A Shub-Niggurath Bestiary
Preview The Thousand Young Expansion for Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game
"They were pinkish things about five feet long; with crustaceous bodies bearing vast pairs of dorsal fins or membraneous wings and several sets of articulated limbs, and with a sort of convoluted ellipsoid, covered with multitudes of very short antennae, where a head would ordinarily be."
–H.P. Lovecraft, The Whisperer in Darkness
When we announced the upcoming release of The Thousand Young deluxe expansion for Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game, we promised that it would offer a more diverse assortment of characters than the game's other recent faction boxes, such as the For the Greater Good expansion that focused on the Agency and the Denizens of the Underworld expansion that focused on the Syndicate. While those lent a great deal of aid to a limited number of subtypes, namely the Government and Criminal subtypes, we promised that The Thousand Young would offer "a wide array of subtypes and abilities, some of which allow you to bring characters into play in surprising fashion, some of which allow you to trigger effects when characters enter play, and some of which continue to support the faction's strengths in support destruction."
Such boasts demand to be backed up, so we begin our previews of this expansion by exploring more of this "wide array." Today, we delve into four more chapters of The Thousand Young and the Shub-Niggurath bestiary.
The Countless Spawn of Shub-Niggurath
Nearly every faction in Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game seems to have its signature subtype or subtypes. As noted above, the Agency has its Government operatives, and the Syndicate has its Criminals. Meanwhile, the Order of the Silver Twilight has its Lodge members, and Miskatonic University boasts a great number of Investigators and Explorers. Cthulhu's Deep Ones are nearly as iconic as the game itself. Yog-Sothoth is well-known as the Ancient One behind the Yithians and many of the game's Sorcerers. Hastur's ranks are full of Lunatics.
Shub-Niggurath, on the other hand, while it boasts a great number of characters and notable subtypes isn't quite as synonymous with any one of them. It seems that the All-Mother has a harder time playing favorites; her Dark Young are truly terrifying, but so are all the Ghouls, Monsters, and Mi-Go that pay her fealty. There's even a great deal of room within her ranks for those deranged humans who seek her favor; Cultists may gain her blessings and become Sorcerers or Servitors. Her ranks even include the subterranean Chthonians and the multitude of unfathomable Ancient Ones to which she gave birth.
Still, none of these carry the faction-defining weight that other subtypes carry within other factions, and the result is that the Shub-Niggurath faction appears to be defined more by its collective, a vast horde of abhorrent spawn under one foul fertility goddess. And it is this idea that comes forward in The Thousand Young. You won't find one subtype given weight above the others. Instead, you'll find a whole host of dark and twisted characters, all clamoring for their blasphemous Mother's blessings, and it is up to you, as the player, to bring them together toward your own foul ends.
Monsters are the most populous of all Shub's spawn, and they are once again represented in The Thousand Young in greater numbers than each of the other subtypes. Still, among the expansion's 165 cards (three copies each of fifty-five cards), only fifteen of them are Monsters (five different characters).
Nonetheless, it is hard to think of Monster as the defining subtype for any faction, largely because it is such a vague descriptor. Its a term that can hold nearly anything, and that's more or less the case in The Thousand Young. The Baka (The Thousand Young, 9) shares very little in common with such a subtle and refined Monster as René Bonvillain (The Thousand Young, 12), but they both lay claim to the Monster trait.
It is true that most Monsters boast Terror and Combat icons. However, this distinguishes them little from the Dark Young or Ancient Ones that also boast those icons, and, in fact, most of the Monsters in The Thousand Young share only circumstantial synergies with other Monsters. Instead, while the Keelut (The Thousand Young, 8) boosts each of your Monsters, other characters, like the Smoke Serpent (The Thousand Young, 15), offer more and greater synergies with other characters that share the expansion's Resilient keyword.
In the eerie fictional world described by H.P. Lovecraft, ghouls are subterranean and vaguely humanoid creatures that like to feed on human corpses. Despite this, they're not necessarily hostile to humans, and such people as the artist Richard Upton Pickman were even able to befriend them.
That said, the nocturnal Ghouls of Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game can also be quite stealthy, sneaking into play from the disard pile like the Ghoulish Hag (Search for the Silver Key, 73) or leaping into play from your hand like the Ambushing Ghoul (The Thousand Young, 2).
Finally, though Ghouls don't always feel compelled to attack humans, their talons make them fearsome foes once roused. Ghouls like Rend (The Thousand Young, 13) and the Frenzied Ghoul (The Thousand Young, 7) can offer punch to any Shub deck primarily focused on other icons and abilities.
Though they've earned their place in the greater Lovecraft mythos, the game's Chthonians were not actually among Lovecraft's personal inventions. Instead, they were originally conceived by author Brian Lumley, who described them as immense, worm-like, tentacled creatures that were covered in slime and could live for more than a thousand years.
To this point, there are just three different Chthonians in Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game: Displaced Chthonian (Conspiracies of Chaos, 53), Grasping Chthonian (Initiations of the Favored, 51), and Telepathic Chthonian (The Gleaming Spiral, 92).
Despite their limited numbers, however, these Chthonians go a long way toward establishing Shub-Niggurath as the game's strongest faction for support destruction. This is largely due to the fact that if you can play characters to destroy supports, instead of using events, you're establishing your presence on the board even as you're weakening your opponent's. Moreover, so long as you don't need supports on your side of the table, the Displaced Chthonian is the most efficient support destruction in the game, firing once every turn.
Of course, one of the truths about support destruction is that you need it when you need it. The game is full of supports like The Plague Stone (Terror in Venice, 32), Rite of the Silver Gate (The Key and the Gate, 25), and Stygian Eye (Into Tartarus, 96) that can easily turn a game on its head. When your opponent plays one of these, you can't afford to delay its destruction; if you don't have the appropriate card in hand, you're likely to fall swiftly behind in the race for control of the game's eldritch secrets.
Accordingly, though it adds but one Chthonian to the game, The Thousand Young makes this select group of characters even more formidable with the introduction of Ancient Chthonian (The Thousand Young, 21), which you can bring into play as early as turn one through the use of Ghoul Tunnels (The Thousand Young, 24) to stack the top of your deck with whatever Chthonians you desire, ensuring you control of your opponent's supports through all the key points of the game.
The alien Mi-Go rank among some of the game's fans' favorite characters. Not only are they truly bizarre and firmly established within Lovecraft's fiction, they offer a wealth of obvious synergies that make your Mi-Go deck stronger for each Mi-Go that enters play. They give each other Combat icons, Investigation icons, skill boosts, and Toughness. They come into play cheaper once you play your Inter-dimensional Transporter (The Twilight Beckons, 12), and they're resilient, able to return to hand from your discard pile en masse anytime you play Mi-Go Dreams (Sleep of the Dead, 94).
Despite that, Mi-Go have always taken a hit in more competitive matches because they require their synergies in order to be truly effective. Naturally, the more pieces you need in a combination to get it up to speed, the more fragile it is. There have been plenty of moments when one player's Mi-Go were just about to start extracting brains and run through stories at will when his opponent triggered The Plague Stone, devoured them all with Cthulhu (The Sleeper Below, 19), or wounded them with Nodens (Kingsport Dreams, 36).
But the quest for fun is not deterred by a few minor setbacks! And the Mi-Go gain two powerful additions in The Thousand Young.
The Mi-Go Worker (The Thousand Young, 6) is a fantastic, low-cost addition to the subtype. It brings a Terror icon to the table, making it one of the few Mi-Go to possess the icon naturally, but more importantly, it greatly accelerates your ability to play the Mi-Go you need to get your combinations together. At a cost of just two Loyal Shub resources, your Mi-Go Worker can easily enter play on the first turn and start reducing the cost of your other Mi-Go.
In one ideal situation, you might resource one domain up to two, use it to play an Inter-dimensional Transporter and then drain a second domain of one for your Mi-Go Worker. Then, you could wound your Mi-Go Worker to reduce the cost of an Ageless Mi-Go (Secrets of Arkham, 23) to gain a second point of toughness. On your second turn, you could then increase your primary domain to three resources and wound your Mi-Go Worker once more to play Xlizxcte-Oonth (The Thousand Young, 18).
Once you get the lord of the Mi-Go into play, you can play your Mi-Go at will from your hand or discard pile, and if your opponent bothers to kill your other Mi-Go, Xlizxcte-Oonth's ability makes it easy to recover your pace, reducing the cost of the first Mi-Go you play each turn by the number of Mi-Go in your discard pile. Notably, this ability doesn't come with any limitation, so you can potentially play your first Mi-Go each turn for free. Altogether, it's the sort of grand design that one might expect of an alien race that mastered interstellar travel and practices for removing and preserving brains that are so genius as to make the term "surgery" sound grotesque and slanderous.
Of course, since so much of The Thousand Young focuses on combining subtypes, rather than finding the most synergies within a single subtype, you could alternatively play Xlizcte-Oonth in a deck that also uses Harvesting Mi-Go (The Twilight Beckons, 11) to accelerate your domains in order to play other, more expensive characters like the Telepathic Chthonian and Displaced Chthonian.
Anything Can Happen Within the Darkest Bayous
The Thousand Young doesn't wrap all its main themes around a focal subtype. Instead, it touts a menagerie of all of Shub-Niggurath's strangest and foulest spawn. It's a patch for a wide variety of existing decks, and it's a toolbox of darkness and alien design that begs for exploration and experimentation by the game's most talented deck-builders. How will you make use of the expansion's thousand spawn?
Head to your local retailer to pre-order your copy today. Then keep your eyes open for more previews and Call of Cthulhu news as you start dreaming up your dark designs!