Let's imagine you are too tired to handle a big game, and need a very light filler to unwind. Which one do you pick? Space Hulk Death Angel? Too stressful. The Lost Expedition? Too thinky. Herbaceous? Too herbal. How about The Cards of Cthulhu?
Well. It really is a simple game. And when I say simple, I basically mean very random. You have your four boards, one for each Elder God. These are nice, sturdy cardboard but they are the reason why the box is so big. The components are a deck of cards, some dice, and ten metal coins. I found that the cards are very difficult to shuffle, so I ended up sleeving them.
On every round you assign the minions you draw to their respective board, and then use your dice rolls to defeat them. You get to use the special ability of the character you picked, and also take advantage of items and allies. There are 'Horrors' that will require special dice combos to be taken out, otherwise they cost you in sanity. Usually you end up sacrificing an ally to avoid the rolling or the cost. What makes the game harder is not so much the Horrors as the cards that represent Gates. These force you to draw extra cards, thus filling up the boards faster. Sealing the Gates is therefore a priority.
Do I recommend searching for a copy of this game? (DVG will not reprint it, they have lost the rights). Yes, but not wholeheartedly. There certainly are better fillers. The theme is pasted on, but because the illustrations are well made, it doesn't feel dry. It does come in handy as a light solo game when you cannot tackle anything heavier. Liz Davidson suggests to combine it with a cup of hot chocolate on a laid back afternoon. Or pour yourself a heavier drink if you play in the after hours and fancy hanging out with Cthulhu and some Elders.