News for January 2014
Immurement
A Preview of Denizens of the Underworld by Guest Writer Marius Hartland
Call of Cthulhu LCG | Published 17 January 2014

“I felt, in my visions, a cosmic and abysmal loneness; with hostility surging from all sides upon some prison where I lay confined. I seemed bound and gagged, and taunted by the echoing yells of distant multitudes who thirsted for my blood.”
   
–H.P. Lovecraft, The Shunned House

For years, Marius Hartland plumbed the depths of madness and pursued the world’s most horrifying secrets as a prolific guest writer for Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game. As a reward for his service, the game’s developers asked Marius if he’d like to participate in the design of a card. In today’s preview of the upcoming deluxe expansion, Denizens of the Underworld, Marius introduces Immurement (Denizens of the Underworld, 30), the card he helped to design.

Guest Writer Marius Hartland on the Development of Immurement

Hello, Cultists!

It’s been a while since I’ve made an appearance here, but I wanted to show you something. I’ve talked a little about the ideas behind cards before, but this time I got the opportunity to go more deeply into the thoughts and development behind a new card, as well as its complete journey from an idea to an actual piece of cardboard.

To do that, I was given a chance to begin at the beginning. I was given carte blanche to propose a card idea, to follow its development from inception, and to give you a personal transcript of that journey.

Carte Blanche

A blank, empty void is a frightening beginning. It can be daunting to distill an infinite sea of possibilities into a single idea of value, so I began narrowing down my search by establishing a couple of requirements:

  • First, I wanted the card to touch on as many basic concepts of the game as possible, as elegantly as possible. Three basic parts of Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game are globally intertwined: Its resource mechanics flow into the Operation Phase, where characters and support cards are played, and those impact the Story Phase, where the action takes place.
  • Second, I wanted the card to be as cool and exciting as possible. That meant, I needed to find something new for the card to do, as making something “cool” has the risk of overshadowing the “cool” of other cards. New effects help create new cool without cannibalizing other cards.

The first idea at which I arrived was a cool card. It worked by targeting both resources and cards in play, but it could have caused some unfortunate confusion within the rules under certain circumstances. While there is always an option to fix the problem, it was best in this case to scrap the card, take its basic elements, and start over. But it wasn’t all in vain. The basic building blocks were good; it was just the execution that didn’t work, and by this time, I had a better understanding of why the card failed.

Also, the initial concept was a neutral card, so by restarting the concept, I had the chance to alter it so that it fit within one of the game’s factions.

Syndication

It was easy for me to settle upon a faction for my card. I always liked the Syndicate. In fact, when I first started playing the game, I was attracted to the Syndicate’s aggressive nature and the ways it combined with exhaustion effects to gain tempo. I also liked that its members were anti-heroes who confronted the horrors in the darkness because they needed to control the shadows in order to continue operating their various criminal operations. After all, it’s hard to smuggle your moonshine when your smuggling routes are infested by Deep Ones and Byakhees!

The decision to make the card a part of the Syndicate helped me envision its play style, as well as its possible flavor. Centering the idea around the shady dealings of a criminal organization, and the goal of touching upon the resource system pointed me toward a card that allowed you to bribe your opponent. This was where my basic concept really sprang to life, and I worked to translate the mechanic into some actual wording:

“Choose a non-Ancient One character or support card an opponent controls. That card's owner attaches it to a domain of his choice as a resource.”

No Matter The Cost

Each card has an effect, but it also has a cost. In order for my card to have the most impact on a game, I wanted it to be as cheap as possible. I wanted it to be able to disrupt some early combos, and the earlier you give your opponent an extra resource, the more it benefits him. I thought about pricing it at one resource, but that may have been too optimistic for such a powerful and flexible effect, especially in a faction that isn’t meant to be so effective with removal.

However, pricing it higher than one resource meant that it hit fewer of its goals, so designer Damon Stone offered a solution: Instead of a fixed cost, the card would have a scaling cost. This added some text, but it also helps in signaling to your opponent when you’re about to play the card outside your Operations Phase. It also impacts how you build your domains, as it encourages you to play for a more equal distribution of resources.

Going into Real Estate

By this time, the mechanics were in place, and it was time to more fully explore the card’s flavor. Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game is all about horror, so was a bribe a great enough level of horror? Or was there another–more horrifying–way to represent a card becoming a resource? While it’s not entirely clear what resources actually represent in the game, they are the foundation of your strategy. So what if the card actually buried something in that foundation, forever adding it to that structure, leaving it to rot for eternity?

The idea really seemed to fit, and it amped up the terror level. Once again, the flavor and mechanics found each other, but somewhere further away from a shady business transaction and somewhere closer to the ironic horror of being buried alive in the foundation of one of your own buildings.

When Immurement arrives in Denizens of the Underworld, I hope you’ll enjoy the card, whether you play it to get rid of your opponent’s card or your opponent plays it and helps you out with your resources.

Building on Your Foundation

As Marius has revealed, Immurement is firmly rooted in the core identities of Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game, the Syndicate’s themes and mechanics, and the very essence of H.P. Lovecraft’s eerie fiction. It’s also offers the Syndicate a very strong response to a wide range of rival cards, and when Denizens of the Underworld arrives at retailers later in the month, it will merit consideration for almost any Syndicate deck.

Meanwhile, as Marius noted, Immurement forces the Syndicate player to adapt his play style a little. In order to play the card, you have to keep your largest domain open and available. This creates an obvious “tell,” and it slows your ability to play such high-cost characters as O’Bannion’s Inner Circle (Denizens of the Underworld, 3).

Fortunately (for the Syndicate), Denizens of the Underworld also contains the Tactic, Reallocate (Denizens of the Underworld, 32). Together, Immurement and Reallocate make a deadly pair. For the price of two resources (and three Steadfast), Reallocate forces both players to rebuild their domains, evening them out. Then, it grants the Syndicate player an extra domain, to which Reallocate is attached as a resource.

On its own, Reallocate offers the Syndicate a powerful answer to decks that seek to quickly build a single domain to play high-cost characters, like Ancient Ones. Combined with Immurement, though, it can also permit surprise removal. While you’re playing the Syndicate, as long as you keep a single domain of two resources open, you can play Reallocate to tear down your opponent’s largest domain and shift your resources so that your open domain becomes your largest domain… freeing it up for Immurement!

Look for Immurement, Reallocate, O’Bannion’s Inner Council, and a host of other shady Syndicate cards to take center stage in Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game when Denizens of the Underworld arrives at retailers later this month!

Based on the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and his literary circle, Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game takes two players deep into the Cthulhu Mythos where investigators clash with the Ancient Ones and Elder Gods for the fate of the world. The Living Card Game format allows players to customize their gaming experience with monthly Asylum Pack expansions to the core game.

    
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