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Lovecraft Letter Card Game Overview – Last Meeple Standing

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Ah, Love Letter, that venerable game that Seiji Kanai released in 2012 (AEG, US release). Many of us own SOME form of this game. It is a game of court intrigue and is pure simplicity itself. Two to five people can play, assuming the role of court members attempting to deliver a love letter to the Princess. A deck of only 16 (!) cards is used, and each player is dealt one card to start. Each card represents a member of court and has a specific power they inflict upon the other players when played, with the idea of ultimately eliminating all the other players. On your turn, you draw one card and play one of your two cards, following the instructions printed on it. Different cards eliminate players in different ways. If you are the last player eliminated, you are the person to deliver the titular love letter to the Princess and you win. That’s it, really. As you can imagine, game play is very fast.

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hahn

Usually multiple rounds are played, striving for the most wins out of seven rounds, for example. So far, so good…
Now, you may be asking, what does a game of courtly love and intrigue have to do with the writer of the wretched and bizarre, Howard Phillips Lovecraft? That answer lies in the fact that Love Letter is so incredibly popular that it has been “re-skinned” MANY times. Re-skinning is taking the core mechanics of a game and simply slapping on a fresh coat of paint, so to speak, to give a different theme. Basically, you take an existing game (Love Letter in this case) and say it now revolves around a different mythos. Recently, we have seen Adventure Time, Batman, Archer, and even The Hobbit Love Letter. No, I’m not kidding. The way I see it, they each cater to the particular sub-genre you’re into, so no harm/no foul.

So, why should you care about a re-skin of this game with Cthulhu slapped on? I’m more than happy to answer that question: Because it is NOT just a re-skin. It is so much more. THIS version is the ULTIMATE gift to fans of horror AND Love Letter, in so many ways. You could say it is a love letter to Lovecraft fans, and what a letter it is.

COMPONENTS:
No matter what else you might think of this game, the components alone make the game worthy of a spot on your Lovecraft shelf, whether you collect games or not. I was lured by the theme, but I was won over by the incredible components.

The game box looks like an old leather-bound book and opens with a magnetic clasp that heightens the tome-like quality of the packaging. When you open the box, you are greeted by some thematic art depicting an adventurer surrounded by various Old Ones and a “wax seal.” Very classy. To the right, however, is the really good stuff.

This time around, the game comprises 25 playing cards and 6 reference cards to remind players of the various powers of the cards. The cards are tarot sized and printed on good, thick stock, which makes them easy to handle. However, in a really amazing show of class from AEG, the player is supplied with high-quality sleeves for every card, depicting a suitably creepy letter image on the back and a silvery interior. There are even clear sleeves, front and back, for the reference cards. On top of that, AEG supplied EXTRA sleeves for the cards, in case one gets torn or the Elder Gods rend it into a fine red mist. Since the cards are handled a lot, shuffled a lot, and passed around the table a lot, the sleeves are going to go a long way to preventing wear and tear.

Below the cards are the Insanity/Sanity tokens. No mere carboard punch-outs here… these are thick, heavy, screen-printed poker chips that have a great heft when held and manipulated. They are printed on one side with Cthulhu, representing an Insane win, and the other side with and Elder Sign, representing a sane win (more on that later).

The manual is only 15 pages, half of which is references to individual game cards for clarification, so you really only have to worry about 7 pages of instructions, complete with lots of diagrams. After one read through, you’ll never have to refer back to the rules again, especially if you have played some form of Love Letter before.

Last but not least is the tray for the game components. There is a lot of discussion in the gaming community lately about how to present the bits and pieces that make up your game (the game Dice Forge seems to be the winner in that category right now). AEG went above and beyond the call of evil duty with Lovecraft Letter. The cards and tokens are cradled in a perfect-fit, simulated green velvet tray that keeps the cards from getting lose in the box and the tokens from getting jumbled as you transport the game. Bravo, AEG!

SETUP:
Setup is a breeze! First, you set aside the Mi-Go Braincase card (ewww… you’re going to need to do things to it later) and shuffle the remaining 24 cards. Depending on how many players are playing, you burn off/remove either 1 card (more than two players) or 5 cards (2 players), in order to thwart card counters. Next, deal one card from the deck to each player as their starting hand, and randomly assign the starting player (I suggest choosing the last player to pet a Hound of Tindalos and live). You are now ready to go!

GAMEPLAY:
Players take the role of explorers tracking down a relative that has vanished under very nefarious circumstances in Egypt. The gameplay is simplicity itself, basically following the same pattern as the original Love Letter, where each player in turn draws a card from the communal deck, picks one of the two cards now in their hand to play, discards it in front of themselves, and follows its instructions, for good or for bad (and yes, sometimes there is no avoiding taking the brunt of a card yourself). Then play passes to the left.

WINNING:
The round ends in one of two ways: (1) the deck is empty at the end of a player’s turn or (2) all players but one have been eliminated. If more than one player survives at the end of a round, compare the number at the top left of your remaining card, and the winner is the player possessing the card with the highest value.

But here is where things get *weird* (in a Lovecraft game? No way…). The quick amongst you may have noticed that the original game came with 16 cards, but Lovecraft Letter has 25. That is because there are new cards that introduce an Insanity/Sanity win condition that is unique to this incarnation of the game. Some of the cards now are “Insanity cards,” cards the represent the mind-boggling damage inflicted by coping with the Cthulhu mythos. Insanity cards look slightly different and present the player with two options: a sane action and an insane action. Once an insanity card is in the player’s discard pile, they have the option of enacting either the sane option OR the insane option when playing future insanity cards, either of which can be good or bad for that player. A further complication of having one or more insane cards in your discard pile lies in the fact that your level of insanity my break you and force you out of the game! If you have insanity cards in your discard pile, before you draw a card into your hand, you have to draw cards from the deck equal to the number of insanity cards in your discard pile. This is called a “Sanity Check.”

If you happen to have the misfortune of drawing an additional insanity card, you are immediately knocked out of the round!

If you win the round with no insanity cards in your personal discard pile, you earn a Sanity token. If you win the round with insanity cards in your discard pile, you earn an Insanity token. To win the game you must either be the first to two Sanity tokens or the first to three Insanity tokens.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
The original version of this game that Kanai released in the US back in 2012 was a GREAT game. It was portable, easy to teach, and above all… FUN. It merits all of the re-skins that it has seen, in order to reach a wider audience. But up until now, there have been no major improvements to the game, in my opinion. Lovecraft Letter raises the bar, not only for future iterations of the basic game, but for all games, I think. The combination of a unique new Sanity/Insanity mechanic on top of the beautiful presentation of this game should make it a treasured part of a game collection OR a Lovecraft collection. I highly recommend Lovecraft Letter!

RATING: 4/5

PRODUCT DETAILS:
Designer: Seiji Kanai
Artists: Vincent Dutrait and Kougi Ogata
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG)

Last Meeple Standing is brought to you by Villainous Lair Comics & Games, the ultimate destination for board game fanatics in southern California.

For more information visit the official Villainous Lair Comics & Games website, “Like” the Villainous Lair Facebook page and be sure to follow Villainous Lair on Twitter and Instagram.

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We Are Dead: Zombie Massacre – Last Meeple Standing Game Overview and Review

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It is a fine Saturday afternoon. You and your friends are hanging out at the Mall (like you do), and as lunchtime rolls around, the savory scent of hot dogs wafts through the air straight to you. Making your way to the hot dog stand, you notice the vendor looks a little strange: wide, wild eyes; pale, almost greenish skin; and a shambling gait that makes him look like he might have recently been kicked in the nards. No matter…you’re gonna have those hot dogs or die. And that is EXACTLY what happens. After you nosh the proffered dogs, a blinding, stabbing pain hits you in the guts and you and your friends fall to the ground and shuffle off this mortal coil. However, you don’t STAY dead. Moments after biting the dust, you rise again…as a ZOMBIE. All of a sudden, those Shoppers in the Mall look much better than any bratwurst ever did. It is time to consume some consumers!

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hahn

COMPONENTS:

First off, let’s get the obvious out of the way: the awesome art. Mike Morris and Mike Collins are artists know primarily for their work in the animation field, creating animation for The Simpsons, Power Puff Girls, and Adventure Time, just to name a few. With that pedigree, you can rest assured that the art throughout this game is top notch and hysterical. Everything from the portrayal of the Heroes, to the Zombies (and what Zombies they are), and even the board is nuts on and perfect. I have to admit, it was the art that drew me to the game long before I knew anything at all about the game play. The characters look like they are going to pop off the cards and bite you on the ass (Zombies) or start busting heads (Heroes). You’re gonna like the art, trust me.

Everything, from the game board, to the cards, and even to the box has a linen finish, which is always a nice perk when it comes to games. It just adds to the “chrome” of the game, as they say. It is a finishing touch that just makes everything that much nicer to the touch and a little easier on the eye. Speaking of the box, the box is sturdy as hell! This is super nice, as many games these days are packaged in boxes that basically fall apart shortly after buying them, with the corners tearing and splitting, requiring some serious taping to keep them from falling apart.

 

 

All of the tokens in the game are printed on extra thick cardboard, as is the board itself, which is nice. This is another example of how the designers and publishers went that extra bloody mile to create a nice gaming experience. The cards are printed on nice, thick cardstock, also with a linen finish. They snap nicely when you shuffle them, which is a must-have in my book.

SETUP:

Set up is a little tedious. After picking player tokens, each of which imbues the player with a unique power that will help them throughout the game, and placing their scoring token on the “0” space on the scoring track, tedium rolls in. Sixty-six Shopper tokens must be randomly placed value-side-down on the board, which depicts the layout of the mall in a large grid of squares. The rules recommend that the players all randomly grab the face-down Shopper tokens and distribute them around the mall, but even this is bothersome and time-consuming, I think. Once this is done, a Horde scoring token is placed on the “0” place as well and two Horde tokens are set aside.

Each player is given six cards at random from the common stack of shuffled Attack, Hero, and Horde cards, keeping them secret from other players. They also receive two Infection tokens. Players place their Zombie token on the hot dog stand space on the board. Lastly, each player receives two Infection tokens, and the game is ready to play.

 

Set Up

 

GAMEPLAY:

The steps of gameplay are as follows:

(1) Movement: Players take turns moving their Zombie token on the board, three spaces at a time, in an attempt to reach a Shopper token and attempt to kill them. They can increase the distance they move by discarding cards or infection tokens.
(2) Attack: flip the Shopper token, defeat Heroes that a played against you, and attack the Shoppers.
(3) Discard/draw: Discard any/all cards but one and draw back up to 6. Reveal all Horde cards drawn.
(4) Resolve Horde attacks.

Yup, the gameplay really is that simple, but I’ll go into some detail for you here. Players are trying to kill as many Shoppers as they can, as they player with the highest number of kills wins the game. To do this, they move their counter until it is on a Shopper. The get three squares of movement each turn, but they can get an extra square for each card they discard or each Infection token they discard. Easy!

When you attack, you flip over the token to reveal how many Shoppers there are, the number printed on the bottom of the token. Once you have done this, the other players can attempt to prevent you from getting the kill by playing Hero cards against you. Non-active players can play a Hero card face down in front of them or pass. The active player (Zombie) selects one of the hero cards to defeat, revealing the strength printed on the Hero card. The non-selected Hero cards MAY be revealed to add +1 attack for each card thus revealed. To defeat the Hero, the Zombie player must discard Attack cards (plus Infection tokens for +1 strength), each of which has a strength printed on it, to meet (meat?) or beat the Hero attack strength. If they succeed, they get one point on the score track and may attempt to attack Shoppers. If they fail, they take one damage token and perform the negative effect described on the hero card.

Fighting Shoppers is much easier. The Zombie may slay as many Shoppers from the group as they can by discarding and Attack card for each Shopper to be slain. The Attack strength of the card does not matter. For each Shopper killed this way, the Zombie player advances their score token one space on the score track. Any number of shoppers they can’t defeat in this manner is considered to have run away, and the Shopper token is removed from the board.

After attacks are resolved, the Zombie player may discard any or all of their cards except one from their hand and draw back up to the hand size, which is six. After they do so, any player who revealed a hero card in an attack that turn draw one card each to replenish their hands.

This brings us to the Zombie Horde. Whenever a player draws a Horde card, they must lay it face-up on the table. The first time a Horde card is drawn, a Horde token is placed on the hot dog cart. Upon subsequent turns that reveal a Horde card, a second Horde token is revealed, but, more importantly, each Horde on the board moves 10 spaces toward the nearest Shoppers. Hordes will not move to the same Shoppers. Players then attempt to stop the Horde by scoring. The Horde will score a number of points equal to the Shopper value minus the number of Hero cards played against it. Hero toughness and effects are ignored. In this way, the Horde can effectively, possibly, outscore the players and deny them shoppers to attack! Damn the Horde straight to Hell! Those are my shoppers, and I’m going to eat them!

WINNING:

The number of points required to win varies, depending on the number of players: 50 pts for 2, 45 pts for 3, 35 pts for 4, and 30 pts for 5. The game can also end when the last Shopper token has been flipped over. In this case, the player with the highest score wins. That said, the blasted Zombie Horde can win the game, and all players LOSE, if the Horde has more points than the players. Stupid Zombies!

FINAL THOUGHTS:

It is hard to say anything bad about We Are Dead. It does what it sets out to do: it is a simple beer and pretzel game that doesn’t take a lot of thought to play. It has a bit of a “take that” mechanic in that other players playing Heroes against you can really knock your score down. It’s not a “roll you dice, move your mice” game that relies on the luck of the dice in order to score and win, which is nice. It forces you to think about where is best to move to block out other players from scoring and yet avoid the Horde. Some of the Hero cards have cool effects, such as the Hero “Harley Baconstein,” who forces you to only draw up to a hand of four if you lose against him, or “Rick Dixon AKS Mall Santa,” who deals damage equal to the number of Shoppers on the revealed token (yup, brutal). Once again, I have to come back to Morris and Collins’ artwork throughout the game. Hell, it is fun just to rifle through the cards to look at the hysterical art. The game is worth it just for the art. The game may be hard to find, as it was originally a successful Kickstarter project, but it DID make it to some stores for retail. If you look hard enough, you’ll find it. If We Are Dead sounds like the kind of game you want to play, there is nothing wrong with it. Really…I mean it. It’s fun to knock out over a bowl of chips and a good microbrew, but in a market chock full of zombie games that do this type of thing, but even BETTER, you might want to spend your zombie game bucks elsewhere.

PRODUCT DETAILS:

Designer: Derak Morrell
Artists: Mike Morris and Mike Collins
Publisher: Never Peak Games
Published: 2013
Players/Playtime: 2-5 players/45-90 min
Suggested Player Age: 13+

RATING:
2/5

Last Meeple Standing is brought to you by Villainous Lair Comics & Games, the ultimate destination for board game fanatics in Southern California. For more information visit the official Villainous Lair Comics & Games website, “Like” the Villainous Lair Facebook page and be sure to follow Villainous Lair on Twitter and Instagram.

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Who Should We Eat? – Last Meeple Standing Game Overview and Review

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Ahhhhhhhh… the holidays. They are a time of love, sharing, kindness, and good food. But, what if you are stranded on a desert island with a bunch of folks who are willing to resort to good old “long pig” (you, that is…) to obtain that good food? This is the premise of the new game from WizKids, a company primarily know for wholesome games that do not deal with cannibalism.

How this little number came about, I’ll never know. I can only imagine how the elevator pitch for the semi-cooperative game Who Should We Eat? went: “So, we have an idea for a super bright, color-saturated, simple card game revolving around something like LOST where the Survivors of a crash on a deserted island are a little too ready to make a light snack of each other in order to stay alive and escape. We’ll say it is for ages 14 and up, but we’ll package it up like a Saturday morning cartoon…sorta like cigarette ads.

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hahn

I suppose that day, the execs at WizKids were extremely hung over, because they gave this game the green light, and I’m GLAD they did, as this game is good, clean human-eating fun!

COMPONENTS:

Keeping with WizKids standards, the components for this game, considering the light-weight nature of the gameplay, are top notch. The three boards used for tracking food, sanity, and building (for the getaway raft) are super-thick cardboard, heavy and sturdy. All of the cards used in the game are printed on thick, crisp cardstock that *snap* nicely when you shuffle them. The four tracking tokens used on the tracking boards are printed on the same cardboard, so they will likely hold up forever. Another nice touch is the first-player token. It’s a weighty wooden conch shell. It’s something beyond the call of duty for a game like this, as WizKids could have chosen to just go with a cardboard token. Good job, guys! There are also 10 “straws” printed on the same thick cardboard that are used to determine the winners of knife fights and who has to resolve a Quest.

SETUP:

Setup is pretty quick and painless (unlike dismembering and eating someone). First, place the three tracks for food (red), sanity (blue), and building (green) in the middle of the play area and find the survivor cards that match their color. Shuffle the matching survivor cards and place them on the corresponding tracks, leaving room for a discard pile. Place tracking tokens on each board (starting location dictated by the number of players). Shuffle the Quest deck and turn over three cards face up within reach of all players. Shuffle the Ghost deck (more about this cool thing soon…) and place it near the track boards. Deal each player a Role card. These cards will dictate turn order as well as provide a special power that role has access to during game play. The game comes with really cool “straws” (as in “draw for the short straw”) that are used during specific points in the game, so place them within reach of all players (when in any game are you told to place components OUT of reach of the players?). Then, in a really funny turn, the player who ate last takes the first player Conch and is called the Leader. You’re now ready to start planning who to devour.

GAMEPLAY:

The goal of Who Should We Eat? Is to manage your Food, Sanity, and raft Building in order to get off the island before you starve, go insane, or the Ghosts just plain get you before you can sail away. The order of play is split into five distinct phases: Morning Phase, Afternoon Phase, Evening Phase, Trial Phase, and Salvation Phase. Each phase has a number of sub-steps, which, while not super complicated, might take a while to explain, so I’ll talk about each phase in generalities, discussing what happens in each phase on a high level.

The Morning Phase is a kind of an “upkeep phase,” common in many games, where you pass the first player token to the next player, the Dead Return (yup, if you die in this game, you come back as a GHOST to fuck with the players that are still living…you are never fully removed from the game!), players draw their cards, and place cards they will play during a turn.

The Afternoon Phase entails the Leader choosing a “Quest” for the group from the previously displayed Quest cards. You’ll find these quests have various benefits and detriments: generally a negative effect for the player that draws the shortest “straw,” but a positive effect for the group as a whole. At this point, players, in turn order, resolve the effect of their Play card, adjusting the values on the various tracker boards per the effects of the cards.

The Evening Phase involves the players having to come to terms with what choices they made during the day. Sanity on the tracker is reduced 2 points, no matter how many players still survive. This is important, because if the sanity meter ever reaches 0, the Survivors lose their minds and the Ghosts win, ruling your own little Batavia island (excellent cannibal history). Then, all of the Survivors have to eat. Reduce the Food track by 1 for each survivor still in the game. If all of the Survivors have eaten and the Food track remains at 0 or above, play proceeds to the Salvation phase. If not, shit gets UGLY, and the players move on to the Trial Phase, entailing the said Trial and knife fights!

The Trial Phase involves three main elements:

(A) an actual trial, where players argue among themselves to fight for who should be sacrificed and eaten
(B) possible knife fights (losers determined by the drawing of “straws”), where Survivors can reveal a knife card in their hand and declare an attack on another player (who may reveal a shield card to protect themselves)
And (C) close of discussion (if there is not a knife fight) and a vote to determine who is going to be the soup of the day. Now, mind you, I’ve played a lot of downright grim games, but the Trial Phase of this cute, airy, lightweight game is one of the most brutal things I’ve experienced in my years of collecting. Friendships may be strained by this game if you don’t have the right play group. Yikes!

The Salvation Phase takes place if a Trial Phase is not required. It involves checking to see if the raft has been completed with enough food and sanity remaining, thus allowing the Survivors to hop on their raft and sail into the sunset…and hopefully not into shark-infested waters. If the raft is not ready during this phase, the Survivors awaken the next morning, ready to do it all over again until they go insane, starve, or escape.

Now, I mentioned Ghosts. These are an important and interesting element to the game. In the morning, if a player was eaten or knifed to death (how cheery), they come back as a Ghost and remain in the game to cause woe, stress, and complications for the remaining Survivors. Ghosts have their own deck of cards from which they draw. These cards allow ghost players to directly impact gameplay, limiting the types of cards that can be drawn and played, decreasing food or sanity, etc. The Survivors will truly come to hate the Ghosts, especially since the Ghosts can win the game. Also, when a player dies, the Sanity chart is decreased by two, so that again makes the game harder to win. As the game progresses, and the island becomes more infested with Ghosts, the living will come to hate life. The Ghosts will surly see to that.

WINNING:

The Survivors win if the Build tracker is equal to or above the Raft target at the end of a round in which the Survivors did not have to go to Trial. However, the Survivors lose if:
(A) the Sanity tracker hits 0 at any point
(B) a new Quest card cannot be revealed to fill the selection
Or (c) a Trial Phase begins in which there are only two Survivors remaining.

As I said, brutal. One way to win and three ways to lose.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Who Should We Eat? is the kind of game you only want to play with the right crowd. Me? I love the theme of cannibalism, but some folks (with the last name Donner) might take offense. That rarely bothers me, but it might bother your play group. Beyond that, there is a lot of tension in this game surrounding arguments about who should be sacrificed or just plain gutted in a knife fight to ensure the survival of the rest of the Survivors. I can see hurt feelings taking place over this game if you don’t have the right people involved. There can be raised voices and a lot of “screw your neighbor” play, especially if someone knifes a few to many folks or the wrong person. I happen to LOVE a good cutthroat game, but some folks can’t handle conflict in a game (I’m looking at you, Rhado). The components, mechanics, and gameplay are good here. I commend WizKids for surprising me with this game, but while revenge is a dish best served cold, in Who Should We Eat?, it is the order of the day.

PRODUCT DETAILS:

Designers: Mike Harrison-Wood & Chris MacLennan
Artist: Pablo Hildago
Publisher: WizKids
Published: 2017
Players/Playtime: 4 to 10 (!) players/30 min

RATING:
3/5

Last Meeple Standing is brought to you by Villainous Lair Comics & Games, the ultimate destination for board game fanatics in Southern California. For more information visit the official Villainous Lair Comics & Games website, “Like” the Villainous Lair Facebook page and be sure to follow Villainous Lair on Twitter and Instagram.

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H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport Festival: The Card Game, Overview and Review – Last Meeple Standing

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Yeah, I know. I’ve said it before, and I will scream it to the heavens again: There is an abysmal glut of Lovecraft Mythos games out there (and still streaming into the market). For a while there, it was vampire games (wanna take a sparkly guess why?). Then, it was zombie games (only Robert Kirkman knows why). Now it is Lovecraft games, and it is a LOT of them. Shambling, fish-headed masses of them, weighing down the game shop shelves like heavily laden buckets of freshly shorn tentacles (calm down, hentai fans). It’s true, and a lot of them seem to be sad doppelgangers of other games, just skinned with a rotting coat of Elder God goo.

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hahn

For that reason, it is nice to run across a Lovecraft-themed game that is GOOD. H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport Festival: The Card Game is one of those… it’s good, but it’s not great (for ONE painful reason). But, for our nefarious purposes today, that’s good enough. The stars are PARTIALLY in alignment. There is one little detail to get out of the way before we wade into the spawn-infested miasma of this game: it is the hellish offspring of an earlier, more complex game called (you guessed it) H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport Festival the board game. Much has been said about the relationship between these two games and many comparisons have been made, but since I neither own the board game nor have I played it, let’s leave it to fester in cold, barren space all by its lonesome for now. I’m sure its time will come…when the stars are right (rolling his eyes).

COMPONENTS:
It is RARE (like fresh Deep One filets) that the components of a game are as nice as the gameplay, but there are two elements of Kingsport Festival: TCG that really make it shine. The first is the titular cards that make up the bulk of the game. The artwork on the tarot-sized cards depicting the various gods, lesser gods, demons, and evil corgis (I kid) from the Mythos is dark and shows off the creatures to good/evil effect. I have to admit that these are some of my favorite depictions of the creatures from Lovecraft’s mind I’ve seen. They really look threatening here. The portraits on the cards presenting the investigators/evil cultists look dignified, a little creepy, and mysterious, as is only right for nogoodniks taking on Cthulhu’s worst. The graphic design is really classy with easily interpreted iconography and border artwork. Equal care has been taken with the backs of the cards, which have appropriately aged and Victorian elements. The only parts to this game are the cards and the dice. Wait, this is a card game, right?

Well, yes and no.

Although cards make up the lion’s share of the game, there is a heavy dice aspect as well, and these are some NICE dice. I’m a SUCKER for custom dice, and Kingsport Festival: TCG comes loaded with them. There are three types of dice: a white d10 with a clock icon on one face, brain-pink (a nice touch) d12 dice representing the player’s sanity with a Sanity icon on one face, and grey Domain d6 dice with three types of domain faces: purple Evil, black Death, and red Destruction. All of the dice are high-quality and engraved, not printed, with easily recognizable faces for ease of play and match up nicely with the icons on the game’s cards. Squee! Wonderfully evil custom dice!

SETUP:
Set up is pretty basic. All of the cards depicting the horrid gods are displayed in order of their power in six rows within reach of all of the players. The total number of copies of each type of god card is dictated by how many people are playing, so the number varies. Each player gets one of the brain-ilicious d12s with which to track their sanity and sets it to 10. All players white timer die, with the high roller taking the role of the starting player. Then each player sets their Sanity die to 10 (yes, the value can be increased up to 12 through game effects. That player takes the white d10 and sets it to the clock face. Players can pick an investigator card, but I suggest dealing them out at random to each player to liven things up (before they get driven insane, of course).

GAMEPLAY:
Gameplay is equally simple, yet strangely engaging. The first player takes the white timer d10, passes it to the next player to their left, who turns it to the number 1, effectively creating a timer that will count up from 1 to 10, ending the game. That player becomes the starting player. Once the white die is passed, the passing player increases their Sanity by one, as will be the mechanic throughout the rest of the game.

At the start of a game, the players will have no cards in their hands. They acquire them throughout the game, but we’ll talk about a general turn. The starting player rolls one of the domain dice and notes the resultant face. If they have cards to play, now is when they would play them. The card effects are varied. They might instruct the player to roll more dice, add specified domains to their pool of domains, change rolled die faces, etc. There are many possibilities. After the player has played all the cards they wish to and resolved the card effects, the player may spend the resources/domains gained through the dice they’ve rolled and the cards they have played to buy ONE god from the displayed cards and add it to their hand. It should be noted that players are limited to one and only one copy of each available god.

Once the player has completed their turn, they check to see if the round indicator on the white d10 matches one of the Raid rounds shown on the investigator card at the very bottom. If the numbers match, the player must compare the Gun icons on his cards to the strength of the raid indicated on his character card. If the Cultist’s strength is greater, he gains the difference in Sanity points. If the Cultist’s strength matches the Raid strength, they neither gain nor lose Sanity. If the Cultist’s strength is less than the Raid strength, they lose the difference in Sanity points. After this, the next player to the left will take their turn.

WINNING:
The game ends at the end of the ninth round, unless a Cultist is able to invoke the Elder God Azathoth, which results in dogs and cats sleeping together (no, not really). The cultists look at all of their god cards and add up the Elder God symbols at the bottom of each card. The Cultist with the most Elder God symbols/points at the end of the game WINS!

FINAL THOUGHTS:
So, there you have it: an epic battle between creepy Cultists and ghoulish Gods in one rather small box. I’ll get to the point. I really like H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport Festival: The Card Game. I happen to be fond of little filler games like this. The box lists the playtime for this game as 30 min, but once the players know the rules, you can cut playtime down to 20 min, easy. It lists the age limit at 13+, which I think is absurd. There is nothing in the theme or artwork that would preclude players 10 and up from playing, other than rule complexity. Between the awesome art, the devilish dice, and the rad rules (ugh…), there is not much to dislike about this game… other than the hellish rules. You may be asking what I mean. The rules seem easy. They ARE. It’s the rulebook that is a pain in the neck. For some reason, the graphic designer (I’m looking at you, Savini -no, not Tom-) decided to print all of the rule examples in the book in a nearly unreadable “old-timey” font that is TINY. I think they thought they were adding flavor. If so, that flavor is YUCKY. When learning a new game, you want crystal-clear rules, not something you have to squint and struggle over, like this sad, arcane tome. The same hellish font appears on the cards in places, as well, making me one unhappy game collector. You may look past it, but I had a hard time doing so. Other than that, though, the game is great fun, a nice way to fill in time between bigger games, and beautiful to look at. You make your own judgement.

PRODUCT DETAILS:
Designer: Gianluca Santopietro
Artist: Maichol Quinto and Demis Savini
Publisher: Passport Games/ Giochi Uniti
Published: 2016
Players/Playtime/Age Rating: 3 -5 players/30 min/13+ (seriously?)

RATING:
3/5


Last Meeple Standing is brought to you by Villainous Lair Comics & Games, the ultimate destination for board game fanatics in Southern California. For more information visit the official Villainous Lair Comics & Games website, “Like” the Villainous Lair Facebook page and be sure to follow Villainous Lair on Twitter and Instagram.

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