Monday, May 27, 2013

A Hankering After Old Games: MYTHOS

So, our friends Jeff and Kate held one of their periodic Game Days this holiday weekend, where there was much gaming and visiting and catching up with folks (and, at the very end, petting of cats). We arrived late, having been to our monthly meeting of Book Group (Mythlond) earlier that same day, where our book was LORD KELVIN'S MACHINE by Blaylock.*  But we still had time for two rounds of INGENIOUS (a tile-placing game I hadn't played before; good one) and, on my part, a quick game of TICKET TO RIDE (I came in third of three). In the invitation, Jeff had said something to the effect of 'bring whatever game you'd like to play', which got me thinking what that might be. I looked at the boardgame shelves both in the closet and box room and saw many fine possibilities (e.g. BLUE MAX, STELLAR CONQUEST, et al), but none that seemed quite right for the occasion, when I saw the boxes of MYTHOS cards and thought: the perfect thing.

I've written elsewhere about MYTHOS, in Jim Lowder's collection HOBBY GAMES: THE 100 BEST (2007), for now I'll just say that this is the CALL OF CTHULHU collectable card game, populated with characters and locations and tomes from Lovecraft's stories. Its best feature is the Adventure card(s) that give a storytelling element to the card game: each grants the player rewards (Sanity points and victory points) but only if the specific other cards it lists have to have been played. It's a great game, by far my favorite of all collectable card games -- but the problem is it's long out of print. And the folks I used to play it with have mostly moved away or I've gotten out of touch with (Lester Smith and Burl at the Game Center in Lake Geneva days; Chris Pramas and Jennifer Clarke Wilkes and Steve Miller and Robert Weise and Ed Stark, among others, as a WotC lunchtime game).

Hence if I were to get folks to play it with me, I'd have to provide the cards -- and to make it workable, they'd have to be in the form of pre-made decks, so that while folks wd need to learn the rules to play they won't have to delve into the minutia of deckbuilding as well. And that meant I'd need a lot of cards.

Luckily, I had a lot of cards. But unluckily, I couldn't find all of them. The Allies and Adventures, Great Old Ones and Monsters and Tomes were all in the closet, right where they were supposed to be. The New Aeon cards were all in the leather box where they were supposed to be. And downstairs I had bunches of semi-sorted cards (gifts from friends who'd I'd played with back in the day, kindly given to me when they got to the stage of cleaning out their own closets), mainly from the Dreamlands set.**  From these I had quite a few Events and plenty of Spells and some Artifacts (enough to play with, though lacking some needed for specific adventures). But there was nowhere near enough Locations, esp. since every deck needed a good assortment. Placing the decks in different locations (e.g., an Arkham deck, a Dunwich deck, an Innsmouth deck, a Mideast deck), something I'd intended all along, lessened the problem but it still just didn't look workable. Then, yesterday afternoon I found the four card-file boxes containing Locations and more Monsters and Artifacts and more Spells, et al.

Put these together with those I'd already found and sorted, pull out those old notes I'd kept detailing specific decks I'd made and played with years ago (when I remembered the rules and individual cards' effects much better than I do right now), and I think we'll be good to go. So next up is merging the sorted cards, making up some sample decks, and re-reading THE ART OF PLAYING MYTHOS get remind myself how gameplay goes and be able to teach it to others who have never played, or if so not for a long long time.

So, not in time for this game day, but definitely got enough interest when I asked around among out CALL OF CTHULHU group to make this do-able at a game day in the future. We'll see how it goes.

--John R.

 *universally judged to be a great disappointment (next month: THE DRESDEN FILES).  

 **(the set which, along with overprinting of the Standard non-collectable dual-deck, sank the game. But that's another story).

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