Article by Pete Lane
CoC Demoer Extraordinaire

In the many dark corners of the world, you meet other-worldly beings full of arcane wisdom who can teach you the key to the universe's horrors.  Such is the world of being a demo team member for Fantasy Flight Games!  I've been running demos for FFG now over the last seven years, and in all my memorable experiences with the team I’ll never forget in 2004 working an event called “The World Premiere Release of the Call Of Cthulhu Card Game.”  In the years since I’ve picked up some great tricks to help teach the game to new players, and in celebration of the Living Card Game™ release, I’m here to share some tips for all of you looking to bring the new Core Set into your gaming group.

Over the weekend of February 6-8th here in the Twin Cities was Con Of The North, a locally run, not-for-profit gaming event that features board games, RPGs, CCGs, video games, LARPs, and miniatures gaming.  Fantasy Flight has a room dedicated for their products, and we Demo Team volunteers spend all weekend running full length demos of a wide selection of the catalog.  This year we decided to prominently feature the new Core Set of the Call of Cthulhu LCG™ and were pleasantly surprised at the results.  People seemed extremely enthusiastic and eager to learn (even when the demo wasn't scheduled), and at one point we almost didn't have enough copies of the game with us to allow everyone who wanted to play!   

A successful Call Of Cthulhu demo has at its heart a discussion about the flavor of the game setting.  This is hugely important because chances are if someone is interested in giving the game a try, it's because of they are already fans at some level.  Most gamers know something about the iconic Cthulhu, even if they've never read any Lovecraft, thanks to the prominence of the RPG and board games such as Arkham Horror.  Telling them about the factions tends to give them a grasp of familiarity out of the gate, so when you start talking rules, they are already hooked.  This will help the deeply themed game experience make a little more sense to the new player, as they will already be thinking about how Deep Ones, Night Gaunts, and Professor Wilmarth fit into things.

The next step is introducing the card types.  You might have used character cards to help explain the factions, so here is where you discuss a bit about Event and Support cards.  Now, to any gamer who's experienced other kinds of card games, this is a pretty simple task.  They may already have the general idea how Attachments, Locations, and Events work... but to those who have very little card gaming under their belt, this is a challenge.  The simple answer is that these cards allow characters to receive bonuses and detriments along the process of the game while they help you reach the goal of victory.  It's really that simple!


Click on the card images for a larger version

Story Cards are the most unique victory condition of any card game I can think of, so even the most experienced game players might find this to be an alien concept.  Seeing that you've already covered card types and flavor, it’s not too far of a leap to head into this game’s conflict stage!  It suddenly makes perfect sense that the Terror phase represents walking into the area and being taken by surprise by horrifying creatures.  After your weak link runs screaming from the scene, it's the obvious reaction of “shoot first and ask questions later” we find at the Combat struggle!  Once the bodies have hit the floor, it's time to stand guard and gather clues during the Arcane and Investigation struggles.  It only comes naturally that those who came in the most prepared would be awarded during the Skill struggle.  So as you see, this makes explaining the game much easier by simply making theme an important part of the process.  Suddenly the Story Phase becomes a battle for the ages instead of a mechanic in a card game.

In what seems to be a bit backwards to an experienced player, I’ve learned to teach Resources phase late in the learning process.  Once we’ve discussed everything else including the victory condition, explaining to players how you get the cards into play to help them win the game has a new level of interest and they seem to hold a much finer level of understanding than they would if you started here first.  After touching on this enough to give them a good idea of how it works, you can flow easily into the turn order, and you’re now ready to start playing a sample round. 

Walk through the first few rounds slowly and deal with things like actions, keywords, and priorities as they come... you’ll notice that the player eventually starts to take interest in going without your help.  Even then, I often explain exactly what I'm doing and why I'm doing it so they can gather some of the deeper strategy, and even show them what might happen if I made different choices.  If the player is having a tough time grasping the concepts at this point, I tend to play with my hand revealed so they might connect my own choices with what they have in their own hand.

Pete schools Eric M. Lang, Designer of Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game

It's important to mention here that you never want them to feel helpless or frustrated and your priority in teaching any game is that you want them play it again in the near future.  Sure, you want to put up enough of a fight to allow them see what the game is about, but if they walk away from the experience with a smile and an interest to play again means I’ve done my job.  Beating them on turn four when they are still trying to master the Resource Phase is a sure way to make them never want to try it again.  This is true whether you are trying to sell a copy of the game at a convention, or if you are just hoping your buddies want to play another couple of rounds while waiting for the pizza to arrive.


Enjoying CoC:LCG at CotN

We received a lot of positive feedback from the people we met at Con Of The North, and hopefully have fostered new players of the game that may have never bothered trying it before while it was a collectible game.  We saw people come back for another try often, usually with friends from their gaming groups in tow, which is the key to what a Living Card Game™ is about.  It’s a return to the “casual” kitchen table mentality that was born 15 years ago by a small role playing group looking for a fun diversion between sessions.  LCG’s™ allow us to return to the quality of the game, as opposed to the fifty dollar rare you pull out of a booster pack.
Happy Demoing!
Pete Lane

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