typically 4-6 points) and got 2.
Plus there are a lot of monsters which have side effects worth using. For instance, the excellent Maniac, with his 2 treasure per turn. That rules – it means you can afford 1 extra Ritual every turn. (I assume, from the art, that the Maniac is handing you his income from his birthday party gigs as a clown.)
Now there are sometimes amusing issues with the Servitor. One game I remember the Servitor was one of the first three monsters we turned up. What a problem! The first player to take a monster of course didn’t want the Servitor, because he couldn’t use its ability. But he was concerned that the SECOND player to take a monster would steal whatever he chose. This meant that no one took a monster for an unconscionably long time. Finally I ended the Mexican standoff by both going to the Silver Twilight Lodge AND the Spectral Horror ritual in the same turn. In this manner, I had two monsters in my lairs by the turn’s end. So when next turn Link went to the Silver Twilight lodge and got the Servitor, stealing one of mine, I still had one left. Plus now I had the Servitor which, after all, isn’t completely worthless.