Let It Eternal Lie
Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game Is Coming to an End
That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.
–H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu
Artists, lunatics, cultists, and madness haunt the nights of 1920s Marseille in The Mark of Madness, the tenth deluxe expansion for Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game. Focused primarily on the mind-warping prowess of the Hastur faction, this much-awaited expansion provides a significant boost to the Terror struggle and the game’s signature mechanics for insanity.
It also heralds the end of an era. Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game has enjoyed a long and rich life, even beyond what was once predicted for it. The devotion of its fans has sustained this sophisticated game of Lovecraftian horror for many, many years. Now, after seven cycles of Asylum Packs and nine deluxe expansions, the release of The Mark of Madness, the game’s tenth deluxe expansion, completes the series of faction-based boxes. It also completes our development of the game. After the game’s upcoming World Championships, our Organized Play team will no longer be holding official tournaments. We have finished creating Call of Cthulhu. We are ready to leave the game in your capable hands.
Looking ahead, we will continue to gradually make all Asylum packs available through our in-house manufacturing division, The Factory, so that no Asylum Pack will go out of print. The six packs of the Dreamlands cycle are already available in that form. Eventually, when demand arises, we may also reprint the ten deluxe expansions. This year's World Champion will still be able to design a card, and will receive a limited production run of that card to keep and distribute among friends and community members.
Words of Farewell
Few games share histories as long and storied as that of Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game, and few owe as much to their fans. Your passionate support has been instrumental in shaping this game, and two of the game’s developers, Nate French and Damon Stone, want to thank you by offering their perspectives and their farewells.
I joined Fantasy Flight Games in 2006, as a developer for two collectible card games. During my first week in the office, I was summoned to a meeting and told that the company was planning to cancel one of those games, the Call of Cthulhu CCG.
In the conversation that followed, a number of considerations emerged, but most important was this: while the game does not have a large following, the people who do play it are intensely passionate and devoted. It is a gamer’s game to the core, a game worthy of holding the mantle as a serious player’s favorite game for years at a time.
We pride ourselves on serving an audience of gamers who expect and demand more from their gaming experience than one might find in your typical mass market game, and the Call of Cthulhu CCG fanbase were the type of players who represented the heart of our target audience. While the CCG had reached a point where it was no longer financially viable, its fans forced us to address one fateful question: how do we treat this group of loyal, passionate players who so love the game we are about to cancel?
The answer, of course, is to treat these players with all the respect in the world, and to realize that, for such players, the loss of their beloved game would be heartbreaking.
To soften the blow of this loss, we came up with the concept of the Asylum Pack — a small pack of twenty or so new cards, which we would release a couple of times a year. This probably seems like nothing special to LCG® players, but back in 2006 the only way to purchase cards for the game was by opening booster packs and hoping you got the ones you needed! These Asylum Packs were conceptualized as a means of saying “thank you” to the most devout, never-say-die fans of the Call of Cthulhu card game, and at the time we had little sense that the product would ever be anything more.
Oh, were we ever wrong.
As it turned out, the Asylum Packs were popular… really popular. The first printing quickly sold out, and successive printings continued to do so as well. We thought we were releasing these packs for a small handful of die-hard fans, but it was obvious that most of the people who played this game loved it, and saw themselves as the die-hard fans. The response those first Asylum Packs elicited, a manifestation of this community’s desire to continue to collect the cards and play, eventually lead us to reconsider the entire manner in which customizable card games were presented.
This, I believe, is the legacy of Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game — it is a game with an audience who loved it so deeply, they would not let it die, and the evidence of their continued support spawned the conceptualization of the game-changing LCG model. It is surprising what a gesture of thanks, combined with the power of a community’s passion for a game they love, can accomplish. Actually, I take that back — knowing this game, and the people who play it, it’s not surprising at all.
It is now 2015, we find ourselves on the brink of another sunset moment for the game, and I cannot help but think back upon the lessons we learned in 2006. Call of Cthulhu was never destined to be popular with the masses — it is a deeply challenging game that rewards the most elite and committed players — but the meaning, the importance, and the impact of a game goes far beyond the question of “how many people play it?” Call of Cthulhu has meant the world to a small but deeply devoted fanbase for nearly a dozen years, and all those who currently enjoy the massive success and popularity of the LCG model owe a debt to the intense passions of this small group of die-hard fans.
The news that we will be retiring this game has left me again with a heavy heart. I wish that there were more I could say to soften the blow, but ultimately I know that my words can only do so much. In 2006, the announcement of the first Asylum Packs was there to provide players some closure with the ending of the CCG, and today, The Mark of Madness deluxe expansion promises one more dance. Twelve years is quite a run for any customizable card game, and this longevity is a testament to you, the fans, and also to Eric Lang’s wonderful design. We all thought the game was coming to an end ten years ago, but it refused to die, and I for one can only hope that the game will somehow, against all odds, find a means to surprise us once again…
The Mark of Madness revolves around the whisperings and subtle corruption of Hastur, creeping from Dover, Kent to Marseille, France like a plague of madness. The ravings of his lunatic throng, and the entities and abominations which worship or align themselves with the King in Yellow sow chaos and disorder amongst the working poor as well as the genteel. This final box serves as a starting place for casual players who wish to familiarize themselves with workings of He Who is Not to be Named, as well as a focus for the competitive player who wishes to build decks making the most of the terror struggle or the faction's ability to advance its own schemes when characters go insane.
When Call of Cthulhu switched to the deluxe box model in the second quarter of 2012 the game really took an interesting turn for players and collectors both. The ability to focus on faction specific boxes in a similar model to The Order of the Silver Twilight dramatically lowered the cost of entry for new players while also providing dedicated players a wonderfully thematic and mechanically focused method of play.
My very first goal with these boxes was to explore the thematic side of the factions, setting each box in a geographic area and focusing on one or two mechanical themes that would help refine or expand that faction's presence in the game, depending on where it was competitively. Starting with the Seekers of Knowledge box, which introduced thematic cards based on Miskatonic University sponsoring expeditions to the farthest reaches of the globe and a prophecy detailing the end of the world, the deluxe box served as a place for competitive and casual players alike to explore in-depth our version of Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s mythos.
With The Mark of Madness, the cycle of faction boxes is complete. Collectors looking for a closed system full of complex strategies, exciting tactical options, and rich and thematic stories will find it difficult to match what Call of Cthulhu has to offer. The complete collection is 1,560 cards including all story cards, creating an amazingly rich and diverse card pool from which players will be able to choose multiple archetypes per faction as well as numerous competitive synergistic pairings of factions that will provide years of replay value.
For a long time people have asked me about my favorite games and what makes me enjoy them. Call of Cthulhu is a game I mention in every discussion. The resourcing system, the limited actions, the incredibly rich world it encompasses make it second to none. It has been a shining example of elegant game design and how development can marry theme and mechanics, and will continue to be a game that will serve as a guide to other designers on what is possible.
I want to thank all of you the passion you’ve shown the game, and the camaraderie you’ve shown each other and extended to me. It has been a distinct pleasure and honor to be a part of this games groundbreaking history and I sincerely look forward to sitting across from some of you for more epic struggles of Lovecraftian horror in the future.
From Marseille to Arkham and the End of Time
Our development of Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game comes to an end with The Mark of Madness, but not before this tenth deluxe expansion and its focus on the Hastur faction leaves the game more balanced than ever, and with its signature Terror struggle more prominent than it has been in years.
Meanwhile, the game will never truly perish so long as its devoted followers continue to pass its traditions down through the ages. After all, Lovecraft’s stories have themselves remained popular long after his untimely end. We are certain that Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game will live on for countless years to come.
Who knows the end? What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise.
–H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu