Welcome to the world of Lovecraft, though I presume for many of our eager and keen gamers this will be more of a welcome back than an introduction. Of course, this would count as an unusual board game if it were a real one since you’re effectively playing against the computer.
The premise of this game is a typical trope of Lovecraft, in that it pits paranormal investigators (sometimes unwillingly so) against unknown cosmic horrors. There is a doomsday clock, which is counting down to the time when the Great Old Ones will awake and devour the world. Your job is clearly to stop that (unless you’re a secret cultist hoping to have some small mercy delivered upon you by being devoured first).
Most of the game revolves around two rows where various tiles can be placed. Each row has five spaces that will allow either a cosmic horror or an investigator. The top row is for the former, the bottom row for the latter. Effectively, the game works around a random tile drawing mechanism, and placement of those tiles on the grids in such a way that it places investigators and horrors opposite each other. When this happens they fight and only one remains standing.
Both horrors and investigators have a defense and sanity measurement. Initially if two cards are placed opposite each other and one has both higher defense and sanity than the other it automatically wins. However, if there is no clear winner than the issue goes to dice and chance. Investigators can be armed (or hindered) by a wide variety of things, from weapons, to curses, to allies. However, you can only ever have one of each of these categories at any given time for each investigator.
The game can be lost a number of ways (as is to be expected of a Lovecraftian game). Principally though, if the top row fills up with horrors, and you draw another one, it is moved to the Doomsday clock and ticks it one down. Three of these ticks will make you lose the game. If the same happens from a full row of investigators it repairs the clock by one. If you manage to achieve this twice, you win the game.
The game has a lot of artwork, but is somewhat minimal on the programming. This is very clearly demonstrated by the list of people in the organisation on the company webpage. There is one programmer and a long list of artists. In some ways this is novel, because a low quality game may often skimp on the art, but in some ways I think this game suffers because it may have less intensive programming support.
There are a number of areas where I think programming could be augmented (which themselves may be fixed when the iPad version gets released). In many ways the stats that are involved in any combat are rather opaque. After a number of rounds I still find myself pitching investigators against horrors where the outcome is completely different to what I anticipated. In these cases, it’s not just an issue of a bad roll, but not actually understanding what things contributed to the win or loss except in a very nebulous and general way. Granted, that actually does suit the Cthulu mythos, but kind of is a headache when it comes to playing a game.
6/10: This game certainly has some merits, and is certainly something enjoyable to immerse oneself in. However, the points of opacity make it harder to sustain that disbelief and completely engage with the game.
Note: the website promises the delivery of a specific HD iPad version of this game with updated graphics and new graphics. This entry will be updated upon release.