2006 Lang Codex Archive

12/29/2006The Vermis Mariius - Kingsport Dreams Preview IIby Marius Hartland

Oh, the burdens of having glimpsed the secrets beyond the veil. 'So, when is a new Codex coming.' I asked. 'Why don't you write one?' was the answer. 'You could even use it as a pulpit to lord your Mod status over everyone...' ' whichever that means. I'm not the one to have to quickly grab a dictionary to find out what someone is saying. Well, I like pulpitting I suppose. Now to come up with a quirky pun on the Lang/Long Codex convention. 'Vermis Mariius' maybe? I'm quite sure I'm properly dewormed though.

But I digress, let's go on with the show:

Kingsport. A city praised by Nyarlathotep himself for its antediluvian architecture and its marvellous seacoast. It holds unspeakable horrors that one is best oblivious to, for the sake of peace of mind. Unfortunately, secrets are to man what a flame is to a moth. Interesting choice of words, one might say, because I will tell you the story of an unholy flame. Not that I should, but I know you will learn its horrible power soon, so it is better to be prepared. And maybe, by sharing some of the horrible knowledge that was bestowed on me, my sanity can still be saved.

''It was the Yuletide, that men call Christmas though they know in their hearts it is older than Bethlehem and Babylon, older than Memphis and mankind. It was the Yuletide, and I had come at last to the ancient sea town where my people had dwelt and kept festival in the elder time when festival was forbidden; where also they had commanded their sons to keep festival once every century, that the memory of primal secrets might not be forgotten''
- H.P. Lovecraft ' the Festival

In Kingsport, a portal will once again be opened that leads straight to the terrible core of the universe itself. A gateway to the court of the Blind Idiot God Azathoth, the Nuclear Chaos. And in this court a group of Outer Gods dance rhythmically around, in cadence to the piping of a demonic flute. Through this new gate a flame seeps, unearthly sick pale green in hue, casting no shadows and giving no comfortable warmth. Tulzscha, The Green Flame makes her presence known to those who choose to see it, bringing horror and atrophy to our small, insignificant earth.

''and suddenly there spread out before me the boundless vista of an inner world - a vast fungous shore litten by a belching column of sick greenish flame and washed by a wide oily river that flowed from abysses frightful and unsuspected to join the blackest gulfs of immemorial ocean''
- H.P. Lovecraft ' the Festival

Tulzscha has the power to turn even the most mild-mannered cultist into a ravenous killing machine. Even one of those cost reducers become a 2 skilled, terror-iconed merchant of death. Cultists everywhere combust in that sickly green flame, taking everyone with them into their untimely grave.

I suggest you get packing. Once Tulzscha enters the board, hope may very well be lost. Rid yourself of any opposing cultist quickly or see your side of the table diminish in a horrible pace. Lock her in a Forgotten Isle or make her Heroic. Cancel the means to get her into play. Trick 'Teamwork' into play. 'The Opening of Every Gate' help you out for some damage control. Steal her if you must. Once she is there, soon noone will be standing save the Ancient Ones.

If you so choose to side with Tulzscha, remember the old axiom; 'That which is dead'' ' You know the rest. Suddenly having an abundance of removal is good, but why not use cards like 'Lemurian Survivor'? Its built-in recursion is quite handy, and to have their skill elevated beyond 0 is a pleasant bonus. Cthulhu forbid; Maybe you even get a Brotherhood deck running, fueling the Green Flame with an endless supply of crazy combustible cultists.

You will never look at cultists the same way again. Every time one hits the board, your Mythos Sense will be tingling with fear. Because each and every one of them has the potential to wipe you out. Beware the followers of The Green Flame.

Kingsport Dreams is coming, and will certainly make a splash. Every side will get a chance to shine and gains new abilities to use and abuse. Old themes and subtypes will get new attention. And what is the significance of Cannons' new avatar? I, for one, am curious to the speculation on the forum.

Discuss this Codex on the boards here.

12/01/2006The "Long" Codex - Kingsport Dreams Previewby Chris Long

Kingsport. With its marvelous seacoast and antediluvian architecture, it has been a favored town of Massachusetts which lovecraft returns to in many of his writings. Up until now we've seen only small snippets of this town. However, with the release of this latest Asylum deck, you will be immersed in the stories of this quaint seaport.

Since this is a spoiler article, here are a few of the cards which we thought might interest you:

Basil Elton, the old lighthouse operator, is just an example of some of the fun and powerful effects that the characters of Kingsport Dreams have in their arsenal. He brings Arcane to a faction which has little, and comes with an ability which I'm sure many decks will love. In fact, build the right deck and the combos you can create with him should be a LOT of fun.

The other card for this week, The Rope and Anchor Tavern, illustrates another of this Asylum deck's themes: subtype help. Several of the major subtypes in the game get some very fun boosts out of this set. The Tavern, however, helps out all subtypes with some often needed acceleration. With this addition, a number of unexplored subtypes will get a second look and maybe a little more love.

This deck really has a diverse pool of characters and locations from nearly all the stories which involve Kingsport. I think everyone will be happily pleased to see their favorites.

Lastly, for the speculators out there, here are a few statistics'

  • Kingsport Dreams has 10 characters, but not each faction gets a character
  • Kingsport Dreams has 7 support cards, but not each faction gets one of those either
  • That leaves 3 events left to round out the 20 cards

I hope you enjoy that little tidbit of information. The speculation lists have been interesting, although not very successful at picking factions. ;-)

That's all for this codex. I hope you're looking forward to these cards as much as I am!

Discuss this Codex on the boards here.

Ed. Note: LUke appreciates your forebearance through this dearth of updates. Expect a post explaining some redemption issues. And for a shoddy, last-minute-Friday-night update.

9/26/2006The "Long" Codex - GenCon 2006 Reportby Chris Long

Hi everyone. Eric Lang here ' not to steal the limelight, but simply to provide an introduction for Chris Long, 2006 COC CCG World Champion. After he won the title at Gen Con, I asked Chris to write an article for the Codex. Before I recede into the dark shadows, allow me to thank Chris for being an outstanding ambassador for the game, and for the entire community that made it out to the show for some good times. It's the strength of our community that keeps the game in print, despite its non-collectible status, so you guys deserve a big round of applause.

By the way, as the 2006 Worlds winner, Chris got to design a card, which is going to appear in the next Asylum deck. Keep an eye out for it, because it's a doozy!

So without further ado...

(Really, this time)

Let me just start off by thanking my wife and my good friend Michael Aubuchon for making this trip happen for me this year. My wife and I just bought a house two weeks ago, and life has just been crazy. Despite having tons of things to do, and not enough money to do them with, she understood that I had been looking forward to this all year and helped me make it happen.

Michael was also largely responsible for me going to GenCon, with his flexibility in scheduling and willingness to go along and split the cost of the trip with me. If he hadn't come along, I wouldn't have been able to afford the trip.

So anyway, I picked up Michael Thursday morning at 6am and we were on our way, and looking forward to a brief 8-hour jaunt over to Indianapolis in the car. On a side-note, I looked up the directions in both Yahoo and Google and got totally different times. Yahoo told me 7.5 hours, and Google told me 9.5 hours. ?!?!?

We spent most of the drive talking strategy, trying to decide what deck to play, and listening to a lot of music that Luke would like. Somewhere in Ohio we ran into a storm which easily makes my list of top 5 worst storms I've driven through. You couldn't see 50 feet in front of you. It was bad.

After what seemed like an hour of driving through that storm, we finally made it to the other side and after another hour or two we were in Indy and heading toward the convention center. We got our badges and then went into the Exhibitor Hall to check things out.

We met Patrick McEvoy who was selling these really cool original sketches along with the cards they eventually became. Apparently they went quickly because there weren't many left. He told us we had just missed Yig, which was disappointing, so I ended up buying a signed copy of Strange Aeons.

We stopped by the FFG booth and were delighted to see the Asylum decks there and available to buy. We bought a couple of them each and then checked out the cool new Cthulhu art book. After salivating over all the art, we left the hall and went over to the hall where the tournaments would be taking place. We met up with Jim Black and John Hartigan who were running the tournaments this weekend, saw Eric Lang again and met Luke and Nate which was cool.

We hadn't checked into our hotel yet, so after a little more socializing, we packed up and left and went back to the hotel. We got our room, unpacked the car, and then began preparing for tomorrow's tournament. Like always, I was still debating about which deck to play and having an anxiety attack about whether or not I would choose correctly.

Even though I wanted to play mono-Shub for sentimental reasons, I decided that my Cthulhu/Hastur deck was a stronger deck type. But it needed some work, so I took out the Ocean Crawlers (because I never played them) and picked out several different 3-cost Cthulhu characters which I might be able to play on my second turn if I didn't get the proper cost reduction in time.

It was late, so we went to sleep and I got up early to a really nice breakfast of waffles. We packed up our backpacks and got ready to go, but that didn't stop me from forgetting my GenCon pass. Luckily, I had to go back to get some cards and realized it pretty quickly. Of course this meant that instead of getting to the tournament early, we barely made it on time.

We got into the hall with a few minutes to spare and met up with a number of additional players I haven't seen in a while. I recognized Mitch and Diane from last year, and I was also delighted to see Kip there again. I picked out the Bestial Shoggoth as my replacement Cthulhu character, filled out my tournament card and got ready for my first pairing of the day.

Round 1: Dan ????

Dan was a real nice guy who I enjoyed talking to during our match. Turns out that he doesn't get to play the game too much. He did the demo last year and liked the game, so he decided he'd play this year, which I thought was totally cool.

When he started off the match with three different resources, I was interested to see what type of deck he was playing. As the match progressed and he began playing out his hand, I realized he was playing an Avatar deck which tries to hard-cast Nyarlathotep with steadfast. He got all seven factions down as resources but unfortunately his deck just didn't come together fast enough and the match was over.

Round 2: Kenneth ????? (Finnish and Swedish National Champ)

I was definitely nervous going into this match. I knew Kenneth was a good player and I couldn't remember what his deck was so I just had to hope for the best. Things didn't look good for me early on either, when he shut down my second turn with the MU guy you sac to move a drain token (which he then brought right back with Fungal Colony, nice combo!).

His second turn then consisted of playing the Hungry Dark Young to bring the big N into play, at which point I thought I was done. Because of the Fungal Colony I had to wait until I could get rid of multiple characters, so I held my cards and waited.

Lucky for me, I hadn't done anything useful up to that point and I was holding onto most of my hand. On the next turn I drew a second Deep One Assault, and waited to see what he played. He brought out a Ghoul Khanum by sacrificing the MU token guy. I then played DOA on Nyarly, DOA on Fungal Colony, and Sac Offering/Forgotten Isle to kill off the Khanum. On my turn I played the Assistant to Dr. West to steal his Khanum and that was the definite turning point in the game. His deck couldn't recover fast enough and I squeaked out the win.

We then took a half hour break to eat some lunch, and I went off with Greg and Michael to find some food. On the way out the door Greg told me that he wanted to warn me about Kenneth's deck, which probably would have helped me more beforehand. ? We came back over to eat and then got started with the next round.

Round 3: John Hartigan

John was playing an amazingly cool Science of Destruction deck with a twist I hadn't seen before. He was using Secret Research from the Eldritch Premium Starter to take control of his opponent's characters after he destroyed them.

Unfortunately for John, my deck came together very quickly with a Ravager on the second turn, and several cancellation spells. I cancelled his only two Day destruction attempts and the game ended pretty quickly.

Round 4: Michael Aubuchon

While I was really happy for Michael that he had made it to the fourth round undefeated, I was not looking forward to playing him. I knew his Investigator rush deck would give me problems. Of course, I also knew that every match we had played like this ended with me winning, but I was paranoid that when it really counted I would lose.

It definitely looked to be going that way with some early success tokens for the Investigators. Fortunately, I fielded enough characters to put up a decent defense and was able to grab much needed success tokens.

At about this point, I made the only serious mistake I made in the whole tournament. I had just won Shadows of Nephren-Ka (the hand discarding one, the bane of my deck) and without really thinking about it, I decided not to activate it. I had only one card in hand, but I wanted to keep my cancellation event to protect my characters. However, he had three cards in hand and I should have realized that he was hording characters. On his turn, he dropped three characters and ran at all the stories and I just sat there upset with myself.

Eventually the war of attrition that my deck plays caught back up to him and I was able to keep him from taking the remaining story he needed, and grab the rest for myself. But it was definitely a close and well-fought game.

At this point, Greg Gan and I were both undefeated because the Byes into round 2 for the national/regional champs messed up our pairings. However, we decided to stop the swiss pairings at this point and move straight to top 8 single elimination. I had a stronger strength of schedule and was seeded 1st and paired up against Bo, while Greg was seeded 2nd and paired against Jim.

Round 5: Bo ?????

Bo was a pleasure to play against, despite him playing mono-Cthulhu. Technically, he had some Syndicate splashed in there, but I never got to see it in our match. I knew that mono-Cthulhu is a tough match up against my deck but I felt that with the cancellation I had an advantage as long as he didn't also rush me early.

To be honest, the mono-Cthulhu matches have started to blur together a little bit for me. I think that Bo was a little frustrated with his deck as it didn't quite come together fast enough. But like all the Cthulhu matches, it was a bit of a stand-off until I could get a character onto the board which turned the tide, like Pulp Writer or Yig. Eventually I finished out the match (long after everyone else) by taking the final story.

Round 6: Don ????? (I can never remember, I always want to say Whatley)

Don had beaten Michael in the last round quite quickly and I was not looking forward to another mono-Cthulhu match-up. This played out quite slowly, with a long Ravager vs. Ravager stand-off. And not surprisingly, there was a lot of destruction on both sides. Some of the most interesting were the large piles of GOOs and Gregs in the discard pile.

Don killed off a Yig before I could adequately protect him (probably shouldn't have played him in the first place, but I wanted the one character gone). On the very next turn, I dropped a second Yig from my hand, who had a longer stretch of success. I forget how that one left the table, but he took out a Dagon with the help of a Forgotten Isle before he was gone.

The Assistant to Dr. West kept pulling as many Ravagers back as was possible, and the Assistants kept dying off. At one point Don played Rubbed out to kill two of my Assistants and one of his own. Eventually my Pulp Writer made the difference in shutting down his Ravagers and I finished on top.

Round 7: Jim Black

Despite being 7th seeded, Jim beat Greg in the first round of elimination and then went on to beat Kenneth in the final four. Jim did something very similar at the PA regional, and I knew his deck was strong. I was definitely worried, and not all that interested in playing ANOTHER mono-Cthulhu match.

Like so many before it, this was a long and drawn out war of Ravagers and GOOs, which just made life slow and difficult. The thing that helped me out the most was probably that his UT Cthulhu never showed its face. I could not find my Forgotten Isle and I was desperately hoping the big C didn't hit the table. Dagon made several appearances, as well as Yig, most of which were short lived.

At one point, Jim played Sky Torn Asunder to clear the board, so it was once again Assistants pulling out Ravagers to stall and wait out the game. Eventually my Pulp Writers and cancellation yet again proved their worth and I won.

And with that game, I had won the tournament. I was definitely shocked and happy, but mostly shocked. I went over and collected my prizes, immediately turned in the giant sanity for more packs, and then sat around for a little while just talking with everyone and generally calming down after the 7-hour adrenaline rush.

Michael and I ran out to the car, dropped off our stuff and then went to grab a quick bite to eat before it was time to play the Asylum pack draft. The draft was a lot of fun, if a bit overpowered, and we even got Eric to join us. I ended up drafting Agency, MU, and just barely enough Shub to play it in my deck.

My first match was against Michael, the second I think was Jim, and then the final match was against Greg (who had just beaten Eric in the previous round). I ended up beating out Greg for the win in this tournament, so I had a great day going 10-0. I was a little disappointed about not getting to play Eric after he talked up his amazing draft skills, but he had other places he needed to be and we understood.

The rest of the weekend was an absolute blast as well. Michael and I stayed up far too late opening packs, playing and building decks, and watching some really messed up programs about serial killers and this psychologist guy that ranks how evil people are on a scale from 1 to 22.

The highlander event was a ton of fun, and I went back to my roots, playing my favorite deck, mono-Shub, in all of its glory. In the highlander tournament, I got to meet Wes Jones, another Cthulhu player who couldn't make it to Worlds the day before. And then on Sunday we met another two Cthulhu players, Rob and Jeff (darkbater). For me, that's one of the best parts of the whole weekend, I love getting to meet people in person who I know from the boards or through trading.

Rob and Jeff had some really fun decks for the multiplayer, playing a Cthulhu/Hastur PTC deck, and a Shub/Yog GOO deck respectively. Both John Hartigan and I were playing mono-Syndicate, and Jim Black was playing mono-Shub. But Michael ended up taking the day with a deck idea he talked out with me the night before. His basic goal of the game was to play Azathoth and then use Change of Seasons to switch him out for a character he just killed. He did this twice, which was hilarious both times, and it ended up giving him enough of an edge to win the game.

After that we hopped back into the car and headed back home the way we came, although this time met without the rainstorms. About 10 miles from our exit home, we came to a dead stop on route 80. Instead of getting home by 9pm, we sat there for about an hour until we made it five miles down the road and took a different exit. I finally got home at around 11pm and I was pretty much a zombie the next day at work.

All in all, I had an absolute blast. I want to thank Eric and FFG for making such a great game, and the whole community for being such cool people. I think it would be an understatement to say that I'm glad I went.

- Chris 'cannon' Long

Ed. Note - Ed. would like to thank John and Jim for all the hard work at making CoC a success at GenCon '06. And meekly apologize for taking to this long to prod Eric into bringing this message forth. Hail Cthulhu!

Discuss this Codex on the boards here.

7/26/2006Tales from the Asylumby Eric Lang

Hello, everyone! It's been awhile since the last Lang Codex, and for this I must apologize, but I will not offer any excuses. As most of you know by now, the distribution of the game has undergone a pretty drastic change, and during this period of transition we are still working on 'finding our feet,' so to speak.

There are two preview cards for the new Asylum deck at the bottom of this column. However, I'd prefer if you took the time to read through...

Well well, couldn't wait, could you? I guess I can't blame you; I too would be pretty stoked to see new goodies for the game. For the one or two of you who didn't look at the cards yet, good for you! Now, on with the exposition.

Today's column is about the upcoming cards, but first there is something I'd like to discuss in earnest.

New Format, New Future
It's not exactly a well-kept secret that Call of Cthulhu is my design darling. I enjoy every game I work on (otherwise I would not be working on them), and still love A Game of Thrones CCG more with every set (for those of you who have not yet tried the game, I must recommend giving taking a look in August ' the new base set is so much fun it's almost unbelievable).

But with this game there's always something special in the air when I sit down to start design on a set. It may have something to do with my preferred play style, but COC presses all my buttons: I love the atmosphere, the game play, and if you think we've even scratched the surface of what this game can do, you'd be wrong. Deeply, deeply wrong.

When I heard the news about our shifting formats, I was simultaneously saddened and relieved. While critical mass for the CCG format was not attained, it is abundantly clear that COC has a lot of devoted fans all over the world. I'm one of the biggest ones, and the fact that FFG found a way to continue supporting the game in a non-collectible format makes me so happy there aren't the words to describe it.

What Asylum decks will accomplish for the game is to support this wonderful infrastructure we've already put into place, while adding new twists rapidly and periodically. Due to the small size of the set, we will be able to react to and enhance the metagame faster than ever before, playtesting will be both easier and more thorough, and the overall impact will be greater over a smaller selection of cards. Don't give up on this game, my friends! The future looks pretty bright from where I'm sitting.

Asylum Decks: A Vision for the Insane
First, the nuts and bolts: the first Asylum deck, titled 'Spawn of Madness', contains 20 different cards, with each pack having three copies of 10 cards, and a single copy of another 10 cards. The deck will not be playable on its own, for reasons I will talk about below, but is instead designed to give the metagame a little shot in the arm to tide us over until the new wave of cards hit.

And now, the requisite backstory'

After Casey left FFG and was replaced by Nate, we encountered an interesting situation. For a time, I was once again the most experienced designer and developer for one of our games. While I specialize in design, I also do development work, and welcomed the opportunity to both design and develop the first Asylum deck. Meaning, for this first batch of cards, you have only me to blame!

Because I tend to work many months ahead of schedule, I had an almost complete rough design document for Dreamlands Edition before COC underwent its format change. It seemed at first that the obvious choice was to select some cards from this new base set and make them the first deck. However, it quickly became obvious that the coherence of my original draft for the year's block would simply dissolve when 'cut down' to twenty different cards. That, and we did not have the time to properly test the radical new mechanics, and there was no way I'd want them printed without intense scrutiny.

After thinking about it for a time, it occurred to me that what COC needed right now was a 'booster shot' of cards. Basically, a seemingly random assortment of cards designed to appeal to as many players as possible, and revisit some of the Arkham and Eldritch block themes that could use some juice. Additionally, I wanted to create a set of highly flavorful cards that stand alone to advertise the new direction of the game.

Don't expect card cycles or a unifying theme here. Think of this as a 'fixed booster pack containing all rares.' That's how I approached the design. All rares. Sound appealing?

What to Expect Next
Expect to see a lot of experimentation with future Asylum decks. They are a new format, and I want to explore many of the different things we can do with them. Already I have ideas for more decks than we could ever conceivably publish, some of which are wacky enough that I think they could only be accomplished in this new format.

For fans of the Dreamlands, fret not! I am working on a conceptual Asylum deck that uses some of the ideas from my old base set document, but with a smaller, tighter scope so as not to be overwhelmingly random. New decks will also contain new story cards with brand spanking new effects (some which ' assuming they survive playtest ' are completely insane), as well as new mechanics that some of you won't believe could possibly see print.

Also in consideration are 'theme decks' based on various works by both Lovecraft and Chaosium. Depending on how the future looks, there is also the possibility of reprinting some old staple cards in order to build playable Asylum decks (as opposed to the 'booster pack of rares') and to give second life to some old out of print sets.

And Now - the Preview!
Okay, here's the moment you've been waiting for. Drumroll, please'

And there you have it. A small taste of what's coming up.

For those of you attending GenCon this year, please feel free to stop by the FFG CCG ballroom and pay us a visit. I will be there, and am always interested to hear what you want for the future of this game.

Until then, remember that while some play rock and others swear by paper, nothing beats tentacle.

5/23/2006An Important Announcement

To all the fans and players of the Call of Cthulhu Collectible Card Game, we would like to say thank you. We are very proud of the game as it has developed, and we know you enjoy playing it. While you are an obviously rabid coterie of fans, the Call of Cthulhu CCG has not developed the critical mass necessary to sustain our current level of support for the game. For your undying submission to the powers of the Mythos over the past two years, we wish to express our gratitude even as we start this new era in Call of Cthulhu. There are several initiatives being implemented to smooth the way for the return of the Great Old Ones.

FFG will continue to support, with our foreign partners, sanctioned local play through Sanity Point certificates and our redemption programs. There will also be new promotional cards and special tournaments in the upcoming months. Servitor kits containing t-shirts, demo decks and play-mats will remain available, so the players can continue to grow their local groups.

FFG will continue to sponsor Championships, both Nationals and Worlds, with prize support and trophies as in the past. We will also be offering an expanded slate of events at GenCon Indy as attendance allows, including constructed and limited tournaments.

Most importantly, while FFG is no longer able to support the game at the collectible level, we are taking the unprecedented step of continuing to print new cards for the game in a fixed format. Much like a premium starter with all new content, these "Asylum Decks" will be released regularly, offering our players an opportunity to expand their collections. Our designer and developer will also have a convenient means to influence and improve the play environment. This will maintain a vibrant metagame that people can enjoy playing and participating in.

If there are any questions please contact our Community Support Associate, Lucas Reed via e-mail at lreed@fantasyflightgames.com

4/10/2006Struggles of the New Playerby Nate French

It seems a little strange, considering my last name, to be writing an article for a column called 'The Lang Codex,' but I suppose those kind of things happen in the Cthulhu universe. Possession, telepathy, psychotic hallucination' explain it as you will, but for the next few minutes at least I speak with the voice of Lang. With a little luck'I'll have to make a succesful sanity check'the thoughts will be, for the most part at least, my own.

Coming in to Call of Cthulhu, I pretty much had one point of reference in the CCG universe, and that's Eric's other creation, A Game of Thrones. Obviously, some of the first things I noticed as I learned the game are its similarities to AGoT, and some of the first lessons I learned over the table were about its differences.

In AGoT, you need to claim 15 power in order to win the game. In Call of Cthulhu, you need 3 Story cards, but needing 5 success tokens per story takes us back to the same number of 15. But it's not just a matter of amassing 15 tokens on your side of the story cards in any way you see fit. A really cool part of the game, I've found, is trying to waste an opponent's efforts and steal Story cards in which they've been putting forth a lot of work. In essence, this raises the victory number up above 15, as some of the progress towards that number is lost if you grab the story on which that progress is made. Of course, I'm not at all experienced enough with the game to really make this concept work on a reliable basis, but it does work from time to time and, as I become more familiar with the game, should become a key aspect of my play style.

Another apparent similarity that doesn't get very far beyond the superficial is the AGoT plot deck versus the CoC story deck. One difficulty that haunts my play is that I look upon the effects of the Story cards with an AGoT plot deck bias, in that they're going to be inevitable occurrences throughout the course of the game. I tend to fight for Story cards that I want to trigger, and the whole idea of fighting for effects that I'd rather not see occur is just now entering my arsenal as a player. I also assume, far too often, that my opponent is fighting for stories because he wants to trigger them, and am caught off guard when he wins one and doesn't set it off. I think that mastering this aspect of the game will go a long way towards making me a better player, but getting a complete feel for it is still a few sessions away. The learning process is fun, though!

The icons are another point of pseudo-similarity between the two games. In AGoT, each icon represents one of three possible challenge types, and you do those challenges one at a time. In CoC, each Story represents one of three possible struggles, and the 4 icons represent 4 steps towards the resolution of each of those struggles. A large part of these games is picking the right time and place for your battles, and with 4 steps being resolved in 3 separate places'as well as the need to consider your opponent's defensive options and possible counterattacks'there's an awful lot to calculate in the CoC story phase!

One part of this game in which I find myself completely out of my element, without even the shadow of an AGoT-related point of reference, is right at the start, trying to evaluate an opening hand. In AGoT, it's pretty simple: you can drop 5 gold worth of characters and locations, and as a general rule the more cards you drop, the better, as it gets you deeper into your deck. A good numerical set up with a couple resource producing cards and you're good to go! In CoC, I don't even know where to begin with an evaluation. Do I want a few cards that I'm not planning on playing, in order to turn them into resources? Why would these cards be in my deck in the first place? Do I want cheap cards, that I can get out quickly? Do I want duplicates of a certain card, so I can use one copy as a resource but still be able to play it if it become necessary in the game? This is definitely one of the most challenging aspects of CoC, and more often than not I find myself guessing at this point in the game, and after about two rounds regretting the cards that I foolishly turned into resources.

You guys play a challenging game, and I doubt I'll ever understand it as well as I understand AGoT. Still, it's been a lot of fun thus far, and trying to pick up on the game's subtleties and nuances, while frustrating at the table, is rewarding whenever a concept clicks. Any advice you have towards remedying some of my 'problem' areas will be greatly appreciated, and maybe with your help I can start winning some of the games in which my only current consolation is that I can recognize my mistakes and convince myself I could've won if I had played my cards right.

I might do a little better, too, if I could find a way to get Mr. Lang out of my head'

2/22/2006 - 02/27/2006Forgotten Cities Spoilers 1-4

This was immediately after Nate was hired, and before he really knew the game very well, so all we got in these spoiler articles were the cards themselves. As such, I decided not to reproduce those articles here in the interest of time/space/bandwidth. We know the all the cards now and there was no analysis of cards or theme.

If you're interested, the cards were Antarctic Ruins, Randolph Carter, Kickback, Pulled Under, Words of Inspriation, February's March, Propogation, and Azathoth.

2/21/2006The Ancient Ones Arise!by Eric Lang

Hello everyone, and welcome to a special Lang Codex. And by "special" I don't mean 'my first column in months,' I mean it's time to talk about the game's next expansion: Forgotten Cities. There's a lot to talk about, so bear with me.

First of all, I'd like to apologize for the last several months of absence. I've been around and reading the message boards regularly, but since Casey started in his position the writing of our column had fallen to him. It has always been my intent to post every once in awhile and talk about big picture design issues, but unfortunately those columns take time (both in prep and writing) that I just did not have for the longest time. Design has been keeping me plenty occupied.

Anyhow, enough lame excuses. Let's look to the future. With the hiring of Nate French as new developer, expect things to work a lot more smoothly in the future. We're on track to get you that Yithian special event (although we want to wait a little while to give Forgotten Cities a chance to properly breathe), and there's a lot more on the horizon.

And enough about the future, let's talk about the present. There's an expansion on the way that has been long overdue to be spoiled. I'm not going to spoil a ton of original cards with this column, but rather talk about the big picture behind the design of this set. We'll talk about many of the themes and principles introduced, and share a story or two.

After this, Nate will spoil one card a day for at least a week starting tomorrow.

Eldritch Concluded
As you all know, we release our expansions in groups of three, called 'blocks.' A block begins with a base set (such as Arkham and Eldritch) that covers most of the narrative and mechanical themes for that year. Two expansions follow, usually expanding on those themes, and sometimes adding new complimentary themes to keep our release patterns from getting stale or predictable.

Eldritch block was known through some of design and development as 'the Egypt block,' and anyone who has looked at a big portion of the art can probably understand why. The other name I had for the block was the 'ancient' block; "eldritch" is an archaic synonym for "ancient." Thematically, this is where the exploration of ancient rituals, curses, tombs and Nyarlathotep came from. They all weave together to create the atmosphere I wanted from the set.

And what better way to conclude the ancients block than to put four new Ancient Ones in the final set? You heard me right, four new Ancient Ones! I'm not going to spoil them today, but you should look for them in your booster packs. Some of them may give you a heart attack.

And that was one of my primary motivations behind the creation of this set. Too often in the past the design/development process for a new expansion has been 'leading to the heart attack,' meaning that I would be fairly conservative on the design, self editing often in the name of balance ... which usually ended in development having to tweak several cards to make them exciting enough.

This time, however, I threw off the shackles, put my trust entirely in Casey, and designed a set with no limitations (beyond the reasonable limitations of cogent design). I turned off the lights in my room at home (I do all my design away from the office), put on appropriately crazy music, and just went mad for weeks. After leaving the set alone for a month, I then went back to it, but instead of self-editing, I turned it up another notch! My third and final pass at the set was only to rein in the excessive amount of random abilities that didn't compliment the block, replacing them with more sensible cards that tied the theme of the set together.

I handed in the design to Casey with the ominous 'okay, try not to die when you look at this.' Luckily, Casey did not die, but he sure earned his development paycheck on this one! I am pleased to say that he did not have to change a single card in the set to make it 'more powerful.' He even had to change a lot of stuff before we started playtesting, simply in the name of keeping his sanity. Now that, my friends, is true Cthulhu design!

The Theme's the Thing
Okay enough exuberant gushing (can you tell I'm excited about this set?), let's get down to specifics. This set boasts two types of accomplishments: block enhancement and environment enhancement. Yeah, that's more pretentious designer jargon for 'cards that flesh out what we've been doing since Eldritch' and 'cards that create new decktypes in this context that I thought players would like.'

First I'm going to talk about the environment enhancement cards. One of the earliest mechanical concepts I had for this set was 'tournament level theme decks.' So you're going to see some pretty cool subtype-oriented cards in this set. Some of them are pretty ridiculous, but specialized. Others are just fun. Regardless, theme decks are just fun to play; c'mon, who wouldn't want to take a crack at a pure Mi-Go deck? Go ahead, tell me you don't want to!

One of my favorite card cycles in Forgotten Cities is the 'Mutables' ' support cards that enhance characters of a certain subtype, then turn into a character with the newly enhanced subtype whenever you want. These went through a number of iterations during design, development and even playtesting, before I scrapped them and went back to the original versions in my design file. Casey was pleased, as am I.

Block Enhancement: Steroids for Eldritch
As expected, this set continues to expand on what you've already seen since Eldritch. Hopefully, I managed to do so in ways you may not have expected. There are more rituals, more curses, even a bit more Nyarlathotep love. The new curses are a cycle that just makes me pretty giddy from a deckbuilding standpoint.

There is a new twist on the 'icon superiority' subtheme that stands a good chance of making several players reevaluate the strength of having characters with many of one icon. Some of these cards are far more powerful then they may appear at first glance. Watch out for them.

Buddy factions get a new twist, as well. As a somewhat logical conclusion to the mechanic, this set introduces new 'multifaction' characters ... after a fashion. Each faction gets at least one character with a steadfast icon from its buddy faction. Meaning that you need to have resources from more than one faction on your domains to play them, and they have pretty good synergy with the Eldritch buddy cards.

And of course, the Ancient Ones expand on the very subtle theme of 'old gods manipulate the board in their favor' that got started with Nyarlathotep. In this vein, the bad guys also get new High Priests that manipulate another part of the board in a thematic way. The original High Priest cycle was so mindblowingly broken (but not in an immediately demonstrable way), as Casey pointed out, that every single incarnation I handed in had to be nerfed into uselessness. Fortunately, the printed versions of these guys represent a fixed and way fun version of what I wanted in the first place.

Lost Cities
The expansion was called Forgotten Cities for a reason. Since I was adding some lost civilizations to the game, I wanted to give R'lyeh some company by uncovering other unspeakable cities. There are two cycles of these, and they each alter the game in a different but complimentary way. My original versions were far too crazy, so Casey toned them down a bit, but many will turn some heads for sure.

There is not too much to say about these Lost Cities that won't spoil them completely, so I shall say no more. Let's just hint that some of them will alter the conflict environment at stories in weird but understandable (from a gameplay standpoint) way. And there are even some cards in the set that are enhanced by having them around.

The design process behind these cards is similar to the Artifacts in Forbidden Relics (the only expansion set for this game that I designed, developed, art directed, and produced entirely alone ' god, what an experience!). This is not to say that Lost Cities work like Artifacts (not even close!), but aspiring designers may notice a methodological similarity in their approach.

Tentacles of Many Flavors
Pat Harrigan, co-creative developer and the sole flavor guy behind Masks, provided excellent overarching flavor and a great narrative conclusion to this block. The story is very subtle and fragmented (how appropriate!), and enthusiasts will enjoy uncovering the twisted logic that ties a lot of these cards together.

I particularly enjoy how the man managed to get Deep Ones over to the other side of the world. You'll see.

Hopefully I've managed to get you even half as excited about this set as I am. There is so much goodness in here that even this extended column can only barely scratch the surface. Starting tomorrow, the card-by-card spoilage begins.

Until next time, keep your tentacles in a bunch.