Cthulhu Dice is another Steve Jackson Games original. Designed for 2 to 6 players, each player takes on the roll of a cultist in service to Cthulhu trying to drive the other cultists mad. The last sane cultist wins!
The game comes with a large 12 sided die, 18 glass stones, a ziplock bag and instructions. Yes, even a game about going insane has instructions, not a lot of instructions, but still enough to be very confusing if you don’t pay attention. (Wife: Great!)
In normal play, each player is given three sanity tokens. The owner of the game decides who goes first, with subsequent games starting with the winner of the previous. On your turn, you pick a target player and roll the die to attack their sanity. A Yellow Sign means they lose 1 sanity. A Tentacle means the Caster takes 1 sanity from the Victim – unless the Caster is insane, then the sanity goes to Cthulhu in the middle of the table. Elder Sign gains you 1 sanity from Cthulhu (unless he doesn’t have any). Cthulhu showing his face means everyone loses 1 sanity to the center of the table. And rolling the Eye means you get to pick which result happens. Once that is done, the Victim gets to respond to his attacker with a roll of the die. No one can pass when it’s their turn to play, they must roll the die. Once you are out of sanity stones, you are insane. You can still attack other players on your turn, but no one can attack you on their turns, and any sanity you steal (Tentacle) goes to Cthulhu. The only way to regain sanity is for you to roll Elder Sign. The game ends when there is only one sane player left at the end of a completed turn. If no one is sane Cthulhu wins! (Wife: This is confusing.) No. It’s insane! Mwa-ha-ha! (Wife: I can’t believe I married you.)
We decided to play with the two player variant Rival Cults. Each of us gets 3 cultists, but we still alternate turns back and forth between us. The twist here is that since you are playing 3 cultists, sometimes you may want to attack your own side. (Wife: What?) I know! (Wife: Why are you excited?) Because it’s Cthulhu! (Wife: I am placing my face in my palm and sighing heavily.)
We decided (Wife: I decided.) to only play one round instead of a best of three this time. (Wife: I don’t know if I could handle playing this more than once.) Then Cthulhu has already won. (Wife: Don’t make me facepalm again.)
Unlike with Zombie Dice, I’m not going to put in a play-by-play. (Wife: Good.) It really didn’t make much sense anyway, which is kind of the point. (Wife: Seriously?) But I do want to throw in a few things as they happen.
It is important to know that during a turn, for both the attack and the response, the initial attacker is the Caster and the other person is the Victim for both rolls. This is important because Tentacle specifies that the Caster takes 1 sanity from the Victim, so if the responder/Victim rolls Tentacle the attacker/Caster is the one who steals the sanity. (Wife: I guess that makes sense… Maybe.) That happened a few times during play, so it’s not uncommon at all.
I rolled a Cthulhu during the game. (Wife: Is that good?) Everyone lost a sanity stone, and I had my first insane cultist… which I used to attack on subsequent rounds. (Wife: What? Shouldn’t being insane mean he’s out?) Nope. Insane people continue to fight. (Wife: Just like real life!) Exactly! Though, post game I admit it was a mistake. (Wife: Just like playing this game.) I didn’t get to keep any sanity that I stole. If we played again, I’d do it differently. (Wife: But we aren’t playing again.) Well, if I play with someone else then.
She plays very well and all my cultists go insane. (Wife: I win!) Not yet. (Wife: Huh?) We play until there is only one sane cultist. (Wife: But only I have sane people.) Right. (Wife: And I can’t attack insane people.) Correct. (Wife: So, who do I attack?) Your own people. (Wife: Insanity!) Exactly! (Wife: What?) Just roll.
Essentially at this point, I’m attacking her people because I have to and praying to get an Elder Sign to regain a sanity from Cthulhu. (Wife: And I’m attacking myself, watching all my sanity slowly trickle to the middle of the table. Goodbye sanity!) It takes a few rounds, but eventually, she defeats herself. (Wife: I… win?) Yes. (Wife: I win!) Again. (Wife: Always!)
Despite the confusion, I like the game. It plays quickly once you know the rules, and would be much clearer if we had more people and weren’t playing the variant rules. (Wife: Really?) Probably. (Wife: Well, maybe we could play again, with more people.) Really? (Wife: I said maybe. Don’t push it.) Dragon*Con? (Wife: Perhaps.)
As with any dice game, there is math. (Wife: I don’t care what Danica McKellar says, math sucks.) Math is your Cthulhu. (Wife: What? … I don’t … oh. I think I finally understand.) You don’t. (Wife: Are you sure?) No. (Wife: Stop it.) Stop what? (Wife: Stop this insanity!) I can’t! You took all mine. Anyway, back to the math…
The die has 12 sides, 5 of which are Yellow Sign, so on any given roll you’ve got a 42% chance of rolling it. And there are 4 Tentacles, so 33% chance of that. That makes of 75% of the possibilities, so the bulk of any game is going to be a player losing a sanity to Cthulhu or a player stealing a sanity from another player. The remaining sides – Cthulhu, Elder Sign, Eye – each have only an 8 and 1/3 percent chance of showing up, so don’t count on them. In our play, only 1 Cthulhu was rolled, and no Elder Signs or Eyes. It’s only post game that I truly understand the flaw of my attacking with an insane cultist. I shouldn’t have done that. (Wife: It probably wouldn’t have mattered.) Probably not.
Man, 0. Wife, 3.
(Wife: I win! Forever and ever!)