|Call of Cthulhu LCG | Published 27 April 2009|
by Nate French, Call of Cthulhu Developer
When I first came to Fantasy Flight Games in February of 2006, I came with the belief that I would be working on the company’s 2 CCGs, A Game of Thrones and Call of Cthulhu. Even when I flew in for my interview and went out for dinner with Lead Designer Eric Lang, much of the talk was about the upcoming “Dreamlands” edition, which would be the third base set of the Call of Cthulhu CCG. From what I gathered, this set and its popular setting were eagerly anticipated by fans and collectors alike.
Unfortunately, the set would never see the light of day. In my first week at Fantasy Flight, I was told that the Eldritch Edition and its expansions were not performing as well as expected, and that the company was canceling the game. This put me in the unenviable position of essentially introducing myself, getting to know the community, and then following the honeymoon up with the dire announcement of the game’s demise.
There had to be some light, some glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. Or else it was simply an impossible announcement to make.
Talking with Fantasy Flight Games CEO Christian Petersen, it was clear that the he loved the Call of Cthulhu card game, and everyone involved was disappointed that it was about to be canceled. As a final gesture of goodwill, mostly as a gift to the die-hard players who would play the game to the very end, FFG fleshed out the open-ended idea of “Asylum Packs.” In these packs we planned to periodically release 20 fixed cards, giving the game and its fans a small taste of life after death.
Over the course of the next two years, four of these Asylum Packs were released: Spawn of Madness, Kingsport Dreams, Conspiracies of Chaos, and Dunwich Denizens. And, much to our surprise, the packs were quite popular, with numbers that far surpassed our modest expectation of demonstrating loyalty to the game and its die hard fan base: each of these initial, trailblazing Asylum Packs has completely sold out of our warehouse.
Thus, the seeds for the Living Card Game™ (LCG™) model were planted. Both Call of Cthulhu and its sister game, A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, went through a difficult time of transition, re-imagining, and change. Everything was challenged: from packaging and distribution to the look and feel of the cards and game components to the very theory of what it was that our target audience were looking for in a card game experience. To long-time players, some of these changes seemed arbitrary or silly, but the ultimate goal was always to transform two games that were struggling as CCGs, and reinvent them as viable, successful products that we would be able to sustain indefinitely into the future.
As we emerge on the other side of the transition, it is looking very much like the LCG™ venture has been a success. As I wrote earlier this month in my A Game of Thrones LCG™ State of the Game:
|“As a product, the AGoT LCG™ is exceeding expectations, and the game has shown significant growth for the first time in years. The newly launched Spanish language version of the game has sold out of its entire print run, and this has generated a considerable amount of excitement for both the game and the LCG™ concept.”|
And the news for the Call of Cthulhu LCG™ is even brighter. A number of our partners are picking up the game for alternate language editions around the world, and to meet demand we are going to be reprinting the English language Core Set (which has almost completely sold out of its first printing). These results have far exceeded our expectations. Not a bad turnaround at all, for a game we “canceled” 3 short years ago.
Enter the Darkness
This summer, Fantasy Flight Games will be announcing the debut of our first entirely new Living Card Game™. All I can say now is that it’s an amazing game with a powerful license, and that lead designer Eric Lang and I have had a blast working on it.
As a might be expected consequence of this situation, the workload of three simultaneous LCGs™ is something of a beast, and I found myself staying at the office later and later as the weeks went by. It became clear that something had to give, and the decision was made by the company to make James Hata (Universal Fighting System designer and developer) a major part of the Call of Cthulhu LCG™ design team. I’ll let James introduce himself to you in an article of his own, saying only that he is a brilliant designer and card player, and that the game will only benefit from his attention.
We’ve already begun the process of bringing James into the fold, but in the meantime, the next set for the Call of Cthulhu LCG™ has already been wrapped up and sent off for translation, and it’s fitting, as our story of cancelation, death, and LCG™ rebirth comes full circle...
Perchance to Dream...
If you haven’t already guessed, the next series of six Asylum Packs for the Call of Cthulhu card game is Dreamlands. More than any other project I worked on for this game, Dreamlands has been the most enjoyable. While the Summons of the Deep Asylum Pack series was designed essentially as an extension of the core set, focusing primarily on the basic mechanics of the game, Dreamlands was designed as a set with an identity all its own.
One old school mechanic that was intentionally held back from the Core Set was the Day/Night mechanic, and this mechanic comes back in force with the Dreamlands cycle. In a set built around Dreamer characters and the Dreamlands setting, the Night/Day mechanic was the perfect starting point.
Another feature that makes Dreamlands a unique set in the CoC LCG™ is a new “Unique matters” theme that runs throughout the cycle. It always kind of bothered me that having the unique symbol was typically viewed as a minor detraction from a card’s value in the Call of Cthulhu card game, as many of the named, recognizable Mythos personalities and entities were released as unique cards. A number of effects in Dreamlands reward unique cards, or (if you’re of a more destructive mindset), punish non-uniques. Going along with this theme, the Dreamlands set offers up a feast of unique characters and supports, such as Nasht and Kaman-Tha, The Enchanted Wood, Nathaniel Elton, King Kuranes, Randolph Carter, The Silver Key, Princess Zura, Mnomquah, The Tower of Koth, and Richard Upton Pickman.
The Dreamlands set also takes a new look at some “tribal” decks, particularly the Gugs and the Ghouls. The mythos factions didn’t get all the love, though, as the Agency get some powerful Attachment synergy, and the Syndicate get a new deck strategy that might end up drawing some of their opponents into oblivion. Dreamer characters and Dreamlands supports become hooks around which a player can build, and the neutral Zoog bring with them an entirely new type of resource. One thing I’ve learned about card design over the past few years is simply, don’t underestimate the extent to which a certain type of player loves a good tribal theme.
Finally, the Dreamlands set comes with its own serial tale, introducing a Gregory Gry (a talented but reluctant Syndicate card shark) and the mysterious Twila Katherine Price (a rebellious Miskatonic University art student with an obsession for the Dreamlands) to the Call of Cthulhu LCG™. Their story kicks off in the CoC LCG™ Asylum Pack 13, Twilight Horror, and the tale continues throughout the entire Dreamlands series.
The Dreamlands set is currently in translation, and should be ready for a later Summer release.
In the Meantime...
In the meantime, the Summons of the Deep Asylum Pack series continues. This month, we’ve released Asylum Pack 10, The Terror of the Tides. (Official Release Date: April 30th.) This pack is all about the Arcane struggle, and it also introduces The Descendant of Eibon, the card designed by 2007 Call of Cthulhu world champion James Black, to the Call of Cthulhu card game. The Thing From the Shore, AP 11, will continue the Summons series in May, bringing with it the idea that “skill matters.”
Click on the image to the left for a larger version.
Also, keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming CoC LCG™ tutorial video. I spent a couple days last week working with the FFG media department on the script, and the video is now in production. These guys (Keith Hurley and Jason Beaudoin) do top notch work (as anyone who has seen the AGoT tutorial can attest), and the CoC tutorial video should be available as a community resource in the next couple weeks.
As you’re probably aware, there have been some issues and questions regarding organized play and support. Our former line coordinator, Paul Bromen, has left the company, and the marketing department is in the process of reorganizing itself to better accommodate our card games. As we move through this transition, we are also in the process of revisiting all of our organized play programs, and trying to find a program that best suits the needs of our LCG™ audience. To this end, we’re asking ourselves and our fans what players (and particularly, LCG™ players) might want out of an organized play program, what it might take to get a gaming group who are into it as a casual “beer & pretzels” endeavor to participate in organized play, and what it might take to get a local group who play once a month at their game store to consider traveling for a Regional or National championship. If you’re a player (new or old), servitor, or store owner, and you have any thoughts on these topics, feel free to contact me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org). We are committed to gaining a better understanding of our LCG™ audience, and putting together the best possible OP program for the CoC LCG™.
Finally, because I don’t get to say so often enough, I’d like to finish this “state of the game” by thanking a number of people who have helped bring this game from where it was three years ago to where it is today, freely volunteering their time as playtest group leaders, and without their contributions, goodwill, enthusiasm, patience, and endless generosity, this game would not be enjoying its success: Travis Hoffman, Will Lentz, Fabio Soncina, and Vincent Manseau. Thank you for all of your contributions. And finally there are three community members who have gone above and beyond in unfathomable measure: Chris Long, Marius Hartland, and James Black. I cannot thank you three enough. It has been a pleasure working with you on this game.
These are exciting times for the Call of Cthulhu LCG™. In the months ahead, I’ll be working closely with James to ensure that the Call of Cthulhu LCG™ continues to thrive and release Asylum packs for years to come.
I’m very much looking forward to the next round of insanity.
Fantasy Flight Games
Based on the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and his literary circle, Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game takes two players deep into the Cthulhu Mythos where investigators clash with the Ancient Ones and Elder Gods for the fate of the world. To learn more about Call of Cthulhu, visit our minisite.
Excellent article Nate!
I must also congratulate you on the 'Summons Of The Deep' series!
Our league has thuroughly enjoyed playing with the cards and the story
of miss Julia Brown had us hooked from the start. Expectations for Dreamlands
will be quite high in the community but after 'Summons' I am confident that you will
meet and exceed those expectations. Mr. Hata, if you are not familiar with 'Mythos' literature
I would suggest you dive in asap! Welcome to the Asylum James and best of luck to you!
Great article, and the new cycle looks to be exciting.
And those are some big mushrooms (or a small hand...). Delicious.
This is awesome and we're happy to see such a marvellous article !!
Well, it's time for us to propose some minor stuffs. Let's work !
Yes, an article like this has been overdue!
this is the kinda news ive been hoping to see after the agot article the other week. cant wait to hear from james and his take on the game.