Interview: Cthulhu Wars Creator Sandy Petersen

frontier wars 728x90 KS

Few things simultaneously strike as much terror in the hearts of sane men and glee in the minds of sci-fi fantasy fans as great Cthulhu, sleeping in his underwater tomb of R’lyeh. Similarly, few things strike as much glee in the hearts and minds of wargame and boardgame fans as lavishly detailed, large scale, and high-quality miniatures tromping across a map. Well, Sandy Peterson, design director and front man of Green Eye Games has a project that intends merge the terror and fanatic reverence of the Old Ones with the hardcore world of table top miniatures. This project, Cthulhu Wars, has just recently been added to Kickstarter and is poised to be a huge success. I’ve tracked down Sandy Petersen in his eldritch lair and, communicating through dark magiks, was able to ask him a few questions.


Son of Montfort, Senior Boardgaming Editor for GrogHeads (GH): Thanks, Sandy for agreeing to talk with us about your exciting new project. Many fans will instantly recognize your name as the author of the original Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game. But you have been absent from the world of tabletops and pen & paper for quite some time. Could you tell us a little about the pedigree of you and your team and why you decided to return to your “Great Old” roots with a game set in the Cthulhu Mythos?

Sandy Petersen (SP): Well, I will be frank. I had decided that I would have to return to the digital gaming world, take a salary, and henceforth work for other people, on their projects.  Cthulhu Wars was going to be my swan song – my last-ever venture into Cthulhu for tabletop gaming. I got together with Rob Atkins and Rich Luong, as partners and artists to put this together. Our plan was to create a fun little game that would become a cash cow to give us all an income stream on the side. I had already accepted a job offer to begin working making iPhone games for a foreign-based firm.

Instead of a swan song, Cthulhu Wars turned out to be my phoenix! The game has been so phenomenally popular, clearly a lot of other people love it. Instead of this being my last-ever Cthulhu venture, Rob, Rich, and I are forging Green Eye Games and planning for whole new realms of add-ons, expansions, and eventually whole new games.

GH: When I think about the subject matter and style of Cthulhu Wars, which basically involves the battle for the ruined Earth in the aftermath of the return of the Old Ones, I ask myself why nobody had tried this earlier! It seems such an obvious fit! Your Kickstarter page draws similarities to Fantasy Flight’s Chaos in the Old World, something I noticed immediately for the ability to play unfathomably evil characters. What were your inspirations in designing Cthulhu Wars and what makes Cthulhu Wars stand out as something new and unique?

SP: Well, actually in my own roleplaying campaigns, a theme I have returned to several times was the World after the Outer Gods return. And of course if you look at other Lovecraft-themed games, almost all of them are about the threat of such a return. So for me, it seemed like a natural to give players ALL of the cool toys at their command. My main inspirations for Cthulhu Wars were other multiplayer games I love, such as Mare Nostrum, Eclipse, Twilight Imperium, Chaos in the Old World, and so forth. The Power system from Chaos I particularly liked for what I was considering, so I pretty much stole it outright (thanks, Eric Lang!), but then modified to suit my needs.

I’m not sure if this is a “theme” but I really wanted super-high quality components, and 28mm scale figures. If this was going to be my “last ever Cthulhu game” it was going to be my legacy. Now, of course, it seems like it is the first in a long series, but it is good to set the bar high in any case.

cthulhu wars june 19 2013 stretch goals

GH: Many of our readers are huge fans of wargames that involve miniatures and quite a few are avid painters and collectors. These proposed miniatures in Cthulhu Wars are not only fantastic looking, they are also huge! Why did you choose this scale of miniatures and how do you feel having such high quality models adds to the game? Do you anticipate your fans will use the miniatures in other games or during role playing?

SP: I chose this scale of miniature pure and simple because I like borrowing models from one game to use in another, particularly in my roleplaying campaigns. With 28mm scale figures, I can use the Cthulhu Wars in Call of Cthulhu itself, plus other games. Since, in effect, I was making this game to please myself, I did it my way. But it looks like it resonates with lots of other people too. So yes, I imagine more than one team in a game of Descent will round a corner of the dungeon to be confronted with a Dark Young using homebrew rules.

GH: Kickstarter has become quite a phenomenon, bringing forward projects that would have likely never seen the light of day otherwise. Why did you choose Kickstarter and what advantages do you see Kickstarter presenting for both developers and publishing as well as the fans and investors?

SP: In the case of boardgames, few game companies accept outside designs for publication, even by authors as well-known as I. This was simply a much better way to fund the production and printing of the game, to get it into stores. Frankly I have always been more popular with fans than publishers and CEOs, so this way I was able to get in touch with the people who like what I do best.

GH: Clearly, with the size and complexity of the Cthulhu Mythos, there is no shortage of material for future expansions and additions. In fact, you already have quite a number of expansions planned. What do you see as the future of Cthulhu Wars and what is your final vision for the game, years down the road?

SP:  The final vision? That sounds so … apocalyptic. I guess what I am seeing right now (and remember, the Kickstarter is out only a week, so we are still getting our head around it) is perhaps trying to follow the Arkham Horror model –  a core game, accompanied by some large, and some small expansions, continuing over time.

GH: In my opinion, it would be fair to say that the factions in Cthulhu Wars are asymmetric or at least that they all have unique and different strategies and methods to attain victory. Can you discuss some of the differences of the main four “starter” factions and how these differences help guide players’ strategies? Why do you feel that the asymmetric faction mechanic is stronger or more interesting than having balanced and equal sides?

SP: In the first place, I really like asymmetric games. In my time at Ensemble Studios, I spent almost all of my time ensuring that the various civilizations portrayed would play differently, with different strategies and tactics. I wanted this for Cthulhu Wars, and felt that this was my chance to REALLY make the factions stand out.  On to the starter factions.

In brief, Cthulhu is a combat powerhouse. His monsters are more effective in battle than the others, and their speciai abilities directly add to their strength. Wherever Cthulhu’s main force shows up, nothing can stop him. But he can’t be strong everywhere, and the fact that he has fewer monsters means that he is easy to weaken by picking him off along the edges. He is one of the most straightforward factions. He tends to get a lot of Doom points, but many fewer Elder Signs than the others.

cthulhu wars june 19 2013 Great Cthulhu

Crawling Chaos is an opportunist, who preys upon the weak and helpless. His monsters and spellbooks are mostly designed for easy defense, so he is protected against minor raids. On the other hand, he has weaker against a major assault. Nyarlathotep in person is quite strong – usually rolling more Battle dice than any other Great Old One, but he is costly to summon, and must have a guard of protectors to keep him safe.

Black Goat is all about control, consolidation, and infestation. Unlike the other factions, she tends to stay in one geographic area, slowly enlarging over time. None of her spellbooks are combat-oriented. Instead, they enable her to mess with the other players from a distance, by “remote control” as it were. Her faction is also very focused on creative ways of eliminating her own Cultists, for which she receives various rewards. She is hard to stamp out, because she is resilient. You can wipe out an entire nest of her units, only to see her replace them all on the very next Action.

cthulhu wars june 19 2013 Black Goat

Yellow Sign follows his own insane pattern. The King in Yellow comes out early, and begins to wander around the map, desecrating lands as he goes. The King himself is useless in Battle (his Combat is 0), but still has the rights and prerogatives of any Great Old One. Yellow Sign has several ways of taking two actions in a row, which no one else can do, and of moving lots of units at once. He has more monsters than anyone else, and they are mostly spawned for free. He is not particularly combat-oriented, but as one of my testers described him, “He can’t dish it out, but he sure can take it!” In battle his swarms of weak crappy monsters often prove an insurmountable barrier. Hastur is usually the last Great Old One to make an appearance, and his ability to easily kill other Great Old Ones and bounce around the map make him an absolute terror to the other factions.

GH: How long does it take to play an average game of Cthulhu Wars? How “heavy” is the game’s complexity?

SP: At CthulhuCon, I ran 5 games in 9 hours, and between each game I explained the rules to a fresh group of new players. At NTRPGCon I ran 8 games in about 14 hours, and we took breaks between each game, and, again, I had to explain the rules again each time. So I think that 90 minutes is typical for a 4 player game. These players were all new, which might have slowed down play time because they had to ask questions, but on the other hand, advanced players are more prone to consider before taking a move. I guess it’s a wash.

cthulhu wars june 19 2013 Gaming Table

GH: Your Kickstarter project was funded in less than 48 hours and has blown through the stretch goals in a matter of days. How do you feel about the success of the project? What does this success mean for the publishing of the game and the end result that will reach the fans?

SP: Well, I think my feelings about this are well-described in the first question. The main thing it means for the fans is that we will be able to invest in absolutely luxury components. This is going to be an extremely classy game that no one will be abashed to pull out on game night.

GH: When can fans expect Cthulhu Wars to be released? Kickstarter projects are notorious for their many delays and production glitches. Do you feel confident in your time table?

SP: This is Green Eye Games’ first product, so it is possible we are either grossly over- or under-estimating how long things will take, but we are guessing December for the main game’s release, and Q1 for the first group of expansions.

GH: It must feel good to return to the scene with such fan response. Can you comment about what possible future projects you see after Cthulhu Wars? Should fans expect to see a new edition of the Call of Cthulhu RPG in the works (and interviewer can dream, right)?

SP: Call of Cthulhu is owned by my friends at Chaosium, and in fact a new 7th edition of it is being funded right now on Kickstarter! Go back it for them! We are currently in the process of envisioning lots of other possible projects, throwing around ideas like a co-op Cthulhu Wars type game, in which we still play the monsters, but we are trying to return from the void. Sort of a “prequel” to Cthulhu Wars. We have also talked about other games using the same basic game system, but set in other realms.


GH: Thanks Sandy for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our summons. For now we will release you to your sunken lair, only to return when the stars are right and Cthulhu Wars has been released!

The Cthulhu Wars Kickstarter page, where people can see the game in action and preview the rules, can be found here:

Chat about it below, or in our forums, or hit our FaceBook page >>

2 Responses to Interview: Cthulhu Wars Creator Sandy Petersen

  1. KS Update39 says:

    […] You can see it here […]

  2. […] Petersen, the brains behind Cthulhu Wars, is back with another supernatural smack-down.  Theomachy pits the multiverse of gods against each […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *