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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Boards & Brews at Home: Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu

The newly anticipated Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu has been out for a couple months now, and if you attended Gen Con, you had a chance to pick up a copy when it debuted. If you read our Gen Con segment from this year, you already noticed that we’ve played and reviewed this game. However, since it is the month of October and we purchased our own copy, I wanted us to bring this back again for a closer and more detailed look. Today we drank peppermint tea made by Adagio Teas. The savoring aroma of these lightly grounded, and smooth minty herbs really hit the spot as we worked together to keep the evil from coming through the portals. Do you like Pandemic? How about Cthulhu? Perhaps a game that encompasses both worlds? Come with us as we delve into the world of HP Lovecraft to save humanity!

In Pandemic Cthulhu, you and your fellow players are investigators. You must work together to seal four gates to prevent the awakening of Cthulhu, or the area from being overrun with cultists or Shoggoths. Failure means the unleashing of an age of madness. Just like traditional Pandemic, the Reign of Cthulhu version is also a cooperative game, and each player has a specific role with special abilities to improve their team’s chances. The players will all win or lose together just like the original version. So what is the difference between the traditional version and the Cthulhu version aside from the obvious thematic differences? In Reign of Cthulhu, we’re not trying to cure and eradicate diseases, we’re banishing cultists and Shoggoths by sealing gates to keep them out. In traditional Pandemic you can move from one research station to another by using a ticket, but in Reign of Cthulhu there’s a caveat. You can’t move from one bus station to another with anyone, it’s only specific to the Reporter’s ability. This is a big let down, because you have to use your actions to move throughout the board more, however the board is much smaller compared to the world map in traditional Pandemic. I still wouldn’t be quick to say that this entirely dismisses the slight annoyance of moving throughout the board, but it does mean you have to carefully consider your moves, especially if you’re playing with a group of 4 players.  The threat marker in this version consists of large, Cthulhu cards that align along the top of the board.  If you reveal an 'Evil Stirs' card, you have a series of actions that must be carried out against you, including the revealing of an 'Old One Cthulhu' card.  One of the conditions for losing is if all of these cards are revealed which awakens Cthulhu and the game is over.  Another condition is if all of the Shoggoths invade the board, and finally, if all of the cultists invade the board and nothing else can be drawn, you will lose the game that way as well.  What you want to do is manage to seal off the four gates so that no evil can come through. 

The picture shown here, Claire and I managed to seal all four gates which meant we conquered the game. When it comes to sealing the portals, the instructions do not specify when you are allowed to flip the seal token without the use of a relic card. Therefore, we played it as the traditional rules from regular Pandemic. Once all cultists were removed from one town, we flipped the seal token to reveal the elder sign. So far, we’ve only noticed there was one relic card that allows you to flip the token once you’re ready to seal a gate. Since there was no other specification in the instructions, we figured playing from the traditional rules would work just fine. This uncertainty aside, the rest of the instructional booklet is written quite well. The theme is obviously very well integrated as is the artwork. We really love the artwork for this game and it really sets the mood. This is important when it comes to a Cthulhu themed game. Since I love Pandemic as much as I do, it’s not hard to give this a higher rating. I wouldn’t rate this as high as traditional Pandemic, because that was an original idea, and this is literally just Pandemic thrown into the Cthulhu world. The good news, is that it was planned and executed very well! Aside from that, there’s not much else that is different about it from traditional Pandemic, except for the included miniatures. The miniatures in this game are great and if you’re a big fan of miniatures, these do add to the enjoyment of the game. Overall, what you’re really seeing here is essentially Pandemic as a Cthulhu game. If you’re looking for an easier approach to Pandemic, this game does feel much easier both as a two player game and a 4 player game. This game will definitely see our table again and again though and we recommend you invest in it if you’re a Pandemic fan!

Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu
Overall Pumpkin Rating: 8/10

Game Mechanics: 
1) Cooperative
2) Action-Point Allowance
3) Point to Point Movement
4) Set Collection
5) Hand Management

Have any thoughts or questions?  Leave a comment below.

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