“The nethermost caverns,” wrote the mad Arab, “are not for the fathoming of eyes that see; for their marvels are strange and terrific.” Cursed the ground where dead thoughts live new and oddly bodied, and evil the mind that is held by no head. —H. P. Lovecraft in The FestivalIf you're an H.P. Lovecraft fan you probably recognize this quote from his short story, The Festival. The protagonist in the story finds himself unknowingly on his way to help perform a dark ritual passed down from generation to generation. Through a bit of luck, and unnerving desperation, he finds a way to escape the nightmare only to be left with disbelief the next morning.
Was it all a dream or did his comrades in the dark really mount great beasts to travel further into the unknown?
H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport Festival: The Card Game puts the player in the shoes of the cultist summoners that did not shy away from their duties that dark and dreary night. Instead, they fought off demon hunters, other summoners, and even their own sanity to bring to life some of the most iconic elder gods from Lovecraft's lore.
The objective of the game is to summon as many demons as possible before the night is over. The process starts out slow. You have one die and that has three symbols representing the resources death, evil, and destruction. What you roll will determine the demon you get to summon. From that point on with each round you slowly build up your army of demons, you can then use their abilities to roll more dice, choose a specific dice side, or even restore a bit of your sanity with each passing turn. The game offers a nice system of risk versus reward. Do you risk your last bit of sanity at the chance to acquire a more powerful demon or do you play it safe with the hunter attacking the very next round? It's these various choices that keeps the game interesting up till the very end. I have seen powerful summoners fall because they lost all of their sanity in the last few rounds. On the flip side, I have seen a desperate sanity play propel a fellow summoner to victory in the final round.
Each demon has a limited number of summons. Common summons like Shoggoth, a congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, have a card for each player while a top tier demon like Yog-Sothoth, the gurdian of the gate, will only have one. The choices you make, even early on, can dictate your strategy moving forward. Comparing these two common card for instance, Mi-Go, a fungi from Yuggoth, gives you the option to roll another dice every round and has defense against the hunter while Nightgaunt, the servant of Nodens, offers a guaranteed Death roll every turn but lacks any sort of defense.
Speaking of the hunters, these cards are supposed to be what really shakes up each game. At the start of the game you choose a hunter that you will be facing off against. The hunters each attack in different rounds from one another while also offering different challenges and rewards. There are 14 different challengers that you and your fellow summoners can face off against. Unfortunately, while these do mix up the game a little bit, it's never enough to have a major impact. Each challenge ultimately feels the same. This has kept Kingsport Festival from becoming more than a single playthrough game on the occasional game night. The quick run time does make it perfect though for those nights when you have finished a longer game but your groups isn’t ready to depart just yet.
Kingsport Festival: The Card Game does have a small learning curve for new players. Veteran gamers shouldn't have much of a challenge getting started, but newcomers might be easily confused by the convoluted instructions. If this is you, don’t fret; the developer has made this handy instructional video. Check out video 3 in the playlist below! I just wish there was a link to this in the sometimes convoluted instructions.
The best part of the game hands down is the artwork. Each card has been beautifully crafted right out of Lovecraft lore. Fans of the various stories will enjoy the time and detail put into each.
H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport Festival: The Card Game has been really hard to rate. On the one hand, I have enjoyed every game I've played. On the other, it never feels fresh so it’s not the first game I think to pull out when people are coming over. If you are looking for a fun game with some amazingly beautiful artwork to bring out when your Lovecraft friends are in town then you can’t go wrong with this game. If you are looking for something a little more diverse where you and your crew can get a bit more playtime, then you might want to take a pass on this festival.
Kingsport Festival: The Card Game takes its players deep into H.P. Lovecraft's uniquely crafted world. While you will enjoy your time there, return trips may vary depending on your tabletop crew.(Review Policy)
- Beautiful Artwork
- Intense Strategic Outcomes
- Lack of Depth