It's Christmas in July (or sometime in there) as Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu from Z-Man Games will be out in summer 2016. Hot off the heels of my favorite game Pandemic Legacy, Reign of Cthulhu takes classic Pandemic and reimagines it in the style of HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos. When I first saw this at Ungeek.ph, I did what any self-respecting person would do: pour loads of time into overanalyzing what little bits of details we have. It looks like it will be more than just a re-skin, with different mechanics overlaying the basic Pandemic game. What mechanics? Well, we don't really know for sure, all we have are a few images to attempt to harvest information from. Maddening, isn't it? Well, I'm going to do some investigation on the images we do have and share my thoughts on how Reign of Cthulhu will drive you crazy (in a good way) and how it will differ from the Pandemic we know and love.
The board has four regions from Lovecraftian lore: Arkham, Dunwich, Innsmouth and Kingsport (Green, Yellow, Blue, and Red respectively). I guess they thought black would be too dark for a game about descending into madness. The very first thing I noticed was the decreased number of locations. The regular Pandemic had 12 spaces per region, whereas Cthulhu appears to have five normal spaces and one special space (perhaps a summoning circle?) per region. That means there are 24 spaces on the board. Let's take a look at the component list.
Using my brilliant, Sherlockian deductive reasoning, we see that there are also 24 Summoning cards. My guess is that these replace the Infection Deck. So, you will be drawing Summoning cards to summon something on the board's spaces instead of drawing infection cards to infect cities. What replaces infection cubes? I have a guess that it is the Cultist figures, because there are no other components listed that come close to the original Pandemic's 96 disease cubes (24 for each region). And, if you look closely, and I mean verrrrrry closely at the Sanity Die Effects chart at the bottom of the board, if you roll a 6 you add 2 cultists to your current location. There are 24 cities (locations?) on Reign of Cthulhu's board, and 26 Cultists. Will that mean it takes fewer Cultists together in a single location to trigger this game's version of an outbreak? We do not know.
The 7 Investigator figures and Investigator cards obviously take the place of the Role cards, providing genre appropriate characters and special abilities for the players. I don't wonder if the number on the upper right of the Reporter card represents base sanity, but again, there is not enough info to say for sure. It would be a sane assumption.
The Shoggoth figures seem to be enemies that will perhaps pursue the Investigators around the board in their search for clues. Not much is known about their function, but looking at the "You Must Roll The Sanity Die" chart, it says you must roll the Sanity die if you start your turn something something something in a location with a Shoggoth. So my guess is the Shoggoths will be chasing after you or will be summoned (perhaps as the consequent of an "outbreak?") and if you start your turn on the same location as a Shoggoth you have to roll the Sanity die to see how crazy you become.
The 4 seal tokens take the place of the four vials, and will be used to show you've "cured to disease" so to speak, tracking your progress towards winning the game.
The 44 Clue cards are obviously the Player cards that will make up the player deck and that players will be drawing from to form their hands and will be used to win the game/perhaps move around the board. But if there are 44 player cards and only 24 locations on the board, that is different from the old Pandemic's 48 cities and 48 Player cards. My guess is that there are two cards for every regular location (pictured on the board shaded in their respective color) and one card for each special space in each region (the ones that are colored lighter blue and have some sort of rune drawn on them). That's 5 normals locations, times 4 regions, which is 20, times 2 cards for each location, which is 40, then add one card for each light blue circle location, which makes 44. However, there are four spots on the board for cards... so at the beginning of the game, do you split the deck out by region, and you only draw cards corresponding to the region you are in? Again, too early to tell.
Next up we have 12 Relic Cards. This could be a couple of things. They could be items for the players to use against the Great Old Ones and cultists. But my guess is that they are the game's version of Epidemic cards. I think at the beginning of the game you will select 6 or 7 Relics you want to shuffle into the player deck, which could make the game harder or easier, as each Relic may have a special effect, and as each Old One has a special effect as well. Shuddle M'ell (EDIT: It looks like this is a misspelling of Shudde M'ell and they are aware) makes all the players lose sanity. Azathoth looks like he removes 3 Cultists from the something something, I am guessing the unused Cultists pile, which, if one of the ways players can lose is when you must place a Cultist and cannot do so, similar to the disease cube loss in Pandemic, will make it easier to lose in that particular way. And last, the mighty Cthulhu is a game ending power, so he must be summoned at the end of the game, perhaps as the final Relic card is drawn.
The Old One cards are also used, along with a new board section at the top of the board, to replace the infection rate. It looks as though during setup I'm going to guess you place Cthulhu in the final slot and choose or randomly select 6 other Old One cards and place them facedown in the slots and then, as Relic cards are drawn, you flip over one of the Old Ones, the special effect of the Old One takes place, and then the number underneath the Old One will be the new rate at which you draw Summoning Cards.
The Sanity tokens represent the player's sanity, max of 4 judging from the 16 that come from the box. I assume if a player loses all their sanity tokens something terrible happens to them, perhaps a game over, perhaps something else.
Lastly we have the Sanity Die, which hints at that system which is ingrained in every Cthulhu game, the idea of losing your proverbial marbles. There are certain circumstances outlined in the "You Must Roll The Sanity Die" section that will cause you to roll the Sanity die and then take the action in the "Sanity Die Effect" table. From what I can make out of the table, the results are thus:
1-2 Nothing Happens
3-4 Lose 1 Sanity Token
5 Lost 2 Sanity Tokens
6 Add 2 Cultists to Your Current Location
What happens when you go insane? What will Shoggoths actually do? What other Old Ones will make appearances and threaten your psyche? What do those bus icons mean next to one space in each region? These are all answers we will have to wait for.
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