Life In Plastic: TOY REVIEW: Cthulhu Wars (Petersen Games)



Since we’re kind of on the topic of Kickstarter, let’s look at another success – Cthulhu Wars, a Lovecraft-themed board game by Petersen Games (well, that cut to the chase!). It’s a gigantic, world-conquering strategy game set in… well, you can figure it out. The world has ended. Humanity is doomed. Now it’s just the Great Old Ones fighting over pieces of land. This board game is huge, expensive (though not significantly more than others of its type), and… well, come on, just look at it!


Gameplay is fairly complex, but intuitive – you send out cultists to build gates and summon monsters, and then attempt to find your faction’s spellbooks and earn “Doom” points to win. Anything killed can be re-summoned, even the gigantic deific Great Old Ones. Each faction has dramatically diferent strengths and weaknesses, and plays like a different game altogether. Make sense? The game plays really well, but there are lots of reviews on it by betrer-qualified board game experts. You’re here for the figures. You know it. I know it. Why don’t we take a look? This is for the base set, so no expansion factions, neutral monsters, high priests, or the like. I may accumulate those in time, but for now we’re just looking at the four basic factions.


First up, everybody gets cultists. Same sculpt, different colors. Cutists are generally non-combat (Black Goat has a way to change this), but they can take hits, and claim territory. THe face looks like it might be a skull or skull mask, though it’s hard to tell for sure.



The Great Cthulhu faction, in green, is a straightforward, offense-based army. It spawns monstrs quickly, and hits hard, though it lacks some of the subtlety and strategy of other factions. Cthulhu himself is huge, with his wings reaching about 7″ at the top. Fantastic statue, too, with a surprisingly regal pose. Many of the designs in this game are coplex and surreal, and thus Cthulhu stands out in contrast.


The Star Spawn of Cthulhu are next up, and do indeed resemble their progenitor. But rather than merely being copies of Cthulhu, they seem more like larva. Surprisingly complex sculpts and the pose is very dynamic for something standing in place. This is one I would love to pop off its base and paint it.


Shoggoths are essentially blobs of eyes and teeth, and thus really need paint. That said, this individul Shoggoth is captured in mid-attack, essentially turning into a tidal wave. The sculpt is way more complex than it looks at first glimpse, but it would need paint to bring out those details.


The Deep Ones take up this faction’s small non-cultist slot, and this interpretation makes them more like frogs than fish. Come to think of it, The Shadow Over Innsmouth was very frog-based when it actually showed Deep Ones, even if they were meant to be like fish. Still, the quadruped design is a huge change from their normal depictions. Interesting, compact little guys, and they fit quite well into so many other board games. Monopoly time!


Unlike Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep has not received very many figures – a few here and there of some forms, but his big tripod tentacle-for-a-head shape is sadly lacking. And this figure is fantastic, looking like the best Nyarlathotep art I’ve seen and even communicating the masive size of this monstrosity. His faction has incredibly high mobility, but seems to start out weak. In actuality, Nyarlathotep builds momentum quickly, and by the end-game is a frightening faction to face.


Nightgaunts are Nyarlathotep’s faceless servants. As they are some of Lovecraft’s best-described and most humanoid monstrosities, this figure looks very much like the Pathfinder miniature, or the rkham mini, or pretty much anything. Still, those are not marks against it, and it’s sculpted in a fantastic, statuesque pose. It also seems to kind of have a face, maybe. Interesting, that.


The Hunting Horror is the widest non-Old One figure, and it’s easy to see why! This is another creature that’s pretty coherent, albeit with multiple eyes. Is it a snake or a worm? Hard to tell with these fiends, but even their non-chaotic structure is pretty nightmarish when you think about it.


The Crawling Chaos lacks human-sized monsters apart from the cultist, so their last figure is a Flying Polyp. Freakish, chatic things, this really does look like a polyp turned into a lifeform. It’s as random as the Shoggoth, but less of a blob, and thus with more details visible in the sculpt.



Shub-Niggurath’s name is problematic. Pronounce it however you want. ANYWAY, the Black Goat faction works on offense, by summoning more monsters at a time than the others – essentially out-multiplying and trying to cover the board. Shub-Niggurath herself looks more like a pig than a goat, though it’s hard to tell with that fantastic tentacular sculpt. Those tentacles stretch extremely high, and are posed really well. She’s the smallest of the four Great Old Ones, but still has fantastic presence on the board.


The Dark Young are so huge that, in the game box, they are included with the Old Ones. Their design may be fairly basic, but this figure really executes it well. These things are hugely intimidating on the game board, and you get three to mess around with!


The Fungi from Yuggoth, aka Mi-Go, actually have a surprising number of figures to their name already – four that I know of, not counting unpainted metal miniatures. We’ve got Horrorclix, Arkham Horror, and Pathfinder, and ofthose, Cthulhu Wars has altered their posture a little bit. Standing upright and with its wings folded, it can be a little difficult to make out the Mi-Go’s details at first glance. but it’s all there, from the crablike carapace to the wings to the squishy head. It’s also holding a recently-extracted brain.


And finally, we’ve got the Ghoul, which looks a little like a werewolf in this game. It’s almost underwhelming after the huge, chaotic monsters elsewhere in this faction, but Ghouls are an underappreciated Lovecraft staple, and it’s nice to see them.


The yellow faction is the most complex in the base game (though it’s matched by some expansion stuff). It seems weak. And, for much of the game, it’s not a “threat,” but when it begins to build momentum it suddenly becomes a dominating, powerful force. It even has two Great Old Ones! Hastur, the original He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named (you’ve read his name. You’re doomed) looks like a giant octopus, and is the heaviest, most solid and massive piece in the game. Considering tht Hastur has never been properly described, this figure looks alien enough to be terrifying.


The King in Yellow, Avatar of Hastur, is normally depicted as cloaked and masked, with what may be tentacles underneath. This one has shed his cloak and is poased like a twisted Adonis, making him easily the most unique figure here. WHen you look closely, he becomes creepier and creepier, especially with that masked face.


Byakhee are described as a combo of dragons, gargoyles, bats, moles, and wasps. A few figures exist of them, most of which play up the bat details. This one is all wasp. It is extreely detailed, with the only problem being that nobody could feasibly ride on its back, and Byakhee are known for ferrying people around. That said, it’s a great insectile beast, and even the face is reminiscent of some more classic Byakhee artwork.


The Undead aren’t just zombies, their bodies are made up of maggots! This figure certainly recalls them, as well as other Lovecraftian zombie and mutant-types. It’s a wonderfully horrific mummy monster with incredible detail for its tiny size!

So… yes. Fantastic miniatures, fantastic game. I’ve got to find those expansions somehow – affordably, of course – because Petersen Games did a great job with things like Azathoth or Yog-Sothoth or Tsathoggua. Let’s hope they continue producing material for this game – heaven knows there’s more than enough material – and the more exposure it gets, the more we might see! Ia Ftagn?


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