Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game.
When I first heard about Power Core: Call of Cthulhu, I was pretty excited. I’ll play just about any Lovecraftian game, but mash it up with a dueling game, and my interest is immediately piqued.
The first in what appears to be a future line of games in the Power Core system, Power Core: Call of Cthulhu is a two-player dueling game that will have players pitting a pair of Great Elder Gods in a battle to the death.
To start a game of Power Core: Call of Cthulhu, players each select two Great Old Ones and shuffle their decks together. Why do you use two Elder Gods? I have no idea thematically, but I’m guessing mechanically it’s to make the decks a little thicker.
Players will take turns with each turn having a handful of phases. First, a player will rotate all the Power Cores on any cards in play. Once rotated, whichever space is facing up, grants the player its effects. These range from attacking your opponent, to healing, to gaining horror resources, to giving your monsters damage-preventing shields. Some monsters even have unique powers that will trigger at certain times.
While Great Old Ones and their Avatars have unique and never-ending power cores, the rest of your monsters and items will have a limited time on the battlefield. After the fourth turn of a Power Core, the red section will activate and the card will head to the discard pile. While a monster can be sent to its doom prematurely via attacks from your opponent, after enough time it will automatically leave.
Once your Power cores have all been rotated, you can take two actions. The main actions are drawing a card, playing a card, or rotating a power core. To play a card, simply put it into play (minding your card slot limit) and attach a Power Core from the market to it. You always have three power cores to choose from, so be mindful of what the card does as you’ll want to maximize its abilities.
Finally, your Great Old Ones will have conditions that will allow you to bring out one of their two avatar cards. These are powerful monsters that have their own unique power core. Their Power Cores are also never-ending, so the only way to get rid of these nasties is to kill them. However once killed, they are out of the game.
Once a player has taken an amount of damage equal to the combined health of their Great Old Ones, they are defeated.
Board and Dice sent us a large batch of bad guys to try out with their Power Core: Call of Cthulhu game. I had a good amount of fun mashing up the different monsters to see what kind of damage I could wreck. Want to have Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth take on Dagon and Nug & Yeb? Have at it. I will say some of these Great Old One dive pretty deep into the well of Lovecraftian lore. I can’t imagine too many people will be rushing to control Baolsuugg, but for fans of the Mythos, a lot of heavy hitters are here.
For the gameplay itself, I think the mechanics are pretty great. I loved the Power Core system and all the options it brings to the table. Players rarely have to worry about not having enough “mana” and can usually play the cards they want. And since your Great Old Ones are always in play, there is rarely a turn where you have nothing to do because you just don’t have the right cards in your hand. It’s a flexible system that really allows players to always be doing something useful.
Another thing people might appreciate is the lack of deck building required to play. Many CCGs or LCGs require players to spend time outside the game building decks to play. While many players absolutely love doing that, there is also a large segment that just want to grab a deck and play. In Power Core: Call of Cthulhu, you simply need to grab two decks that you are interested in, shuffle them, and you are ready to go. For those looking for something easy to get to the table, this is it.
My only real complaint with Power Core: Call of Cthulhu is that the theme is fairly pasted on. I’m guessing that’s intentional as they seemingly want to use the underlying system for a variety of themes. But between mashing up two random Great Old Ones or looking at the effects on some of the cards, nothing really tied to the theme to the mechanics. So, if you are looking for a deep, thematic, experience, this ain’t it.
But if you care more about the gameplay than the coat of paint, there is something great here for fans of the dueling game genre. We were sent a large variety of decks to test out and many of them felt pretty unique. While the above-mentioned theme is definitely skin deep, Board and Dice did try to make the decks at least a little thematic. For example, the Yig deck has its own Snake mechanic, and Father Dagon comes paired up with Mother Hydra in the same deck.
Power Core: Call of Cthulhu has a pretty inspired design that not only gets players right into the action but has the groundwork for a lot of possibilities in the future. I’m always on the lookout for new dueling games that try and break out of the mold Magic: The Gathering laid out. And Power Core absolutely marches off into fresh territory.
If you are a fan of Lovecraftian Horror and the dueling game genre, this one is definitely worth checking out. Power Core: Call of Cthulhu launches today on Kickstarter, so be sure to check out their campaign page if you’d like to become a backer, or for more information on the game.
The Kickstarter is cancelled…