Tuesday, August 24, 2010

CthulhuTech GenCon 2010

I first learned about CthulhuTech about a year ago when I randomly traded for the Mongoose Core Rulebook on rpg.net on a whim (CthulhuTech is now published by Sandstorm Productions). I really liked the craziness and originality of the setting compared to the other games I play. I started to pick up the other books available, but did not have a chance to play the game despite my brother and another friend of ours both reading the book. This sort of thing happens to a lot of us with both boardgames and rpgs. We start collecting and never get to play certain games no matter how interesting they are.  Keep Reading to learn more about this Cthulhu-meets-Neon-Genesis-Evangelion-meets-Guyver!

Now that Wildfire's newest CthulhuTech book, Ancient Enemies is in my hands, I will play this game. Everything Wildfire touches for CthulhuTech screams quality. Even the advertising from GenCon was cooler than most other fliers/handouts. Check it out on the left. It even opens up for more information. Color me impressed.

Background information for those of you unfamiliar with CthulhTech. The game is based in the 2080s during the Aeon War. The Migou (obviously a take on Migo from Lovecreftian lore) invaded the Earth. Not only that, but Cults worshiping Hastur, Shub Niggurath, Nyarlathotep, and Cthulhu are all trying to take over the world or destroy it. The New Earth government is fighting back with mecha and Engels (a type of living/machine hybrid mech). The Eldritch Society is also fighting a secret war against the Dhahonoids (humans fused with creatures from beyond space and time). The Eldritch Society has their own special weapons, humans fused with creatures also from outside of space and time, but good guys, basically.

This setting is much more fleshed out than my brief summary, but I can say everything is fairly clear after reading just the core rulebook. Some players think the game is complex, but this view can only be based on the seemingly complex setting, not the very easy to grasp rules system. If you can play Savage Worlds or Cortex system games, CthulhuTech will not be a problem for you. The system is more about storytelling than fighting (especially compared to D&D 3.5 or 4e, a game I really like or Traveller).

Now I'll turn to the newest book in the CthulhuTech line, Ancient Enemies. Do you like Tagers and the Eldritch Society? If you said yes, this book is the one you were anticipating. (I was also anticipating this book A LOT). I mentioned the quality of Wildfire products up above, and this book may just be the best one produced so far and explain why I will always prefer great books in "dead tree" format over ebooks.

The art, binding, feel of the pages, and bookmark all make this product not only the best CthulhuTech book quality-wise, but also one of the highest quality rpg books I have ever seen. It has the same number of pages as the other noncore books in the series, but is noticeable thicker due, I believe, to the higher quality printing. Check out the difference in book size compared to Damnation View.

So, what about the content? The core rulebook provides stats for four tagers (Nightmare, Phantom, Shadow and Whisper). Ancient Enemies adds Efreet (looking like it is on fire and with an ability called "Meteor Strike!") and the Widow (a four legged insectlike tager with an ability called "Cacoon"). Both are rare combat Tagers and look really cool in full color). That not enough for you? How about four new classed for the Eldritch Society? (Lorekeeper, Operator, Sicuety-Psychic, and Society Sorcerer). Still not enough? How about the ability to customize your tagers so that they have variations among the same kind or the ability to have a tager that has gone through Metamorphosis? Described to me at GenCon by Mike Vaillancourt as "way more screwed up" tagers. When in tager form, you need to play more like the monster part of the tager due to a deepened symbiosis. You, of course, need to meet certain requirements prior to becoming a metemorphosis tager, but it looks like a ton of fun to play. Of course, the illustrations in the book for these tagers is amazing. The Eldritch Society takes up roughly the first half of the book.

Of course, if you get new tagers and tager rules/abilities, you need to increase their enemies and enemy abilities as well. The Chrysalis Corporation, run at the top levels by the agents of chaos loyal, has new units and rules as well. Dramatic character classes for the Chrysalis corporation include Dhohanoid Agent, Chrysalis Executive, Fire Team Agent and Street Dealer. I should point out that not all Chrysalis employees know who runs the corporation behind the scenes. Four new Dhahanoids as well as fourteen Dhahanoid Manifestations.

My summary just scratches the surface of waht you will find in Ancient Enemies. I did not even talk about the evocative fiction that helps immerse dramatic characters and storytellers into the setting or the rituals and other items included in the book. If you want to play an Eldritch Society/Tager game in CthulhuTech you really only need the core rulebook and Ancient Enemies (although every book I have bought so far has been worth it). Some might balk at the $39.99 price tag, but I have paid that price for lesser books. This book is definetely worth the money.

So what other stuff did Wildfire have at GenCon? My favorite product was the Mech mini that yo ucould purchase either built or on the sprue. It looks like the MK-5 Crusader Mech for the New Earth Alliance on page 152 of the core rulebook. If this mini is indicative of the quality of minis that will be coming out for the miniature game (rumored to be released next GenCon, a reason to attend in itself, as if I need another reason to attend), my expectations are high.

Wildfire also appears ready to release the Storyteller screen (which I am promised will be highly useful and well organized and the next book, Unveiled Threats, which Bob Arens assured me is "full of awesome, creepy things" sometime early this fall. Wildfire is also getting close to releasing Cthonian Stars for traveller, bringing Cthulhu to traveller. According to the guys at the Wildfire booth, Cthonian Stars is a combination of The Mist, Deadspace, Event Horizon and Mass Effect. It brings an insanity mechanic and fate points to Traveller with the appropriate level of crunch for the system.

I haven't mentioned Wildfire's card game Poo in this article because I'll be touching on that game as well as Sandtorm Productions other product lines in a future article to give them the full space they deserve.

I have one regret about Wildfire from GenCon; after I bought Ancient Enemies I forgot to go back and have the guys sign my book. Oh well, there is always next GenCon. Maybe I'll pack all my books along for signatures next time.


  1. Nice. I wasn't really all that interested in Cthulhu Tech before reading this, but now I'm seriously considering diving in. I thought it was simply Cthulhu with lasguns, but it seems a lot more interesting than that.

  2. Thanks! We love to hear that kind of feedback. We try to focus on games not everyone has heard of or played any of before. If you do give it a shot, please come back and let us know what you thought!

  3. I tried this game with my friends last year, and it nearly ended up with one guy storming out of the room. While the setting is great, the books are very confusing in their wording, and the character sheets are awful to work with. I had to end up writing out all my abilities and skills on several pages and clip them to the sheet.

    The amount of time we had to spend trying to figure out if we were rolling the right amount of dice during attacks really ruined the game, obviously if we continued it would have gotten easier and easier but the fact that the first game went so horribly that no one ever wanted to do it again kind of makes a statement to the difficulty of it.

    It's sad because I really enjoyed playing a whisper - and the parts of the game that did go smoothly were great.


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