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    Review Games

    Chez Cthulhu Card Game

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    Rating: 8Reviewed By: Pravus Prime04/25/2013
    Summary Review
    A new mechanic to a solid game. Chez Cthulhu isn't just a themed deck, it adds an entirely new element to the slacker game in the form of madness.

    While the original game was a battle between room mates to hit their slack goal via playing cards and spending their income, Cthulhu adds an entirely new dynamic in the added token system of madness.

    The madness dynamic decreases your overall slack at first, but once you become insane, each madness added becomes pure slack, allowing you to reach you goal that much faster.

    This is great for longtime Chez players who want something new, and there are even instructions for those who want to mix their existing decks with this version.
    Detailed Review
    Continuing in the tradition of Steve Jacksons Games giving us funny puns, Chez Cthulhu is no exception. There are many laughs to be had with the cards, from puns to artwork. The new madness tokens are sharp looking and the box has seperate areas for both your slack and your madness, keeping things neat is an added bonus.

    For returning Chez players, there's a lot of milage to be had out of this expansion as the aforementioned madness system adds a new layer of play. Do you go for the madness, losing slack points along the way in hopes of becoming Stark Raving Mad, so that you get all your lost slack back and additional slack instead of further madness? Or do you play it safe, staying sane and trying to balance the other players madness to further hinder their attempts at reaching their slack goal?

    The instructions about integrating the two decks are also well thought out and play well, allowing for Chez fans to come up with a truly wicked mixed deck via all these expansions.

    However, in our playing we did find that the only way to use the madness system was to go stark raving mad, attempting to stay sane never worked out for us; in every game the person who went Stark Raving Mad first won the game, generally because there are a lot of cards that give 1 madness for having in play at the start of their turn or given bonus madness when discarded. Once they were Stark Raving Mad, they instead automatically get 1 slack for each in play; in one game, a player got 3 slack just for starting their turn thanks to their pets and other madness inducing cards in play. Combined with their cards played on their turn, a player can almost always reach their slack goal within one turn of going mad, just because of playing the cards that give slack combined with the madness inducing cards combined with the aforementioned madness bonus slack it's possible to pick up a whopping 8+ slack in a single turn, regardless of your profession or spending income. This can quickly turn an experienced group into a race for madness instead of trying to balance income, sabotage, and slack giving past times.

    The second issue is that with fewer players, the deck size is so enormous that with the added slack from going Stark Raving Mad, we'd go through around a quarter of the deck before we ended the game. Since the only way to get rid of certain pets is with specific cards, it also meant that those who had cards that gave madness at the start of their turn was hard to counter. We've also had issues where during the game we have almost entire hands that are useless for the situation we were in. Either too many cards requiring income we didn't have or cards that did something great, but only if something else was in play, which it wasn't.

    Finally, as a sort of double edged sword, the slack to madness ratio isn't straightforward. Because of that, it's no longer a quick glance to see who's ahead or close to their goal, because the amount of madness altered the amount of slack, but not at a consistant rate; there are jumps at certain intervals as to how much slack is lost.

    Overall Chez Cthulhu is a strong entry into the Chez series and if you're a fan of the mythos and the Chez series, there's no reason not to pick this up. If you like the idea of mixing your Chez deck, this may well be the best expansion to mix your deck with. However, if you're not a fan of the Chez series, the madness element isn't likely going to be enough of a new dynamic to kindle new interest.
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