It’s a familiar scene in Arkham: cultists gather secretively, performing dark rites, acquiring eldritch artefacts, and spilling blood in their quest to unleash Ancient forces upon the world. Hell-bent on stopping them are a team of tenacious investigators.
The twist in Fate of the Elder Gods, is that this time you are the cultists, and you need to fend off the investigators, or at least send them after other cults, to ensure that yours is the first Cult to awake their Ancient One, and win the game. It’s an interesting twist, but is it any good? Let’s find out!
Fate of the Elder Gods – what’s in the box?
The component quality in Fate of the Elder Gods ranges from good to excellent. The board is a thing of beauty, representing an altar with different locations around Arkham depicted in various segments. It has multiple textured surfaces, detailed artwork, and a suitably eldritch shape. The miniatures were a momentary disappointment for me, having grown accustomed to FFG and CMON games where there are lots of different poses, but actually having a single pose for all cultists and a single pose for all the investigators will have helped keep costs somewhat in line, and the figures are nicely detailed and sturdy.
The Investigators clearly shop at the same place as the Hunter from Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu (l)
The cards are nice as well, a good, solid, linen-y finish, and the game contains detailed mats, and custom dice. Artwork is generally confined to the mats and larger cards, but wherever it appears, it’s done to a very high standard. The maps for each Elder god are particularly nicely done in this respect.
What are we trying to do? End the world!
Advance the summoning track anti-clockwise, before it fills up with Elder Signs from the opposite direction
Each player in Fate of the Elder gods has a player-board representing their “lodge” – i.e. the cult headquarters. This board contains a place to store Cultists, a description of the unique ability bestowed by your Ancient One, and a summoning track.
Your aim is to advance your summoning track all the way up to 9, at which point you have won the game, (although you may well have destroyed reality as we know it!) Aside from trying to complete a summoning before the rival cults, players also need to be on the watch for Elder Signs, marks of the tenacious investigators who will periodically attack your lodge, and use these ancient marks to seal the hole you are trying to punch in reality. If any cult receives 10 Elder Signs, the game ends immediately, with that player eliminated. The remaining cults then compare how many Elder Signs they have received, and victory goes to the player with the fewest.
Elder Signs and the dice-rolls that produce them
There are a fairly limited number of effects in Fate of the Elder gods which allow you to actually advance your summoning track, and these are the ones you want to trigger. However, you will only be able to do so by ensuring that you have enough Cultists in the relevant locations, and that you can ignore the attentions of the Investigators for long enough. Careful decision-making as you balance these competing needs is key.
Sounds Interesting – how does it play?
Each turn in Fate of the Elder gods, players move a large Eldritch statue to one of the 6 locations on the board – Streets of Arkham, Library, Museum, Ritual Site, Gathering or Other Worlds. Then they place a cultist from their lodge, and an investigator from the reserve on that location. At this point if there are 3 or more Investigators on the location, the cult has attracted too much attention, and the investigators move immediately to their lodge.
7 Investigators at the start of the raid is 7 dice – Tentacles and Monsters mean dead cultists, but the other symbols are Elder Signs added to your lodge
Having investigators on your lodge is a bad thing: various effects in Fate of the Elder gods will trigger Raids, where you roll a dice for each investigator present, and may suffer Elder Signs which lead you inevitably towards defeat. For that reason players need to tread a careful line between taking the most-needed action and one that will avoid unwanted attention. I really liked this element of balancing choices as it makes each turn unique, as you weigh up your best move.
How Do We Move? Astral Travel!
Each of the six locations has its own unique symbol, and to move there, players must discard a spell card from their hand which has the matching symbol. As an alternative, they can discard any two matching symbols to move to any space of their choice. (moving is compulsory, you cannot stay in the current location).
Spells spent to move are placed in an “Astral Column” next to the location you are leaving. This was an element that people kept forgetting in our early games, and it’s easy to make little mistakes that can throw everything out of whack. In fact, probably the biggest disappointment in Fate of the Elder gods was just how fiddly movement feels.
Where to go? It’s all about Location
As already mentioned, if you go to a location with too many investigators, they will come and attack your lodge. However, you can’t just stay out of their way and hope to progress.
The key location in Fate of the Elder gods is Other Worlds, where you roll dice, and with the right results, can sacrifice Cultists to advance your omen tracker. Over time you’ll run out of cultists, and need to summon some back from the Abyss, which you can do at The Gathering.
The Library and The Museum allow you to stock up on spells and Eldritch artefacts, whilst the Streets of Arkham are a place to disperse those annoying Investigators, and the Ceremony allows you to trigger your cult’s unique ability, along with gaining the Gate cards which enable you to move to Other Worlds. There’s a lot of strategy involved in careful location selection, and this is where much of the longevity of the game is found.
Spells for Every Occasion
Spells to Move
You can ready this spell, as all 3 colours shown can be found in the Astral Column – once you’re done, the cards will all be discarded, even the Red which wasn’t used.
The reason that adding Spells to the Astral Colum matters, is because they can be used later by others to ready spells. Spells in hand are of little use (except for movement) and whilst you will need to spend at least one per turn, they are far more exciting when you actually get to cast them.
Each spell in Fate of the Elder gods will have 2 or 3 coloured stripes at the top of it, and to ready it, you need to match those colours to the one printed on your location, and the colours stacked next to it in the astral column. You can ready up to one spell per turn, and have up to 3 readied at any one point in time. As soon as a spell is readied at a location, all the cards from the Astral Column are discarded, meaning it will probably be a further couple of turns before anyone else can ready a spell there.
The horizontal bit of colour just tells you which symbol is on the back
You can make your life easier by using spells you already have readied, to pay for readying others. These spells are not discarded in the same was as those in the astral column, meaning that the more spells you have, the easier it is to get more.
Spells to Fight
The actual abilities of spells when cast are quite varied, and they can be very powerful. Some simply curse another cult, but there are others which manipulate the location of cultists and investigators, allowing you to bolster your forces, or simply to take the heat off of yourself.
With a maximum of 3 Spells ready at a time, and the constant need to use spells to move, I really liked the level of decision-making that Fate of the Elder gods forces on you. Do you ready a spell now because you can do so easily? Or do you spend a few turns stocking up on cards to ready something powerful, but risk another cult emptying out the Astral Column? Once the spells are readied, you then need to decide whether to leave them there, in order to help with the readying of more spells, or to cast them for their effect: lots of trade-offs, and lots of decisions to make.
Curses, Foiled Again!
Fate of the Elder gods also offers you the opportunity to “Curse” opponents (or sometimes yourself). This is usually done with spells or artefacts, as an attack on other cults, or in a dark pact to bestow a powerful effect upon yourself.
When you become cursed, the player on your right draws a card from the curse deck and looks at it. They are now responsible for keeping an eye on you and your cult, and watching out for when you trigger the condition that activates it. Sometimes this will be a one-off activity like readying a spell, at other times it will be meeting a condition like having 4 cultists in one location.
As soon as the curse is triggered, they will interrupt your turn, reading out the card, and forcing you to suffer the consequences. Aside from being highly thematic as part of the struggles between dark cults, I really liked the added layer of player interaction that this produced, and it was entertaining to watch people torn between cursing the person who was in the lead versus cursing the person to their left just so that they could be in control of the card.
Playing Alone? Sheer Madness!
Officially, you can play Fate of the Elder gods solo – if so, you add another location-marker to the game and, after each of your turns, this marker is moved at random by discarding the top card of the spell deck, and placing additional investigators in the new location. The objective in this game is the same as with human opponents – summon your Ancient One. However now, as well as losing by getting overwhelmed by Elder Signs, you can also lose if you get Cursed 5 times, with a curse card being received every time the Investigators arrive at your location.
I played this solo once, and that was enough. As it happened, I won fairly comfortably, but that was mostly because the random movement of the investigators only brought them to my location once – with bad luck the game could be over quickly (technically in 5 player-turns), and there really isn’t a great deal you can do to mitigate it (there is a location action where you can remove curses in exchange for Elder Signs, but this only offers limited options against lousy luck).
Fate of the Elder gods – Final Thoughts
For 3 or 4 players, Fate of the Elder gods is a really fun game. It’s interesting to turn the Mythos genre on its head and play as the cultists, and acting as servants of diabolical evil gives you license to curse and attack your opponents to your heart’s content. As most of our Cthulhu-themed games are cooperative, this was a real change of pace, decidedly refreshing. Some of the movement and spell-readying mechanics feel a little bit fiddly, and the physical table-space occupied by the game is quite awkwardly-shaped, but overall Fate of the Elder gods is well-crafted, contains a lot of decision-space, and it looks beautiful.
Below 3 players, Fate of the Elder gods feels like a less appealing prospect. In 2 player the social aspect is gone, as there’s only ever 1 opponent, who will always be the person you want to target, and the solo game is just a dull luck-fest.
Overall I’d give this is an 7/10 – good with the right group, but doesn’t really work with lower counts.
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I'm an avid board and card-gamer, still trying to figure out where Board Gaming fits in my new life as a dad.
I enjoy thematic games (Fantasy, Cthulhu, etc) and play a lot of cooperative games, along with a bit of competitive gaming (currently Dice Masters and Destiny) when I can make it out of the house.Competitively. When not playing games, I can be found doing a mundane office job, or working on my own Blog, Fistful of Meeples.