In case it wasn’t glaringly obvious by now, I really like gaming and I really like the Cthulhu mythos. When the two combine, it’s one of my favourite things. I’m lucky enough to have a girlfriend who understands my geeky ways, and indeed embraces them herself. She picked up this gem from our favourite store Inner Sanctum Collectibles (Plug! Where’s my affiliate money, Graham?) on a whim the other day, as it was post-pay day, we were looking for something fun to add to our collection, and the Munchkin Cthulhu bits we considered either weren’t available yet or didn’t appeal that day. Laura spotted this one, The Stars Are Right from Steve Jackson Games, makers of many amazing games (including the aforementioned Munchkin, GURPS, and my two favourite widely available dice games, Zombie Dice and of course Cthulhu Dice).
The gist of TSAR (sweet acronym) as with all good games is to summon one of the Great Old Ones and in this case you’ve got the choice of Tsatso, Cthulhoo, Chaugnar and Hastur. Actually summoning one of them doesn’t necessarily mean you win in game terms, but it does seriously help out and is also pretty awesome. As you can see in the (fantastic) photo above, the game is played with tiles representing the night sky and it is your job (via invoking and summoning various Mythos beings – Ghasts, Byakhee, Deep Ones and more!) to rearrange it to pave the way for more eldritch beings of cosmic horror!
This is achieved by pushing rows, swapping two tiles or flipping tiles over in order to assemble the constellations shown on different cards. The cards in front of you then often allow you to make more of these changes, or to ignore some of the constellation requirements of the big gribblies. Each is also worth some number of points, with the winner of the game being the first to ten. As a Steve Jackson game, with excellent light-hearted illustration from Goomi, it’s a very high quality product, designed really well and you can easily get an hour’s enjoyment out of this. One gripe some people have is that there are a maximum of four players, but honestly any more than that and the game might start to get overly long (with other players rearranging your carefully wrought plans for the night sky) and a little infuriating (same as before).
I only have one negative thing to say about the game as a whole and that is this: Why the misspelling (or, at least deviation from the now generally accepted common spelling) of names like Cthulhu? Seriously, who is Cthulhoo? Or, indeed, Ktulu (if you’re Metallica circa 1984)? I was under the impression that the Cthulu Myhtos and Lovecraft’s work were largely, if not entirely, in the public domain and had been for some time. So I never quite get why some people choose to change it, though I can understand some artistic license, etc. When your company already uses one spelling for several products though, why change it for another? Very odd.
Still, overall a very enjoyable game and well worth picking up!