Published by Raven Tales, Wardens is a new Cthulhu game by Kate Tessler and Sam Turner. It is set in an atmospheric steampunk Lovecraftian universe and it brings some entertainingly novel takes to the otherwise well-trodden Cthulhu theme.
In the 1 vs the rest version of the game, one player controls Cthulhu and up to three players take on the role of the eponymous wardens, each with their own individual characteristics and abilities. These are sufficiently different that the wardens, though co-operating, will be following different paths: for example, one of the wardens will be searching out the blueprints for upgrades that will buff up the wardens’ capabilities.
At the start of the game, the Cthulhu player selects five territories at which to secretly locate the five artifacts that the wardens will need to locate and retrieve in order to summon the old gods so that Chthulhu can be banished.
There is combat in the game involving tanks, ships, zeppelins and Cthulhu’s minions but Cthulhu’s main objective is to sow insanity. If he succeeds in driving a warden insane, that warden has to switch sides. This makes for some fascinating dynamics – it will often become the players’ key priority to protect the sanity of a team mate who is hovering on the brink of madness.
When combat occurs, it uses a surprisingly exciting rock/paper/scissors combat system. Although rock/paper/scissors combat is not novel in itself, it works very well here because Cthulhu and each of the wardens have bonus abilities that only apply to one of the symbols. Does that make them more likely to choose that symbol or will they avoid that symbol because their opponent will expect them to play it and so know what to play in order to beat it? This introduces much bluff and counter-bluff into Wardens. If you aren’t peppering this game with banter and table talk, you ain’t paying it right. :-)
Clthulhu utilises a similar 'mindreading' mechanic when choosing special actions. If the players correctly guess the action he chooses, they will reap a benefit, advancing the chance of a successful end-game outcome. If they fail, Cthulhu will gain a powerful advantage which may include adding a madness marker to one of the wardens.
If you thought there was nothing new in the Cthulhu universe then Wardens will make you think again. It’s a fast-playing game which is easy to learn and where the depth comes from the subtleties of play rather than a complicated rules overhead. Shown here on Board’s Eye View is a preview prototype. You can expect changes between this and the version that will deliver to Kickstarter backers; not least, more and bigger minis! The game will also offer the option of solitaire and fully co-operative play.
You’d be insane not to check out the Kickstarter for this one. You can back Wardens now by clicking here.