Mo’ Cthulhu, Mo’ Madness


“Tides of Madness”

designed by Kristian Curla, published by Portal Games

Can you conquer the bizarre world of Lovecraftian mythos in this two-player, card-drafting, engine-building game? Begin by drafting one card from your hand of five and place it into your tableau in front of you before passing your hand to your opponent. Each card scores different points based on different conditions in your tableau: maybe you will score points for the majority of a certain symbol, or simply score for each symbol of that kind you have in your tableau. Or go for the big points by drafting Nyartholep, who requires one of each of the five symbols in the game. Or you can collect madness for an end-of-round scoring bonus. But be careful, collect nine madness tokens and you automatically lose! Three rounds are played, with one card left over from the previous round to help you in the next. Most points after the three rounds wins…unless you go mad by collecting nine madness tokens! Be careful, if you leave a card with madness in front of you, things escalate pretty quickly. As I found out the hard way…twice.

Card-drafting stripped down to its purest form: with two players, players quickly know what is available and it quickly becomes almost tactical as you try to develop the best combo for your hand while trying to prevent your opponent from developing theirs.

One Line Verdict: Take this descent into madness again with this different take on the Cthulhu mythos.

Empire Builders (not trains)


“Imperial Settlers”

designed by Ignacy Trzewiczek, published by Portal Games

Play as one of four ancient races: barbarians, Romans, Japanese, or Egyptians. Each race gets their own personal deck of specialized buildings, as well as having a common draw pool of more standard cards. Begin the round by drafting cards from a common pool. Using your resources, build buildings in your civilization, or use those cards to make “deals” and produce more resources for your burgeoning civilization. Or, simply raze the card in your hand for an instant hit of resources. But be careful, any resources that aren’t spent are lost at the end of the round. Production is key to this game: get stuff, buy stuff, get even more stuff, and earn enough points to win the game! Or lose, because you just got a lot of dudes and not enough stuff.

Deeply satisfying game as you ponder all your different strategies: do I build this building, or do I use it to make a deal? Which buildings should I raze in order to build this other, more powerful building? Or do I just raze this card and take the quick resources? So many choices, so many paths to victory. Not for those prone to analysis paralysis.

One Line Verdict: Make a deal and settle into this game!