As someone who spends a good chunk of their time “meditating on my goal of earthly knowledge” and “studying esoteric philosophies”, I’m excited to see that digital board game Cultist Simulator will offer me the chance to do both. It’s an upcoming game from Alexis Kennedy, the former creative director at Failbetter who worked on Fallen London and Sunless Sea. Cultist Simulator starts you off living a normal humdrum life, then sends you off into a dark world of perverse rituals and unspeakable terrors. Just like games journalism, then.
As the trailer below reveals, you can delve into that world on May 31st.
To be more specific, you:
“Play as a seeker after unholy mysteries, in a 1920s-themed setting of hidden gods and secret histories. Perhaps you’re looking for knowledge, or power, or beauty, or revenge. Perhaps you just want the colours beneath the skin of the world.”
The marketing blurb also calls it a “roguelike narrative card game”, which has me intrigued despite the obvious differences between this and Slay the Spire. I’m not sure I’m completely sold on that minimalist UI, though there some neat touches like that eye on the “reason” deck that occasionally winks at you. Wait, is it winking when you only have one eye and close it, or blinking? One of the “unholy mysteries” you’ll have to solve, perhaps.
It reminds me of the board game Arkham Horror, and not purely because of the shared Lovecraftian theme. Both takes on surviving in a world of cosmic horrors seem to involve a tension between atmosphere and fiddly numberwang. It’s a set up that I can see falling apart without consistently good writing and a strong commitment to tying every mechanic into the theme, though Alex Kennedy has already shown he’s a dab hand at that kind of thing. I’ve already spotted one card that demonstrates exactly what I think is needed: “Despair is the wolf that devours thought. (You can defeat despair by feeding it contentment, otherwise it will destroy you when it reaches 3 dread or injury)”.