So here is another peek into Sandy’s brain. I hope it doesn’t creep out the younger and more impressionable backers too much.
Early on, I wanted to have as many creatures from Lovecraft’s universe as possible. But this gave rise to a question in my mind. What faction would an Elder Thing belong to? Or a Gug? How do I incorporate an off-brand Great Old One such as Yig into the game?
There are basically three ways of adding new units to a faction-based game such as Cthulhu Wars. Let’s discuss them all.
First Option- add new critters per faction, expanding the faction size
For example, in adding Dreamlands monsters, I could have assigned one monster to each faction. I could decree, for instance that the Shantaks belong to Crawling Chaos (which is sort of canonical), that the Gnorri worship Cthulhu, the Gugs are Black Goat (for some reason, this makes sense to me), and so forth. Then, when adding a new pack of Great Old Ones, I’d do the same – thus Ghatanothoa would be in Cthulhu’s faction, Abhoth in Black Goat’s, Atlach-Nacha in Sleeper’s, etc.
This approach had two major problems with it. The first is Cthulhu Wars is actually quite a short game – most players don’t have enough bandwidth to use more than one extra Monster or Great Old One beyond their core units. So for instance, if we’d given Cthulhu Gnorri, Yig, Ghatanothoa, and Elder Things (for instance) he would probably only use one of those in any particular game. Or (worse) he’d have to skip using his Starspawn or Shoggoths or something. The faction would be diluted, instead of intensified.
The other problem was that every single figure expansion would have to have exactly 7 figure types in it (one per faction). Plus then if I ever created a new faction (which finally happened, with Onslaught Two’s Tcho-Tchos), I’d be screwed. So this approach – divvying up the new figures – was dismissed.
Second Option – the neutral figures stay neutral, but are controlled by some generic means. What I mean by this is that perhaps a neutral figure obeys whichever faction controls the Gate in their area. Or each neutral figure has a special base with a slot in it for a Cultist to sit, and you put your Cultist in there to show you control it. For example, Cthulhu might have a Cultist controlling one Elder Thing, but Yellow Sign controls another one in the same Area. The Elder Things wouldn’t fight as a group, but can be divvied up among players. Great Old Ones couldn’t be divvied up, but could still be controlled, and control could switch around between players.
The problem with THIS approach was that it enervated the additions. If everyone can get an Elder Thing, they aren’t nearly as special. If Ghatanothoa is switching sides every turn, then he seems like more of a natural hazard than a Great Old One. Again, it dilutes the new critters, instead of putting a focus on them.
Also, and more importantly, it is a lot harder to actually base a strategy around a unit that drops out of your control erratically, or that everyone has access to. So, again, I discarded this plan. (Actually I only briefly considered this one. Didn’t even test it out.)
Third Option – players get permanent or semi-permanent control of the new creatures, based on their own decisions. This is the path I took. And in fact, here is the precise system I am using:
NEUTRAL MONSTERS – each Doom phase, each player in turn has a chance to “buy” one of the neutral monsters. To do so, he pays 2 Doom, and takes that monster type’s Loyalty card. Typically he then places one of the monsters on the map for free, and the rest are added to his force pool (and can be summoned, later). For the rest of the game, this monster type is his, to do with as he pleases. All neutral monsters have a special ability or bonus, and it is described on the loyalty card. For example, Leng Spiders can combine 2 Pain results into a Kill.
In most games I’ve played, players only get one type of neutral monster. Players who “buy” more find that they don’t really have enough time or Power to properly use both types. Thus the extra 2 Doom cost is rarely worth it.
TERRORS – these work just like monsters, except they cost 2 Doom AND 2 Power. Also there is only ever one Terror in a set (Monsters come in sets from 4 to 2). You do get the Terror for free when you buy it. You can only buy one creature type in a particular Doom phase. Thus, if you buy Quachil Uttaus (a Terror), you cannot also buy the Gugs (a Monster).
GENERAL MONSTER/TERROR EFFECT – they give you new strategies to apply to your faction, but they don’t fundamentally change the game. Basically they “super-charge” your civilization, assuming you are able to figure out how to apply their special power to your needs.
INDEPENDENT GREAT OLD ONES – these work quite differently from the monsters, because I wanted them to be so earth-shattering that they changed the entire game, for everyone. Ergo, there needed to be a way to stop, or neutralize them. The rule is that each Independent Great Old One is like a faction Great Old One in that it has a rule for Awakening, a Cost, and a Special Ability. All this is listed on its Loyalty Card. When any player, as an Action, awakens an Independent Great Old One, he gets its loyalty card AND its spellbook. On the loyalty card is a slot for the spellbook, along with the requirements for unlocking it. When you successfully achieve those requirements, place that Great Old One’s spellbook on the slot, and then reap its advantages.
If an Independent Great Old One is killed, the spellbook “falls off” the loyalty card, and whoever awakens it next has to re-earn the spellbook. Here is Yig’s Loyalty Card to see what it’s like. The spellbooks of the Great Old Ones look different from the normal faction spellbooks.
I am happy with the final results. The Great Old Ones do, in fact, affect the whole game (though they are still clearly inferior to the faction Great Old Ones). The Monsters change things as well, but to a lesser degree overall. On the other hand, the Monsters aren’t disloyal (as are the GOOs, potentially).