The chair creaks as you settle onto it. The candlelight flickers. All around you the ravenous faces of your so-called friends twist in delight as you slowly open the box laid out on the table. Welcome to Dangerous Games! Each week, we'll feature a horror/thriller/monster tabletop game you should be playing. Don't be scared… roll the dice… what's the worst that could happen?
Cthulhu Dice (Steve Jackson Games, 2010)
The stars are right tonight. Praise Cthulhu, may His power and greatness rise out of the sunken city. Tonight you will invoke His power. Tonight you will declare yourself the most loyal of His followers. Tonight you will set the world ablaze. You will shame all would-be cultists who dare attempt your level of devotion. Tonight… you will roll a twelve-sided die?
From the makers of Munchkin and Zombie Dice comes a game that's all about keeping your wits about you for as long as possible. In the face of the almighty Cthulhu, who could hope for much more? This simple dice-rolling game for two to six players is all about keeping your sanity while you serve Cthulhu. Your little glass beads in front of you represent your sanity. Run out and you go stark raving mad. Be the last to run out and you win!
Talk about an easy game to grasp! Cthulhu Dice may have some of the simplest rules we've ever seen. Each player starts with three glass beads. These are tokens of your sanity. The game comes with a single, twelve-sided die. On the die are several symbols that correspond to different effects. When it's your turn to roll the die, you choose another player to target. You then roll to attack. Once finished, the person who was just attacked rolls back at you. After both the attacker and defender has rolled, it moves on to the player to the left (of the initial attacker). So what do the die faces do?
There are several instances of different symbols on the die. The Tentacle, The Elder Sign, Cthulhu, The Yellow Sign, and The Eye of Horus are all represented on the die. So what happens when you attack another player? If you roll The Yellow Sign, the person you attack loses one sanity (it goes into a pile in the middle). If you roll The Elder Sign, you gain one sanity from the center pile of stones. If you roll the Tentacle, you steal one sanity from the person you attack. If you roll Cthulhu, that's bad… everyone loses one sanity. And if you roll the Eye of Horus, you may choose any of the effects mentioned above. If you run out of sanity, you still roll, attacking others even though you have "lost the game." You're still serving Cthulhu, after all. The last person standing with any sanity wins the game!
As long as you don't play a marathon of this game, playing it over and over in a single night, I can't think of any reason anyone should get bored of these quick rules. There's a bit of thinking involved, but mostly this is dumb, Lovecraftian fun. Because the entire game is based on luck and variability, you'll never play the same game twice.
You're not going to write an essay on the stratagems and tactics involved in winning a game of Cthulhu Dice. But that's not really the point of the game! Roll the die, lose some sanity, backstab your friends, and get out alive (and hopeful not gibbering like a lunatic). This is a quick, easy to learn, easy to teach dice-roller with an outstanding theme. I love to play this game with people while we're setting up a bigger game for the night. It's a ten-minute game flavored with the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. Who could resist?