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Tabletop Co-Op: Elder Sign
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Tabletop Co-Op: Elder Sign

If Cthulhu calls, you might want to hang up

It's a new year for Tabletop Co-Op, and what better way to celebrate than by defending a dusty old museum from an invasion of ancient, otherworldly evils? In today's installment, we'll enter the world of the Cthulhu mythos, take on the role of an investigator, and try to stay sane in the face of unspeakable terror. Take a closer look at a new co-op dice-rolling game that is positively dripping with the theme of eldritch horror: Elder Sign.

H. P. Lovecraft's most famous creation is undoubtedly the Great Old One Cthulhu. The concept of a being so powerful and so alien that even seeing it would drive you insane is a powerful one. It's also a compelling theme for a game. The board game crafters at Fantasy Flight have produced several great titles set in the Lovecraftian world, including Arkham Horror and Mansions of Madness. Elder Sign is the latest game in the series, trading the complexity and long gameplay of its predecessors for a quicker, but still exciting experience.

One of the best things about Elder Sign is it accomodates large groups of up to eight people. As the game begins, each player chooses an investigator card. Each of these characters has different attributes and special abilities. The doctor heals stamina, the psychologist restore sanity, and the magician can gain extra spell cards. Each character starts the game with a few items, drawn from different decks of cards. These items might give extra dice to roll, allow a reroll, or assist in battling monsters. Individual player powers is one of my favorite game mechanics, and Elder Sign provides it in spades.

Elder Sign is absolutely dripping with the horror theme. The art is gorgeous, the card design is spooky, and the flavor text on the cards is suitably creepy. As the game progresses, the sense of impending doom is very strong. At the end of each turn, the clock is advanced such that every four turns, midnight strikes. As you might expect, bad things happen at midnight; monsters spawn, players lose their sanity, and all sorts of obstacles appear, hindering you in the task of finding the target number of elder signs in order to prevent the invasion of the Great Old One.