Spotlight on Black Goat

Black Goat can easily be misplayed or misunderstood. One result is that when I am in a core game with 3 people who haven’t played with me before, they often leave Black Goat (which they consider the feeblest) to me. I love Black Goat, and I love getting “stuck” with her for two reasons. First, I love seeing their jaws drop when they realize that they are getting crushed by the faction they thought was the weak sister. Second, I love seeing their eyes bug out when they see how terrifying Black Goat’s powers are, used properly.

Cthulhu Wars has opening moves, just like Chess. And just like Chess, the opening choices of Cthulhu Wars affect the course of the game (though not as deterministically). Let’s talk about some common First Turn choices for Black Goat.

Bad Choice 1 – Build Two More Gates

This is pretty much always a losing plan if your opponents aren’t novices, because one of them (typically Cthulhu, Crawling Chaos, or Windwalker) is certain to capture one of your Cultists and cost you a Gate. Generally speaking, in the first turn, never construct more than one Gate. Also, build a monster as a threat to keep the other players honest. In this excellent thread on Boardgamegeek, the OP talks about how to prevent Crawling Chaos from building two Gates. (Hint – prevention is really easy.)

Better Choice 1 – Naked Aggression

As your first action, eliminate 2 Cultists for the spellbook. Take Red Sign. This costs 0 Power, so you can observe the other players. Summon a Dark Young. If anyone is dumb enough to build a Gate next to you, move the Dark Young and take the Gate, via Battle or Capture. Otherwise, move the Dark Young to an adjacent Area and straight up build an uncapturable Gate. Spend your last Power on getting a Cultist back. You’ll start turn two with 10 Power like everyone else, but you’ll have an extra Cultist in your Pool to recruit somewhere useful. Plus the Dark Young.

Another option is to take Frenzy, and use cultists as attackers. A Frenzied cultist has a 50% chance of booting an enemy Cultist out of an Area.

Bad Choice 2 – spread into 6 Areas for two Spellbooks

This costs a minimum of 5 Power, depending on the map layout, and you’re spread so thinly you’re certain to see your guys picked off one by one.

Better Choice 2 – spread into 4 Areas for one Spellbook

You are still spread thin, but then follow up this with the “eliminate 2 Cultists” spellbook, thus handily removing two of them from vulnerability. You end up with 2 Spellbooks, can then use your remaining 5 Power to build a Gate and recruit back your Cultists, or take 1 Cultist and a Ghoul for defense. You’ll enter turn 2 with 5-6 Cultists, 2 Gates, a Ghoul and 2 spellbooks.

Bad Choice 3 – Awaken Shub-Niggurath for Thousand Forms

I see people Awaken Shub-Niggurath on the first turn maybe 20-25% of the time. While this can be a defensible plan, so often they ruin it by then taking Thousand Forms. It’s a great spellbook, but you can’t use it until the second turn! And you’ll go into that second turn with just 6 Power. Since you need to recruit two cultists back, that leaves you with only 4 Power – if you build a second Gate, you’re out. All you got out of Thousand Forms was two free Ghouls. Was it worth it?

Consider – if, instead, you built a Gate the first turn, sacked two Cultists for a spellbook, then recruited them back and summoned a Mi-Go to defend your new Gate, you’d start the second turn with 10 Power. Then awaken Shub-Niggurath, take Thousand Forms, recruit your two free Ghouls and resummon your lost Cultists with the remaining 2 Power. As compared to the first option, you’d go into the third turn with 1 extra Doom point, 1 extra Mi-Go, and 1 extra spellbook. Better in every way.

Better Choice 3 – Awaken Shub-Niggurath but DON’T choose Thousand Forms

Is there any purpose to Awakening Shub the first turn? Well, when I do this, I like to take Blood Sacrifice as my spellbook  – I can use it in the Doom phase immediately following. I still enter my second turn with a live Great Old One and only 6 Power. But rather than waste 4 of it on a second gate, I capture an enemy Gate via Avatar. If everything goes like clockwork, the cheapest I can do this is just 2 Power – Avatar to a Gate and recruit a Cultist. (Usually the defender lets his Cultist be Avatared away, rather than see him captured.) Then I can recruit back my 3 Cultists. If all goes as planned, I’ll start the third turn with two Spellbooks, 2 Elder Signs (for my second Doom phase Blood sacrifice), & 10 Power. I’m probably behind the other players in terms of raw Doom, but I do have 2 Elder Signs in my pocket to comfort me.

Other possibilities await you if you Awaken Shub the first turn, but I leave those as an exercise to the reader.

Of course Black Goat has many other options – build up more slowly, relying on Red Sign and Frenzy for defense, and only awakening Shub on the third turn. Remember that it is better to use Avatar and Necrophagy to earn the “occupy 6 or 8 Areas” spellbooks, rather than simply making a costly super-Move – this way your moves are purposeful. One of my sons like to set himself up for a series of Ghroths on the fourth or fifth turn, to ruin the gate control of whoever is in the lead at that time.

One reason Black Goat is fun is because she has so many choices in the first turn (more than any other player in my opinion), but she can be a challenge for that same reason – those choices can be daunting unless thought through.