A’Writhe: A Game of Eldritch Contortions – why not Cthulhu Twister ?

A'Writhe Feature

Something is stirring in Arkham.  Again.

Pretty much everyone I know has played Twister at some point in their lives.  Callout a body part and a colour, and let the awkwardness begin!  It’s not a game I thought I would be looking at adding to my collection anytime soon, but WizKids may have just changed my mind on that.

A’Writhe: A Game of Eldritch Contortions is coming to Gen Con this year, and really it’s Cthulhu Twister.

The idea is pretty simple – split into teams of two.  One player is the cultist, trying to twist their body into arcane symbols by touching various locations on the board.  The other player is the Elder God the Cultist is trying to summon, calling out directions to their lunch loyal follower.

There is a catch though (isn’t there always?).  No one pair can get all of the positions correct themselves.  Humans are limited by four limbs after all.  So the other Elder Gods must be careful their cultist doesn’t help you form your symbol.

A'Writhe WizKids Playing
The WizKids Crew demonstrating the ritual - no I mean the game! Yes, game. That's it.

There isn’t a lot of depth and strategy here.  It’s a party game for 4-6 players that should take about 20 minutes.  The board or play area can be customised, as the locations appear to be neoprene mats.  This makes location setup unique, but might want to be careful about playing this on tiled floors!

Cthulhu as a theme is overdone.  I am a fan of the theme, and I cannot deny this.  As much as I am a fan though, it’s not the theme itself that makes me look at essentially a game of Twister – it’s they turned Twister into a game again.

A'Writhe Sample Layout
Sample layout for a visit to Arkham

Twister you play to pass the time and let everyone fall down.  This doesn’t make it bad, it’s just how it is.

A’Writhe: A Game of Eldritch Contortions adds game mechanics to a silly fun time.  You have to be Elder God that directs the Cultist to create the pattern first, so it’s a race.  You also hide the pattern you are trying to make from the other ‘Gods’ so they can’t stop your symbol from being made, adding an element of hidden information.

So there is ‘game’, but not enough to bog it down and not make it the party icebreaker and laughs of the original design.

Amazon US has this preordering for USD$50 + shipping, so this may be an expensive bit of fun though.  I would have to see the finished product to justify the price or wait for a good sale, but one thing is clear – WizKids made me interested in Twister again.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

This year, we face the Fury of Dracula – for the fourth time

Fury of Dracula Feature

When is a new edition not a new edition?

I first played Fury of Dracula way back in 2007. It was the second edition, and the first published by Fantasy Flight Games. What I didn’t realise until recently was that Fury of Dracula is a Games Workshop game. The reason this is important will become obvious in a little while. My first two games of Fury of Dracula Second Edition were trials of masochism and pigheadedness. I could see that there was potential for a lot of fun in the game, but what the owner of the game didn’t tell us was that he had never played it, and proceeded to get almost every rule fundamentally wrong. Our first game was arguments between verbal rules given and card text, and the owner of the game steadfastly refused to produce a rulebook. If you ever wonder what I consider a bad first game, this is the scenario I almost always replay in my mind’s eye

After such a first experience, you may wonder why I tried it again. As I said, I could see the potential for a great game. The rules on the cards seem to make a different sort of sense to me, so I went out of my way to hunt down a rulebook. I couldn’t get my hands on a copy of the game, but I got the rules. About a year later, I got the same group back together, and we played again, and this time we all mostly liked it.

Fury of Dracula Components
It looks so innocent...

Today, Fury of Dracula is one of my favourite hidden movement games. You will often see me recommending games like Specter Ops over it for newer players, but not because I don’t like the game. Fury of Dracula is an intense game that at maximum player count will go for at least two hours, and with new players, four or five hours is not uncommon. It’s a game where you need an experienced player to not only be Dracula and hide from the other players but to guide the game like a good roleplay games master. First impressions count with any game, and I have seen a lot of players put off by a ‘bad’ first game. And I already told you about my first game.

Fury of Dracula Gameboard
It looks like a huge area for gameplay, but it's surprisingly tight to move in

The Third Edition went a long way to helping the games complex rules, but frankly, a lot more effort was needed. Third Edition was much better than the Second Edition rules, but even with a ton of Errata, I will recommend almost any other hidden movement game over Fury of Dracula to most players. Again, it’s not because I don’t like the game, but simply because it’s hard to convince a group of players to sit down for a 20-30 minute minimum explanation of a complicated rules explanation. Fury of Dracula is not the kind of game you can teach in spurts either – you can’t teach one phase, then let things happen, then explain the next phase. There are a large amount of interconnecting mechanics that need to be explained, as well as explaining what the Dracula player is doing.

Fury of Dracula is a one vs many hidden movement game where one player takes the role of Dracula, and the others share four characters between them with the task of finding Dracula. And like any one vs many games, it is asymmetrical, where the Dracula player is responsible for the rest of the players, especially when people are first trying the game. There are a lot of rules in this game, so I am not going to break it down here in much detail now. Coming up, I will be doing a review and comparison with the relatively recent Fury of Dracula Third Edition from 2015, and the newly announced Fourth Edition from Wizkids.

That’s right – one of the first Fantasy Flight printed games out of the gate is Fury of Dracula. I am excited as I love this game and I am glad it isn’t going out of print, but I am also curious because this is a big challenge to Fantasy Flight right out of the gate. Fury of Dracula’s popularity took off under the care of Fantasy Flight, warts and all. From all accounts, the mechanics are not being changed from the Third Edition, and a lot of these changes were made directly by Fantasy Flight. This is the part that has me the most curious, and why I am watching the project closely now.

Fury of Dracula Feature
The new Fourth Edition of Fury of Dracula. If it wasn't for the huge Wizkids logo, I couldn't spot the difference

By all accounts, the changes between Third and Fourth Editions are:

  1. New painted miniatures
  2. Cards increased to ‘standard’ sleevable size
  3. Rulebook edited for clarity

Now as I said, there has been a lot of errata for Third Edition over the last couple of years. The new rulebook was an improvement, but far from perfect. If there aren’t any changes, it may be possible to get a PDF of the new rules and still play with my Third Edition copy. This would be great for me, but I can’t see Wizkids or Games Workshop wanting to let a situation like that stand, so I have to believe there will be other changes. The new minis look great from he rendered previews, but Wizkids also has a mixed reputation when it comes to miniature quality.

Reports differ on the release date for the Fourth Edition – some sources show a July release date, but Amazon has mid-October listed.  Either way, it will be interesting to see what is to come, and I will be talking more about Fury of Dracula in the future.

Until then,

JohnHQLD