Dale Yu: First Impressions of Fate of the Elder Gods

Fate of the Elder Gods

  • Designers: Richard Launius, Darrell Louder, Chris Kirkman
  • Publisher: Fabled Nexus / Greater Than Games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Ages: 13+
  • Time: 60-120 minutes
  • Times played: 2, with preview copy provided by Greater Than Games

When I first opened up this shipping crate and looked at the box, I thought to myself “Oh no! Another Cthulhu game…”  I’ll admit that in the past few years, there have been a glut of games about the Ancient Ones, Elder Gods and Cthulhu.  As I read the description on the back of the box, I noticed an interesting twist though – in this game, you are a cultist trying to awaken your Elder God and bring on the destruction of mankind!  For once, at least I’m not trying to stop the end of the world.  Also, thankfully, it’s not another freaking cooperative Cthulhu game.  I’ve already got a shelf-full of those, and I really don’t need another.

In this game, each player takes on the role of a cult; each of which having their own Elder God (which is distributed randomly at the start of the game).  Each Elder God has its own special ability which is found on the player mat for that Elder God.  There is also a circular summon track found on the left hand side. If you’re able to advance your counter from the starting space all the way around to the 9, then you will win the game.  Alternatively, if you gain ten Elder signs, you will trigger the end game, though in this case, you automatically lose, and the player with the most summons at that time will win.

The different Elder Gods…. and, yes, the art is beautiful

Some of your cultist figures start in your lodge – this is found on the player mat for each player while a bunch start in the Abyss – this is the central area of the board.  The rest of the board is the Altar board with six different location wedges.  Each wedge gets one cult figure per player.  Also place one neutral grey Investigator figure in each of the six locations.

Two lodges

And here are the backs of them, because the art is pretty awesome

Each of these board wedges has a spell icon at the exterior vertex of the space.  The Spell card deck is shuffled and each Altar location gets one card dealt out next to this exterior vertex – the icons found in a row here are the Astral Column for that location.  Each player also gets 3 cards dealt to them to start the game.  The back of the card shows one of the astral symbols while the front of the card has the details of the spell (cost to cast and actual function).  The Fate Piece starts on the Other Worlds area of the board.

There are four phases to a player’s turn: 1) Prepare, 2) Move, 3) Activate, 4) Conclude.

 

1] Prepare – in this first phase, you simply take care of any spell abilities that might happen before you move. Also, return all previously used Artifacts to the upright (and un-used) position.

2] Move – The Fate piece must move to a different area.  Play a spell card from your hand (or a pair of matching cards) – place them in the astral column of the current location of the Fate Piece… The Fate piece then moves to the location shown on the played card.  Now check to see if there are 3 or more grey investigators on the new Fate Piece location, if so, all of these investigators move to you Lodge board.  If you end up with 5 or more, a Raid occurs in the Conclude phase of your turn – and you might gain an Elder Sign token in the process (based on a die roll).  Now, take a Cultist from your Lodge and an Investigator from the supply and place it into the new Fate Piece area.  If you do not have any Cultists in your Lodge, take 2 from the Abyss but also take an Elder Sign token.  If there are no Investigators in the supply, all players immediately undergo a Raid, and this will replenish the supply.

Here is the Fate piece. pretty nice scuplting

3] Activate – each of the six areas on the board has a special Action associated with it.  You always get to take the basic action (written on the outer rim of the wedge area).  Then, if you have control of the area – which means you have 3 or more cultists AND you have the most cultists of any color – then you can also take the special control action for that area.  If you do not have control, you roll a Fate die, and with a good result, you have “temporary” control and you still get to take the Control action.

As an example, in the Other Worlds area, the area general action is to roll a Fate die for each Cultist you have in the area.  Foe each tentacle or squid thingy, you gain one space on the Summon track and a cultist moves from the area into the Abyss.  For the Control action of that area, you roll a fate die, and for each squid thingy, you move a cultist from the Abyss to your Lodge. A full explanation of all the actions is found on the player aid card.

4] Conclude – there are three parts to this phase.  First, you can Ready a Spell. If you have a spell in your hand whose cost (found at the top) is found in the Astral Column of the current Location, you can place this card facedown on top of your player mat.  You can also use the Astral symbols found on any readied spells currently above your Lodge mat.  You can have up to three spells in the Ready state.  Be sure to show the casting cost to the other players – but make sure to hide the rest of the details! – to prove that you can actually ready a particular spell.  Once readied, a Spell can be cast at any point later in the game by flipping it over to reveal its ability.

 

Then you draw one Spell card and add it to your hand. If you have fewer than 3 cards, continue to draw one card at a time until you have 3 cards in your hand.  There is no upper limit of cards in your hand, but you can only draw one per Conclude phase.   Finally, if you have 5 or more investigators in your Lodge, there is a Raid.  You roll one Fate die PER investigator in the Lodge, and depending on the roll, you will possibly remove Investigators from the Lodge, but you might also end up taking some Elder Signs are penalties.

You might end up also gaining a Curse.  There are number of ways to get one, but the most common one in our games is when the counterclockwise Elder Sign counters end up crossing paths with your clockwise moving Summon token.  When this happens, your cult is cursed. Your Right hand opponent draws a curse card and secretly reads it.  It is now his job to monitor your cult’s play, and if you ever do something to trigger the curse, he flips over the card, reads it to everyone and resolves the curse.

 

My thoughts on the game

 

Well, in the end, this is a fairly interesting area control/card action game with the Cthulhu theme tacked on.  It really could have been any other gaming trope such as Egyptian pyramids, medieval farmers or German scat collecting.  As I’ve found in the past few years, the Cthulhu theme tends to be quite polarizing, and there are a number of gamers that I know who will pretty much say “no” when asked to play anything involving the theme. On the other hand, there are also plenty of gamers that I know who will auto-buy any game with the theme – and I’m guessing that these two populations balance themselves out nicely.

 

I stand in the middle ground; mostly because I generally am not swayed by the theme of a game when looking at it for the first time.  I’m more interested in how the darn thing plays – and in the case of Fate of the Elder Gods, it’s really a pretty solid design.  It’s not surprising that Launius is the designer, as this is maybe the fifth or sixth game I’ve played of his that is or feels Lovecraftian.

 

Once you look past the theme, it’s a decent area control game on the board.  You use your cards to move the Fate marker around the board to deposit your Cultists in different areas.  You’d like to end up with control of a region because that’s when you get to take the more powerful Control Actions in addition to the basic action.  You do have to be cautious in how you play your cards tho – each card that you spend to move the Fate marker around is one less card that you can cast as a spell later.  Trying to figure out which of the cards to keep in your hand is a tricky business, and it the most pleasing part of the puzzle of this game for me.

 

The whole movement thing might even be a long two-step process.  You might have a card that you really want to play – but in order to ready it, you will first have to manipulate the astral icons in a particular column OR ready other spells first in order to provide you with the right icons for a later turn.  Of course, if you ready a spell to use for its symbol, then you’ll never get to use its spell ability.  Likewise, once you cast a spell, you can’t use it for the symbol – so everything has a give and take.  It’s trickier than it looks, and you’ll have to read your Spell cards carefully to try to decide which cards are worth the effort.

The curse thing is an interesting mechanism – though one with a possible fatal flaw.  I really like the added suspense that the Curse cards bring into the game.  You know that your Cult gets a Curse, but you don’t know what the penalty is NOR what the trigger for the card is.  I suppose you can try to tiptoe around to avoid it, but since you don’t really know what the trigger is, I don’t know if it’s worth it.  The catch here is that if your RHO somehow drifts off or misses something, you might end up getting off without a penalty, even when you reach the trigger.  Some of the curses are pretty minor and others really feel like they can permanently sidetrack you for the whole game.  The swinginess could definitely turn off the Eurogamers in your group, though it seems pretty normal for these thematic games.

 

Even with rules, our first games are coming in around 75-90 minutes, and I’m guessing that at least 10-15 minutes of the game time right now is taking the time to read the cards closely and trying to figure out what they do.  While I haven’t kept track, it feels like our games are taking around a dozen or so turns, and they more pretty quickly when people know what they want to do.

 

In the end, I’m glad to have tried it.  It’s one of the better Launius games that I’ve ever played, and it might in fact be the best – though it’s too early to tell with only 2 plays.  I’ll admit that the theme does nothing for me, and if anything, it’s a mild negative because about a quarter of the gamers that I know will simply never want to play it.  However, I hope to be able to convince them to try it when I tell them that: 1) it won’t take 4 hours like Arkham Horror, 2) it won’t need an entire pool table to hold to components, 3) it’s actually a pretty good game with interesting decisions, and 4) it’s not another cooperative Cthulhu game.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Tery N: (2 plays) I am in the camp of people who enjoy Cthulu games in general, cooperative or not. I am not, however, fully in the Kickstarter camp and am often disappointed by them. I was pleasantly surprised by this one, which was purchased by my husband. The components are well-done, the colors and symbols are all easy to distinguish and the rules are well-written and very clear. The concept of playing on the side of evil is a nice change, although it doesn’t have much of an effect on the gameplay. I enjoyed the balance of figuring out which cards to use to move and which cards to play as spells as well as figuring out the best action in the best order.

 

The curses are random and do vary quite a bit in severity; I had one curse in the first game that wiped out all my readied spells; since I had spent the past several turns building them up I was pretty annoyed, and I felt like I spent the rest of the game scrambling. The rest seemed much more balanced, though.

 

  • Love It
  • Liked It:  Tery N, Dale Y
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

 

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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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