Monthly Archives: March 2016

Game Review: Cthulhu Fluxx

You should have picked a different school. Even the name of this one – Miskatonic University – should have been a pretty clear sign that something was wrong. Then there was that creepy librarian, and the weird book you found in the back shelves… An now there are dead bodies showing up, people praying to Old Gods, and a rift in the very fabric of the universe threatening to consume all of creation.

Maybe you should have spent more time on your homework. Or maybe you’re playing Cthulhu Fluxx.


Cthulhu Fluxx is a set-collecting / hand management card game published by Looney Labs. Designed by Keith Baker and illustrated by Derek Ring, it’s one of the dozen or so games based on the original Fluxx. This version, as the name suggests, is Fluxx with a strong Lovecraftian-Cthulhu flavour.

Cthulhu Fluxx, like all Fluxxes (Fluxx’s? Fluxxi?), is a fairly simple game for 2-6 players. Players have a set number of cards in their hands. On their turn, they draw a card from a shared draw deck and then play one card, either in front of them (Keepers), in the center of the board (New Rules or Goals), or into the discard pile (Actions). Then play passes to the left. The game keeps going until a player has a combination of Keepers laid out by the current Goal, at which point they win.

The entire purpose of Fluxx, however, comes from how quickly the game changes in play. A New Rule card changes what players can and cannot do (draw extra cards, play extra cards, have a hand limit). The constantly changing Goals means that what you have to do to win can change every turn, making it almost impossible to plan your victory many turns in advance. Even when you are on the right track, an opponent’s Action card might steal one of your Keepers or make you discard the cards you were saving.

game simple

The game goes from simple…

game complex

…to much more convoluted.


Cthulhu Fluxx adds two new types of cards to the basic types in all Fluxx games: Creepers and Ungoals. Creepers are like Keepers – they are played in front of you and remain there. The problem is, you have to play Creepers when your draw them whether you like it or not, and you cannot win the game as long as one is in front of you (unless the Goal, as some do, specifically requires that Creeper). Ungoals are like Goals in that they set out a criteria that ends the game when met. However, unlike Goals, no one wins when these criteria are met. Everyone loses, typically in a bout of madness brought on by the rise of some eldritch horror from beyond the stars.


Goals mean you win… Ungoals mean everyone loses.

Mechanically, Cthulhu Fluxx is simple to the point of absurdity. Every card has clear instructions printed on them. The constantly changing rules and goals makes victory a matter of luck as often as any sort of skill. Frankly, in my experience, it’s a lot easier for everyone to lose thanks to an accidentally-met Ungoal than for any one player to win. This simplicity means Cthulhu Fluxx is an easy game to pick up and learn, though the heavy amount of writing on each card means that player’s need to have a fairly solid reading skill (which accounts, perhaps, for the otherwise high-sounding 13+ recommended age).

Where this game really shines, though, is in the theme. With famous horrors (Cthulhu and Shoggoth, among others), unsettling locals (Innsmouth), and oddly lovable characters (my personal favourite: the Penguins), the cards are just fun to play and look at. The Goals blend specific cards together with titles that, though vague, seem to conjure a sense of story. Consider the Miskatonic’s Rarest Book goal, which gives victory to a player who has the Necronomicon and the Librarian. Even the rules cards get into the theme of it, going from simply mechanical (Draw 3 a turn instead of 1) to the downright meta (draw an extra card if you can name something another player fears).


Because all games should have penguins.

At the end of the day, Cthulhu Fluxx is simply fun. It’s too random to be a game one can get overly competitive at. It’s too thematic to take too seriously. It’s quick (anywhere from 10-30 minutes) and easy to play more than once in a sitting. It’s certainly not something you could spend hours and hours at… But it’s a nice, compact game (both in time and space required) to fill out an evening. Just be careful not to get too wrapped up in it or take it too seriously. You wouldn’t want to accidentally get the attention of… anything.

Cthulhu R’lyeh fhtagn!

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Posted by on March 20, 2016 in Board Games


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Brews out of the Box 3: Bleeders


Description: They are heard before they can be seen. A droning buzz, wings beating impossibly fast. By the time their prey sees them, it’s too late for them to run. Carried aloft on four gossamer wings, they stand barely six inches tall, like tiny humans made of shining black stone. Their smooth, eyeless faces are split widely across the middle, a maw of tiny, needle-like teeth. In one hand, they carry a small rapier, with a tip so fine it’s practically invisible. The sting of the blades are almost painless… But they leave wounds the won’t stop bleeding. A swarm of Bleeders can leave a full grown man dead in a pool of his own blood in moments.

Idea: One of my biggest problems with Pathfinder and D&D monsters is the lack of powerful creatures that aren’t really big. Past a certain challenge rating, every monster seems to be Large sized or bigger. With the amount of Pathfinder classes that focus on attacking touch armor (I’m looking at you, Alchemists and Gunslingers), big creatures can sometimes prove… underwhelming. So I wanted a small creature that could prove a challenge. The flaw in such a plan, of course, is that while small creatures may be harder to hit, they can’t deal as much damage. Solution? Bleed damage that stacks, so that opponents end up taking damage from several sources at once.

Thematically, these were small creatures created in a pocket prison dimension, made from the same stuff that formed the building itself and the much larger construct guardians. That’s why they looked like stone; they were constructs. It was more flavor that function, though, and Bleeders could just as easily be magical creatures or fey.

Mechanics: The most obvious thing going for the Bleeders is their size. As small creatures, they have a much higher armor class (specifically touch armor) than their bigger counterparts. They also have an attach mechanic, clinging to the bodies of their enemies, automatically dealing damage every turn. And that damage inflicts Bleed, hurting more through blood loss, making them much more dangerous than they could even hope to be through the little normal damage they could inflict with their tiny weapons.


100 hp. 1-ft space, 0-ft reach. AC: 23 (t23 ff19). Initiative: 8. Fort: 4 Ref: 10 Will: 4. Speed: 30 (fly). Damage Reduction: 10/adamantine. Spell Resistance: Perfect (see below).

Melee Attack: Rapier (+26/+21/+16, 1d4 + bleed + attach).

Special Rules:

-Attach (Successful hit automatically succeeds as if a grapple; Bleeders can still attack while grappling; as long as Bleeder is attached, its attacks resolve v. touch and target takes -2 on all roles)

-Bleed (Wounded target takes extra 1d4 damage per round at start of their turn; this effect stacks; Magical healing or heal skill stops blood loss)

-Spell Immunity (Immune to any spell that grants Spell Resistance; “Transmute Rock to Mud” slows it for 2d6 rounds, no save; “Transmute Mud to Rock” heals it; “Stone to Flesh” gets rid of Damage Immunity and Spell Resistance for 1 round).

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Posted by on March 1, 2016 in Homebrews, Role-Playing Games


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Game Review: Betrayal at House on the Hill

You knew it was a bad idea. But no, you had to let your friends talk you into it. Let’s explore the old, abandoned house, they said. What’s the worst that could happen, they said. Why would you listen? And why would they bring along the creepy little girl, or the weird old scientist?

It was ok at first. A bit weird, a bit spooky. But nothing you couldn’t handle. Then things got really strange, and now the creepy girl is raising an army of zombies and trying to kill you all.

Maybe you need new friends. Or maybe you’re playing Betrayal at House on the Hill.

Betrayal title

Betrayal at House on the Hill is a heavily thematic horror game, published by Wizards of the Coast and created by Rob Daviau. The game, designed for 3-6 players, is divided into two parts: for the first half of the game, it plays as a team-based exploration game; but then, following the pivotal twist that is the Haunt, it turns into something else. And I say “something else” because, with 50 different Haunt, the second half of the game can play as anything from a team-based, survival horror game, to a duke it out free for all, to a one-vs-many murderous rampage.

The sheer number of Haunts, each with unique victory goals, makes the game massively replayable. The tile-based board mechanic helps with this as well; as the house is explored, randomized tiles are turned over to reveal rooms, which means the house layout is never the same (and in many games you won’t see every possible room). And with 12 different characters to play, each with a unique array of statistics, your own tactics can change from game to game.

This game is a lot of fun. It has the flavour of a pen-and-paper RPG, without the work that needs to be put in to make characters or write a session. The various story element (Event Cards that describe specific things happening to you, the Omen Cards that you collect throughout the house, and so forth) and really well written and can get spooky. Combined with the high stakes of the Haunt (most of the victory conditions involve character having to kill or be killed) can make a game downright scary.

There are, however, some notable downsides to Betrayal. Knowing that, at any moment, someone in your group might turn Traitor (fairly common in the Haunts) can make it hard to play the first half of the game as co-cooperatively as I feel it’s meant to be. Because the bad guys” (Traitors and/or monsters) are often outnumbered by the “good guys,” they tend to be a lot more powerful to try to maintain balance; sometimes this works and sometimes it skews the whole thing towards the Traitor. While the variety of Haunts makes the game wonderfully replayable, the fact that every Haunt has it’s own set of special rules (in addition to the already lengthy list of rules of basic play), it can be fairly complex to learn. And, of course, there is a heavy element of player elimination through the “kill the other guys” aim of most the Haunts.

Betrayal cards

I don’t mean this to dissuade anyone from playing Betrayal. I really love the game. But it tends towards the lengthier end of it’s 30 minutes – 2 hours suggested play time, and probably works best if at least one player is familiar with the rules when you first play.

Betrayal at the House on the Hill would make an excellent addition to or main focus of any gaming session; you could even play it several times in a row and have a different game each time. But much like exploring a real abandoned, probably haunted, definitely dangerous building, you’d be better off knowing what you’re getting into before you begin.

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Posted by on March 1, 2016 in Board Games


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