Earlier this week we talked a bit about Rise of Cthulhu, an insane card game currently on Kickstarter. In the game you play as on one of the cultist factions trying to awaken the Old Ones and claim victory over the competition. Players will play cards to locations, ultimately using their influence to turn those locations favorable to them.
I had the chance to sit down with Chuck Yager, the game’s creator, and pick his maddened brain about just how Rise of Cthulhu went from idea to fruition. Take some time to check out the interview below, but beware: you may end up in a straight jacket by the time it’s over!
I:T – What gave you inspiration for Rise of Cthulhu?
Well, I have always been a fan of HP Lovecraft’s works. I’ve read countless of the stories, played a few Cthulhu RPGs, and really enjoyed some of the darker imagery that exists from the artists who have added to the genre. Being a board/card game fan, I really wanted to create a game that was easy to teach, portable, quick to play (but with strategic choices) and allowed me a chance to work with some really amazing artists on a new style for Cthulhu art. I love games like Lost Cities and Condottiere and decided to try my hand at my own card game. It has been a few years since my last card game (Zombies vs Werewolves) so I felt like I was due for one. And when I was talking with my good friend James Daly III (the illustrator for the images on all the cards) and suggested a Cthulhu themed card game, the excitement I saw in his eyes told me I had to do it, for both of us.
IT: Was it always intended as a 2-player game?
It was. Although I like both cooperative and competitive card/board games that feature more players (Eldritch Horror, Kingsburg, Lock and Key, Seasons, and Pandemic are some of my current favorites), I really do enjoy quick little tactical games with interesting choices. I also like games that are different every time you play because of random cards that are either present or not (one of the reasons I absolutely love Dominion). And, if I’m speaking very honestly, I wanted to make a game that my wife would play with me (she is not a big card/board gamer but she does love Cthulhu). So I figured I would see if I could add some depth to a 2 player card game and still make it easy to teach and quick to play. I’m very happy with how it all turned out.
I:T – With multiplayer games being big in the community right now, what made you decide to keep Rise of Cthulhu limited to 2 players?
It’s nice to have something that’s easily portable and quick to play as a filler game during game nights when other, longer games might still be finishing up. Also, I am a MAGIC player and I like the competitiveness that comes with head to head matches. Now, Rise of Cthulhu isn’t a collectible card game, and nowhere near as intense as MAGIC can be, but it does capture that spirit of direct competition and strategic card draw/play actions that I like in those types of games. I think there’s a ton of room out there for all kinds of great games. I toyed with the idea of making Rise of Cthulhu a 3, 4 or 5 player game but ultimately it didn’t feel right and it lost some of the direct competitiveness I wanted in trying to influence the Locations effectively. So I kept it to 2 players and I think it serves the gameplay better in the end for the type of game it is.
I:T – How did you design the concept of Locations and their impact on the game?
Ah, that was fun. I knew I wanted to work in the prime Lovecraftian locations into the game somehow. When I originally designed it, you didn’t rotate the cards to face you as you gained the most points on a side. Instead, you just sort of played for points and added them up at the end. It felt a little flat to tell the truth and I noticed in play test sessions that people wouldn’t necessarily try and go after an opponent’s territories…each player just picked a side and went with it. That didn’t really encourage the type of strategy I wanted, nor offer much tension. I decided to add powers to the Old Ones as they “woke up” from the deck, and that the person who controlled the Location (by having the most points in play there) would get the benefit from that Old One’s power. In addition, I added a tactile element to the game: physically turning the Location to face you if you controlled it. Suddenly, testers were vying to take over the Locations, both for the instant gratification of having the art “face them” but also to ensure that they would get the large benefit from the Old One when it woke up (or at least avoid it’s terrible wrath….trust me, you don’t want to be on the losing side when Cthulhu wakes up!) That simple change added depth to the mechanic of the Location facing and also let players instantly see who was leading in particular areas. It’s one of the moments as a designer you are proud of because it happened organically and it makes the game feel that much better to play in my opinion.
I:T – With how the Kickstarter is going, do you have any plans for additional content for the game?
I do. We are nearing the last stretch goal now (one new Old One card), which I just revealed this week. I have a few more Monsters and Old Ones planned to add as well if things keep going as they are, and I have received several requests for a PDF Art book, which just might happen. Beyond that, I have a few other ideas, but nothing too concrete yet. However, the success of the campaign has made me start jotting down notes for a possible expansion in the near future. All good things for sure, as it means more great art for the fans and opportunities for me to challenge myself with new gameplay mechanics to add. I’m really looking forward to see how it all plays out, but I couldn’t be happier with the support I’ve received from the Kickstarter community thus far.
Our thanks go out to Chuck, and we wish his campaign much success! The project has already funded and is nearing its final stretch goal. If you haven’t yet, go check out Rise of Cthulhu on Kickstarter and lose some of your cash to the Ancient Ones!