Recently I had a chance to sit down and give the Call of Cthulhu Card Game a test drive (well not really a test drive since I own it, just got around to reading the rules and playing it). This is a Fantasy Flight game so of course there's some cool cardboard bits and some amazing plastic statues. The core game comes with everything you need to play and try out the various combinations of the seven factions.
Opening the box we find:
155 Customizable Deck Cards (split between each of the seven factions)
10 Story Cards
24 double sided Story markers (One side for wounds and the other side for success)
6 Plastic Cthulhu Domain Markers
1 Game Board
The rulebook seems to be a bit daunting at first but once you get through the 12 pages of rules it becomes easier to just explain how things work to another play. Each player choses two of the factions to build a deck, some combinations work better than others as a player can't have evil and heroic characters in play at the same time. I really liked pairing cthulhu with the syndicate, but any combination can work well. You start the game with 8 cards and play three of them as resources, each turn you can then play another resource. The system is similar to mana in magic, but rather than counting on drawing a specific card you can play any card as a resource. This leads to some hard decisions, as once a card is played as a resource you can't use it for anything else. After playing your resource you drain it by placing the nifty statue on the cards. The odd thing here is regardless of how many cards are under the domain you can only drain it once. For example I want to play a green card that costs 2, but my only green resource is on the domain in which I have 5 resources (cards), if I drain it I don't get to do anything with those left over resources. I like this as it forces you to plan ahead as well as the fact that some cards give an additional effect if you overpay for them.
After you've played your characters and whatnot you move into the story portion of the game. In order to win you must collect three story cards. During a players turn they can dedicate characters to a story and your opponent than can respond by doing the same. Each story goes through several phases and a player wins the phase by having more cards with the appropriate symbol on it for a phase. If you get to the final phase without your characters going crazy or dying you gain a token for the story. Once you have 5 tokens on a story you win it and have the option of triggering the event on the story card. Your opponent than gets their turn and does the same the response mechanic is interesting as it's hard to judge what you opponent will do because if they don't contest you, you'll gain two tokens, but if you totally dedicate yourself they can do the same.
I really like the game, my only real gripe is that it only works for two players, trying to modify it for multiplayer games would be a nightmare, so the amount of play it will see is fairly limited. The game does play fast enough to act as a filler between larger games so that's a bonus. The fact that it's a living card game is also cool as you know exactly what you get when you buy the game and/or expansion packs. The downside is even though it is a "living" card game some of the earlier release are very difficult to find and there isn't a concrete date set for reprints.
After doing some research it appears that there is a "official" format for events and deck building which limits you to three of any card. The sets only come with one of any card so to play competitively you'd need to buy three of any core set or expansion. That said I've never seen the game played competitively anywhere and don't find myself drawn to that aspect.
To some it up, this is a good game to bust out with a friend and have some fun. It's fairly quick to learn, yet has a depth of tactics to make it a challenging game. The components are great, the art has a pulp feel and it fits into the mythos without taking several hours to set up and play.