Review: Pandemic Reign of Cthulhu – rituals for the end of the world

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We got message about end of the world. It all starts with the rituals. Several hooded fanatics will meet with fire and exorcise. Ancient words, mysterious runes and when it all comes together, there will be evil coming  from another dimension. Step by step, our night dreams will subdue and then even thoughts. Some people are already mad and some will succumb in the future.

There are several ways to fight with oncoming Ancients. And while Arkham Horror offered us one more confrontation, this time, we will deal with it more scientifically. All future investigators will get game : . It was created by , but he can not take all the credit for himself. That’s because everything has been built on a proven concept, that was designed by Matt Leacock and who we love his concpet very much, for example in new Pandemic Legacy. More horror version from was published by and distributed by .

Inside the box you’ll find a game board with map of the whole area, where we find Arkham, Innsmouth other places. And this representation of the surroundings will serve as your base in the middle of the table. At the top, there are positions for seven cards winding in a circle. This is a spot, where players have to deploy oversized ancient cards face down. Their identities will be unknown until the last box with an X. This is always Cthulhu himself, who has no skill, but only one unpleasant message – game ends with defeat of humanity.

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Such an end is still far away. At this point, players pick their heroes, get card with four sanity tokens, place their miniature on starting area and receive four city cards from shuffled deck. Rest, along with relic cards, is split into four decks, that are mixed and each is equipped with one Evil stirs cards. Players then reveal summoning cards from second deck, one card after another, and deploy fanatics figures on the board and in the end also one shoggoth.

Players take turns and every time, they have four actions. First of all, of course, its all about the movement. Throughout time, heroes run around the map and try to stop downpour of pervasive wave of enemies. To this end, players can use action points to remove fanatic characters – one point for one piece (as it was with disease cubes in classical Pandemic). They also have possibility to use faster transport, especially bus. For this aim, players need to spend color card of their destination or color of their source city. In addition, they can also exchange cards (being in the same location) and fight with shoggoth (costing three actions).

But whenever darkness gets in the way of a hero or player uses third traveling option – opening gate to another world to move around quickly – has an obligation to roll a single die inside the box. It is a sanity dice and according to its outcome, investigator must remove one, two or no sanity token from his card. Later in the game, heroes get in risk of becoming crazy. This forces them to turn their card, reducing the number of actions and changing their special skills.pandemic-reign-of-cthulhu-01

At the end of each turn, another important phase of the game is at hand. First, active player draws two new cards and in doing so, he also has to comply with limit of seven cards. Among the cards, players might also reveal evil stirs card. After its uncovering, active player has to roll the sanity die first and then reveal new ancient card. New shoggoth also enters the game at this point (position is determined by card from the bottom). In conclusion, summoning discard pile is shuffled and placed on top of the whole deck (making all already drawn places reappear).

Now this pile is the last thing, where player has to focus his attention every round. Players reveal two (or later in game three) locations, where new minions (fanatics) appear. Moreover, some of these cards have a small shoggoth picture. If players reveal it, that means shift of shoggots one space closer towards the nearest open gate. In the event, that fourth fanatic should be placed on a location, invocation ritual happens. Players must reveal new ancient card and apply its effect. Same thing happens also in the case of shoggoth arriving at his goal – a gate, when he should move again.

We skipper over one action during our description and it will come in handy right now. Player can use one action to discard five cards of corresponding city (all in the same color) and close the gate. That does not mean, that new fanatics stop flowing from that place (they are still called upon by the Ancient ones). All teammates should accept defeat, if Cthulhu is revealed, supply of fanatics or shoggoths is completely emptied, as well as when clue deck runs out or all players go mad. All these options apply. On the other hand, players can only achieve victory by successfully closing all four gates before any of these conditions occurs.

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Pandemic moves from the world of diseases and drugs into a completely different area. To the place of horror and fear. But players will basically be expecting a lot of similar experiences. It seems like this, when reading the rules and it is so in reality. Basis of the game is still rooted in collecting sets of cards, that players then use for something. This time, it is closing gates at specific locations (and other stuff, but this one is the most important). While doing so, they still have to keep up and remove fanatics from the map, so their number will not grow over their heads.

Based on these goals, the game feels practically identical, which si supported by moving detectives. But then comes summoning of the Ancients into play and with them also changing skills with each match. This means increase in tension, variability, but also more luck-dependent gameplay. Players can even quickly lose due to bad luck, when they reveal lose three sanity points (due to Ancient revealing power) and lose the whole game (= all players go crazy). This new summoning is happening for several reasons and can not be avoided. You simply have to count with its possibility.

But sometimes, Ancients arrival can even create a chain reaction, making more ancient monsters to appear in our world. But the game still contains another levels of chance, that have nothing to do with sanity of detectives and dice. That’s because many times in a game, players have to check their mental state, when dealing with horrors of the city. They can easily get crazy. Fortunately, it does not exclude players from the game, but instead it merely adjusts their skills. And last source of randomness are the usual Evil Stirs cards.

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Sanity is an excellent feature, which gives the game a lot of thrills, but also can discourage players by being too luck-dependent. These players would, however, not show too much interest in a Pandemic in the first place, because this game is already inherently random. Cards come in a completely unpredictable order and can be used only in the right combination. Players do not have everything under their control and this feeling is much more apparent with the coming of Reign of Cthulhu.

But pressure on the players is still not enough. There are still shoggoths cruising around the board. Their motion is controlled by randomly drawn cards again and therefore luck. Sometimes investigators have no chance to stop them and can only watch them walking through the gate and starts another summoning ritual.

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Game has an adjustable difficulty, but even that often does not help. Sometimes, it is hard to even on the basic option with full card number and sometimes you win easily with expert option, when two cards for each color are discarded before play. The difficulty is not completely predictable and even depends on the selected Ancients and ancient relics and their order in drawing. But the game is still pleasantly fast and usually fits easily within half an hour, if you are playing with three or less. Then in four, you will notice small increase in time, but even this is no dramatic number (around forty-five minutes).

Game moves a whole lot further with processing. Detailed map of the city is only beginning. The main element, that makes everyone happy, are miniatures. They are in a world pandemic certainly a novelty, and overal feel is complemented by beautiful themed illustrations.

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Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu is a bit of harder, if you compare it with classic Pandemic. While there are better possibilities for movement and card exchange, but players have more problems, with their sanity and of course aforementioned ancient skills. Altogether, Reign of Cthulhu is an excellent game, that definitely deserves a position on the shelf of every Pandemic or coop board games lover. It stays different enough and that’s the whole point of our review.

DesignerMatt Leacock, Chuck D. Yager
ArtistPhilippe Guérin, Fred Jordan, Atha Kanaani, Paul Kluka, Chris Quilliams
PublisherZ-Man Games, Asmodee, Asmodee China, Asterion Press, Devir, Filosofia Éditions, Hobby Japan, Kaissa Chess & Games, Lacerta
Year Published2016
# of Players2 - 4
User Suggested # of Players Best with 4 players
Recommended with 1, 2, 3, 4 players
(105 voters)
Playing Time40
Mfg Suggested Ages14 and up
User Suggested Ages10 and up
(32 voters)
Language DependenceModerate in-game text - needs crib sheet or paste ups
(10 voters)
CategoryHorror, Novel-based
MechanicAction Points, Cooperative Game, Hand Management, Point to Point Movement, Set Collection, Trading, Variable Player Powers
FamilyComponents: Miniatures, Game: Pandemic, Theme: Cthulhu Mythos
Primary NamePandemic: Reign of Cthulhu
Alternate NamesPandemic: Czas Cthulhu, Pandemic: Die Schreckensherrschaft des Cthulhu, Pandemic: Il Regno di Cthulhu, Pandemic: Le règne de Cthulhu, Pandemic: Reino de Cthulhu, Pandemic: Schreckensherrschaft des Cthulhu, Reign of Cthulhu, El Reino de Cthulhu, パンデミック:クトゥルフの呼び声, 瘟疫危机:克苏鲁的支配

Infos courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Infos.

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