Cultistorm on Kickstarter | In Depth Overview!
Purple Meeple Games, a new creative studio founded by Sandor Szucs, just launched their first game, Cultistorm, on Kickstarter. The company’s main focus is the international publication and representation the card and board games of Hungarian designers. They didn`t hold back at all with their first project, launching a full gaming experience. Apart from the miniatures, unique art, and custom 3D box, there is an illustrated script book, short stories, and even a soundtrack! I know I ask for too much but I wish each thematic game could come with that kind of support.
Cultistorm is a cooperative experience where you get on the role of investigators located in the United States of the early 20th century.
You are from a special department of the Massachusetts State Investigation Bureau and the Miskatonic University, making you the perfect fit for the task. Fanatic cultists appearing around Arkham, ready to summon the Great Old Ones through their dark ceremonies. Work together and seal all the locations before its too late, our lives are counting on your teamwork!
You win the game as a team if you manage to seal all 5 while there is no Great Old One in play. Losing the game might be easier though. By going mad and dying, by letting an Old One reach a location undefeated and having more cultists in-game than the predefined limit. Lastly, the game comes with two special end trigger conditions, specified on two Endgame cards.
Your investigator comes with a unique set of attributes. Having special unique abilities, a type, and being ranged or melee. All investigators can have up to 4 insanity tokens, on a 5th you go insane and lose the game! There are ways to heal them but beware of the special dark insanity token which is almost untreatable.
Each investigator comes with a unique set of action cards. Using them lets you to either take advantage of its symbol to go against that type of cultist or activate its special effect on a teammate. The latter will most likely grand you an insanity token but this very mechanic is the core of the game’s cooperation nature. Quite intriguing if you ask me, as I do love cooperative games and many suffer from the “Alpha Gamer” issue.
The game uses a beautiful game board that holds the locations and other vital game elements. You only play with 5 random locations, so each game starts differently.
The game plays in rounds until one of the end game conditions is met, as mentioned before.
A round consists of six phases:
New cultists enter the game, depending on the number of players. If there are more than three cultists in any given location, the corresponding Great Old One is summoned! This means big trouble, so you have to keep all locations at low cultist count quite evenly. Sealed locations prevent Old Ones from getting summoned and blocked locations prevent a new cultist from entering. Also, don`t forget that if there are more cultists in-game than your game limit, you immediately lose the game.
Then, its time to roll the cultist die on each location, adding its symbol to that location’s power pool.
You replenish your 4-card hands and roll the investigator dice.
The main board is working like a clock. On that phase, it moves to the next terror card and adds a crystal counter on it. These cards have various negative effects and are activated after a certain amount of counters are on them. This means that the activation of such a card can take place now, replacing it with a new one after the resolution. In addition, after a full circle, you get the chance to activate a location’s special ability. This can happen once for each location per game, so you have to collaboratively choose wisely the activation order.
This is the meatier part of the game, where all the important choices are made. You are free to discuss your strategy and carefully take important actions with your investigators. We will take a look at the available options each investigator has at this point:
– Movement: You can freely move among locations but after your first move you will gain an insanity token for each extra one!
– Investigator Die: You can take one of the dice rolled in the Update phase. Dice will give you extra icons which you can use to boost your actions or take a not available one.
– Research: A certain symbol lets you research a location, giving you the chance to gain an object.
– Carry out a Location Action: Activating a location lets you use its action if you are there in this phase.
– Playing a Support Card: That’s the most important an interesting part of the game for me. The synergy among players, as you can play your action cards on other players to give them special effects that will bring you closer to your cause. Relying on this puzzle-like collaboration system is quite appealing to me and that’s why I love cooperative games!
– Giving/Exchanging Objects: Investigators in the same location can freely give and take objects.
– Character Development & Obtaining Gate Seals: There is an important element in the game, the trophy tokens. You can acquire them by defeating cultists and use them for character abilities, certain action cards and sealing a location. This action lets you pay with trophies in order to level up one of your three unique abilities. When you activate such an ability you can take an available Gate Seal card that will come handy for sealing a gate.
– Choosing Targets: You can each choose one or more targets in your location to fight in the next phase.
Combat resolution starts from the first location and moves clockwise. You all have to fight or get an insanity token. The battle is almost deterministic, as you have to gather a combination of symbols to defeat your target. A cultist can have among 3-5 symbols and an Old One from 6-11… yeah, they are insanely strong. The only random element in battle can be re-rolling an investigator die, so everything depends on your tactics here.
Location Sealing Phase
Now it’s your chance to seal those gates. But it won`t be that easy, there are some conditions. First, you must have the corresponding Gate Seal card, then have as many trophy tokens as players and lastly gain that many insanity as there are cultists alive in the location. If you can do all that, sealing the gate is a piece of cake!
I now need your attention here. This is how the base game plays but you can also try the narrative mode, for a more thematic and unique experience. Use the Script Book to play this way and when you are about to fight with a cultist draw a narrative card, reading the depicting section in the book. Adding the storytelling aspect in your game will offer thematic depth but will make it last longer.
Regardless of playing with or without the narrative option, keep going through these phases until the game ends!
Who is this game for?
It’s needless to say that the creators of the game are in love with the work of H.P. Lovecraft. That’s the reason behind the creation of this game of epic proportions. Thus, this is for all of Lovecraft’s fans.
As you can probably already tell, if you like thematic games this is definitely for you. The whole package works towards that, making a highly thematic atmospheric experience. Apart from that, even if the game is mid-weight, it doesn’t have that complicated set of rules. I think that if you mostly like family games and fillers this might not be the option for you.
Lastly, this game is for team players. It seems to be quite difficult to defeat and it relies as much on teamwork as any cooperative game should. Additionally, there is enough content to give high replay value for the game which is always an appealing game element.
There are three major expansions and each changes the way you play the game significantly:
- “Behind the Scenes” overlord expansion makes the game a 1vsAll game!
- “Storm of Cultists” campaign expansion lets you follow a 7-session campaign, cool!
- “Lonely Struggle” expansion allows for solo and 2-player gaming.
There are also 9 minor expansions available for the game, adding new elements and mechanics to the game. Other than that you will find a big variety of locations, cultists and Old Ones. Find more details for each Cultistorm expansion!
Their campaign is straightforward, having all the details for all the elements of the game. You can have a taste of the soundtrack, read the rulebook, take a look at the art, graphic design and more. It already has more than 1,600 backers and it’s almost funded, with more than $200,000 raised. There is one pledge for the game, having the base game along with the three expansions for free. Stretch goals are included of course and there are no paid add-ons!
Overall I find their campaign very professional and I love that I can feel their passion for this project. Make sure to check it out if you find this interesting!