06/02/2023

Roll for Great Old Ones, a co-operative Arkham in Roll-and-write format [Preview]

H.P. Lovecraft has made an impression on the enthusiasts of horror fictions. A revolution. His pieces are hailed as classics, post-obit. Which is pretty unfortunate. The idea of his in this mythos department has been romanticized quite frequent, adhered as the origin stories for several board game titles out there. Roll for Great Old Ones is yet the latest boat sailing with the similar banner.

The game would be released by Hodari Spiel, a German publishing house, and will seek for funding through a crowdfunding project. Kickstarter? Yes, it is. They have better pictures to present their games there, to be honest, since the one I will show in this article is just a prototype I printed by myself. They have showcased Roll for Great Old Ones during SPIEL Messe 2022 as well, by the way. 

Disclaimer: I am an avid euro gamer and a hardcore Legend of the Five Rings LCG player. I am not a fan of solo game/variant. This statement will give you an overview of what kind of bias I might have while writing.

Disclaimer: We had the preview copy for this review, and it was not the final version. There might be possible changes and alteration from the publisher regarding the components, printing and build quality, rules and concepts in the official released product.

A deeper glance at the game (prototype)

With the most-picked horror narrative as its backbone story, this game shares similar traits with many games carrying Cthulhu Mythos. The co-operative ilk, for instance, is also found in a well-known whales. Arkham Horror, for example. And let’s not forget its card game edition, whose fame has bested its board game counterpart. It’s all about the cultists and the investigators. One may raise his eyebrows and ask: what makes Roll for Great Old Ones different from more than 600 games registered under this exact theme?

Well, for starters, David Rimbach’s creation signs in to the roll-and-write department. Plus the dice management, indeed. Is it a novel idea? I don’t really know, but Roll for Great Old Ones is definitely the first Cthulhu game with such mechanics I have ever encountered.

The premise may still be the same: preventing the cultists to complete their ritual. Regardless, the path David chose to generate that terror and atrocity, as mentioned, differs in terms of mechanic, even quite miles away. 

Roll for Great Old Ones is a straightforward game. We roll the D6 and D12, draft and pick them based on our needs, and then trigger all the actions accordingly. To save the world means to opt the correct D6. Once all investigators agree upon which dice they want to pick, the only D6 left will accompany the D12, determining what those cultist bastards do on that round. Thus, drafting the dice befitting the situation is crucial. It feels more freeing because we, in a way, overhaul the whole actions in a round. We still feel the terror, of course. But since everything is played open-handedly, there is a (pseudo-) feel of safety — as we may (or may not) be able to anticipate the repercussion of our decisions.

It offers an accessible and simpler way to enjoy the Cthulhu Mythos. Thanks to David’s roll-and-write approach. Along with the dice drafting mechanic, the investigators can achieve the winning condition by manipulating the dice value through re-rolling. Our fate does not really rely on the dice’s whim. A more desirable outcome can thus be achieved, naturally with some cost that could be immoderate. 

The big tableau is full of icons. We have no problem distinguishing them only in a glance, as they are clearly designed with obvious contrasts and variances. They articulate well what actions will resolve when triggered. Roll for Great Old Ones is, therefore, easy to learn. Period. It does not take long to teach it to other gamers. And thus, the chance to have the game hitting the table more often may be higher. Easy setup, and the investigators are ready. There is no need to deck-build beforehand — nor the need to create a resource pool whatsoever. 

Speaking of the Cthulhu chronicle in Roll for Great Old Ones, I do admire how well the theme gets embed with the gameplay. Nevertheless, when peering solely to the play through, we have to admit that this game can actually carry any background story. That does not mean David did a bad job, though. We still feel a decent storytelling throughout the game. To argue whether its recital is strong enough to leave an impression in terms of theme is, however, something we cannot grant. Pretty understandable, though. In the end, I do personally think roll-and-write is a difficult media to work with for this campaign and scenario-binding game.

Final thoughts

I cannot say much about the final production quality, since we only played with the print-and-play prototype. The artwork, nonetheless, is superb. We are a fan of Daniel Jamie Williams’ piece from Hunting Me, Hunting You. It is nice to see his deed again in other games. 

Roll for Great Old Ones is an option to a more approachable mechanic in a co-operative game that carries HP Lovecraft’s legacy. The gameplay is enjoyable for a larger audience. Despite your fate being subjected to the roll of dice, it does not necessarily mean luck plays the focal role in the whole spree. This feels more like dice management. The investigators decide which kind of blood-curding revelations would resolve according to the available dice, usually the mildest among the worst.

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