Watch a recent play-through of Evil High Priest by Off the Shelf.
“This was a really great game of Evil High Priest that not only shows a none core faction board, but it also shows how close this game can play, it literally came down to the wire here! It shows how much the game changes just by changing the faction board.”
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.