Arkham, 1929, you pull up your weather worn macintosh around your ears, hoping to shelter your neck from the worst of the elements. This graveyard was once the site of a terrible and ancient ritual, to awaken the elder god Cthulhu and bring forth a reign of destruction and terror. You shiver inwardly at the thought. You must discover the elder signs that will seal away the ancient demon before the cultists complete their dastardly plan, if only you knew who was really on your side…
Arkham, 1929, your robes rasp gently as they drag along the stone flagged floor of the long forgotten tomb. The strange alien language that pours from your lips leaves a gentle tingle in your mouth and the bright green flame from your burning brand warms your face. Your fellow cultists chant around you, forming a circle between the standing stones, beckoning forth Cthulhu from his long dormant slumber. But can you complete your ritual before you are discovered…
Don’t Mess With Cthulhu is a simple social deduction game based on an older title called Time Bomb, with the slightly more palatable theme of cultists summoning an elder god as opposed to terrorists setting off a bomb. At its heart though Don’t Mess With Cthulhu is simply a guessing game, the theme is irrelevant.
How to Play
Players are dealt a secret role, Cultist or Investigator. The Cultists win by finding Cthulhu. The Investigators win by finding all of the Elder Signs. A number of cards are shuffled based on the number of players, consisting of Cthulhu, Elder Signs equal to the number of players and a bunch of Futile Investigation cards. These are then dealt evenly amongst the players. Players look at their cards and in turn order declare what cards they are holding, they do not need to tell the truth however.
Players then shuffle their hand and lay it out face down in front of them. The first player then chooses another player and turns over one of their cards. If it is Cthulhu the game ends and the Cultists win. If it is an Elder Sign it is set aside as one of the Elder Signs the players need to win the game. If it is a Futile Investigation then nothing happens. Then the player who was chosen from takes a turn. This continues until a number of cards have been turned over equal to the number of players or until the game ends.
If the game has not ended the remaining cards are gathered up, shuffled and dealt back out and we start over with the declaration phase. The game ends once Cthulhu is revealed, all the Elder Signs have been uncovered or if neither of these things has happened after four rounds. In that case the Cultists win.
Don’t mess with Cthulhu has become our new short sunday night game, replacing timeline for now. Cthulhu has the benefit of being short and simple while remaining fun, play after play after play. The game is semi-random, I’ve seen it end after a single card being revealed, that can happen, in this way it has the same ramping tension as a game like Buckaroo, it could all be over at any time.
The game encourages tabletalk and deception while not being as a divisive as other social deduction titles. I’ve never seen a game of Don’t Mess With Cthulhu end in an argument, it’s more light hearted than that.
If the Cultists can identify each other early on then they can control the flow of the game, choosing to only pick cards from each other and thus running out the clock for the investigators. Once that happens you can’t stop it, which could be game breaking but I’ve only seen it happen once or twice. That said, a lone cultist outed early in the game can be completely cut out of playing by canny investigators.
It is a lot harder for the Investigators to win, they need to find lots more cards than the cultists and the cultist can win by accident. An investigator win feels much more hard fought. But I’m not sure anyone who playing this is playing it for the winning and losing, but instead for the experience which is certainly a pleasant one.
There are a few modules in the box to spice things up if you pick up the deluxe edition and cards to play with up to 10 players. The art is nice and cartoonish, giving the game a lighthearted look but if you plan on playing the game a lot you’ll want to sleeve the cards as they will wear after a couple of dozen plays.
If you’re looking for a deep social deduction game this is not it. This isn’t the psychological torture that is Battlestar Galactica or even the shorter but no less intense, potential screaming match, that is Resistance. No this a five minute filler with just enough meat on it’s bones to have it stand up to repeated plays, without outstaying its welcome or edging out casual or non-gamers. In short, it’s fast. It’s fun, it has cute art and we all have a good time whenever it hits the table.