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Review: Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu

So this confluence of Pandemic and Cthulhu brings up some interesting things for me outside the game Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu. With a pandemic still happening all around us and with racism front and center in American politics this particular game has made me think about the influence of board games on the world and vice versa.

First off there is no argument that HP Lovecraft held very racist beliefs and wrote about them including in his Cthulhu mythos. If you want to know more read Shadows Over Innsmouth, The Horror at Red Hook, or The Thing on the Doorstep and you will see what evil really is. I do no endorse HPL by any means. That being said he did have a creativity that inspired a lot of other people to explore his mythos and make it their own. I personally like the realm of Cthulhu and the mystery and intrigue it brings and I think we should also recognize the history and setting it came from and shine a light on it with today's perspective and have a conversation about what place the man and mythos have in modern society and if you can separate the man from the mythos.

This game is hard to win, as most of the Pandemic games are especially when you take on the higher difficulty levels. We have all learned this over the past 2 years that pandemics are really hard to "win". We are looking at 2016's Pandemic: Reign of Cthulu one of the best looking Pandemic games in my opinion. I think that it grasps the theme and runs with it well and gives you that impending doom of an old one awakening.

As with most pandemic games there is a bit of setup before you get going. You can not just pick up the deck shuffle and go. There is a process that you must go through. depending on how hard you want to make the game for yourself you will remove 0, 1 or 2 of each location card from the player deck. In this version you randomly draw relic cards (these are similar to event cards in the original game) depending on the amount of players then shuffle them into the deck and deal out the cards to the players to form their starting hands. After that you will create 4 even stacks of cards or as close as you can get and shuffle in the 4 evil stirs into each of the four piles then stack them up and you have your starting player deck.

Each of these cards will not be good for the players and some have lasting effects through the rest of the game.

The next deck of cards is the Summoning deck. This is the deck of cards used to put cultists on the board and move the Shoggoths around the board. For the initial setup you flip 2 cards put 3 cultists in 2 spaces and then 2 cultists in 2 more spaces then 1 cultist in two more spaces and finally the last card drawn is where the first Shoggoth starts. That starts the game with 13 enemies to take care of. All you have to do in this game is close 4 gates by discarding 5 cards matching the town you are in on the portal.

There are 7 tarot size cards that are placed along the top of the board. These are revealed when you draw an Evil Stirs card (There are four mixed into the player deck), or when you are required to put a 4th cultist into a space, or a Shoggoth moves through a portal. Each of these cards will not be good for the players and some have lasting effects through the rest of the game.

When I was playing recently we got into a pickle right from the start and things looked bad after the first turn but the next few turns were calm enough to get a portal sealed. This game captivates a lot of highs and lows. Just when you think your doing good you pull an evil stirs card and then over fill a spot with 3 cultists and a Shoggoth moves through a portal causing 3 of the 7 old one cards to reveal and they all have nasty stuff on them too.

I am not sure why hit points or health were not used instead of stomping into the world of mental health without regard to people with mental illness.

As is the case with a lot of Cthulhu themed games your character can go insane. There are sanity points to track for each character. I understand the want to be true to the original material but as I had stated before its flawed. I am not sure why hit points or health were not used instead of stomping into the world of mental health without regard to people with mental illness. I will let the game speak for itself with two excerpts from the rule book.

"Insane players must still roll the Sanity die when

instructed (the Paranoid result still has an effect) "

"Fear not, for there is a cure for insanity! If an

investigator seals a gate while insane, they are

immediately transported to either the Church or the

Hospital (their choice)."

Person first language would have been a good start if they really felt that the "insanity" route was best for the game. Then they come back with a cure for insanity. by going to the church or the hospital. This clearly is going to be tough game to bring out if your the 1 in 4 people who are affected by mental health disorder.

Theming issues aside this is a fun puzzley game. Its hard and with the right crowd is really entertaining. Its definitely going to be a hard one for me to bring out. Maybe one day I will re theme this one via a print and play to something that's a little more acceptable in today's world.

Designed by: Matt Leacock, Chuck D. Yager

Players: 2-4

Published by: Z-Man Games

Year Published: 2016

Recommended Ages: 14+

Time to Play: 40 minutes



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