Tabletop University Play Report: Innsmouth Escape

The week of February 14th we celebrated Anti-Valentine’s Day by playing Lovecraft-themed games with our group at Tabletop University. The main feature was Innsmouth Escape, with tag-alongs Unspeakable Words and Cthulhu Fluxx.

The story of Innsmouth Escape goes like this… A group of students and teachers, who are on a field trip touring New England, get lost in the town of Innsmouth. They have been kidnapped, and are being held captive by the fish-like monsters of the town, the Deep Ones, who plan on sacrificing the students to their god, Dagon. However, one of the students escapes and runs around Innsmouth searching for weapons and attempting to rescue her friends without getting captured and killed. The Deep Ones are in pursuit and may summon Shoggoths to assist in the student’s re-capture. It’s a monster-ridden game of hide-and-seek!

The student wins if she has rescued captives worth 8 victory points and makes it to the western or southern edge of the board. The Deep Ones win if they inflict enough wounds to kill the Student, which is a different number based on the number of players.

The Deep One Players for Game 1 were:

  • Dom (yellow)
  • Thane (red)
  • Jeff (green)
  • Abi (blue)

The Crazy, Terrified-yet-Brave Escapee and Student:

  • Candace

The student plans secret movements on the grid trying to reach locations that will allow her to draw captive, equipment and/or encounter cards. The equipment and encounter cards benefit the student by allowing her to use weapons, jump to an adjacent space or blow up deep ones with explosives, plus other such wonderful things. The captive cards represent fellow students who have been rescued; they add to the victory point values needed for the student to win, but some of the captive cards may also force the student to place Deep One pawns on her space. Combat ensures, and combat often results in wounds.

The Deep Ones are trying to anticipate the student’s moves in order to catch and kill her. Deep One pawns may move up to 2 spaces each. There are spawning pits to allow more Deep Ones to join the hunt. There are also locations that allow Deep Ones to draw cards to make capturing the student easier. These include The Ritual of Becoming, which increases all Deep Ones’ attack rolls by 1 after a sacrifice of 10 Deep Ones has been made, and The Jagged Teeth,which infests the shoreline and penalizes the student if she ever finishes her movement in that column of the grid. Both of these cards, played in succession, led to my unfortunate demise.

There, I’ve already said it: the student did not survive this game. Thane (red pawns) kept spawning Deep Ones in alarming numbers and was then able to sacrifice them for some awesome perks. As the student, I needed to get to the Shoreline to look for more items, so I immediately took 3 damage, which combined with the damage I already had suffered to make me a sitting duck. During the combat phase, I was ripped to shreds.

All of this, without even mentioning the Shoggoths… Each player may move 3 of their Deep Ones to a Shoggoth-summoning location on the grid, then sacrifice those 3 pawns to bring forth their one and only Shoggoth. Shoggoths can only move one space each turn, but they can’t be damaged or destroyed by the student, deal 3 damage to the student if she is ever unfortunate enough to be in the same space, and prohibit the student from purposely passing through and ending movement on their location. They’re kind of nasty. The game feels kind of stacked against the Student, if you know what I’m saying?!?

It’s enough to drive a person insane….

The Deep One Players for Game 2 were:

  • Jake (red)
  • Jeff (green)
  • Abi (blue)
  • Candace (yellow)

The Crazy, Terrified-yet-Brave Escapee and Student was:

  • Dom

Dom gave us a run for our money! He had a plan in mind. He was ready-and-rearin’ to go, however; he kept choosing the wrong location tokens for his planned movements… In the case where the student chooses a location on the grid, but either the location tokens are incorrect OR the movement cards do not lead directly to that location, the Student does not get to move at all for that turn. Shaking my head…

It was a really good game of cat-and-mouse, with our Deep Ones multiplying and swarming the grid while the student ducked for cover, surfacing only for the briefest of moments to grab a weapon or rescue a captive. The Deep Ones loved The Jagged Teeth card so much that from the start of the game, Jeff made it his goal to accumulate enough pawns and keep them alive to play the card once it was drawn. Once more, the shoreline became infested and would henceforth cause an instant 3 wounds to the human player if he dared search, hide out or do anything at all in column F. Dom was in column F, and had technically already planned his secret movement to another location BEFORE the infestation took place, HOWEVER; Dom didn’t plan his movements carefully enough; his cards didn’t lead directly to his location, which meant…. that he wasn’t able to make his movement that turn, which meant…. that Dom was still hiding out in Column F, which meant…. that the Deep Ones sought him out, dealt 3 devastating wounds, and ended his life.

This game may seem a bit lackluster in its color scheme and art work, and it may also seem like it’s simplistic, as if it was a game that got pushed out the door before realizing its full potential. That was an assumption one of the players suggested. But despite all of that, I really enjoy playing this game! If you like hide-and-seek, cat-and-mouse games, this is a Lovecraftian version of those. It is very challenging to play the lonely human student on a board full of monsters, planning secret movements and trying your best to fight or evade the beasts that lurk around each corner. It’s a lot of fun to be on the team of “bad guys” hunting down your prey. While the rules and mechanics are simple, they still provide for a fun time on game night!

Gregg and Sam played the Call of Cthulhu word game Unspeakable Words. This is a very simple game to play, and it is perfect if you enjoy games like Scrabble and UpWords where you are rewarded for coming up with the best-spelled word using the letters in your hand. Each letter card is given a numerical value, as with the games previously mentioned. The first player to earn 100 points wins!

But in Unspeakable Words, there is a twist: Each time you finish spelling a word, you must roll for a sanity check. If your roll is equal to or higher than the numerical value of the word you just spelled, you are sane and continue on! If you roll less than that value, you lose a bit of your sanity and must return one of your 5 cthulhu pawns to the box. Once you are down to only 1, you have gone insane… you may spell any made-up word you’d like using the letters in your hand. It’s always customary to explain what your fictitious word is, for instance, I know that a plufg is a clogged drain, but other players may not know that! The freedom to make big-point plays tempting, but the insane player still has to roll for sanity, and if their last cthulhu pawn is lost, the player is out of the game.

It’s a fun, light party game with a great theme! We had to bring it along for our Lovecraft night!

Last but not least, the famed game of “Draw One, Play One!” This time, with a Cthulhu theme!

Gregg and Kelly got in a game of Cthulhu Fluxx while the Deep Ones were still hunting the student over at Innsmouth. It was a crazy night! If you are familiar with any Fluxx game, you know that while the game begins with a rule of Draw 1 Card, Play 1 Card, the rules can quickly change! Each player plays cards from his/her hand, changing the rules, taking actions, placing goals and trying to collect the necessary Keepers to win with those goals before someone else replaces them! At the same time, they are trying NOT to collect Creepers, since you usually can’t win with them on the table. We enjoy the Fluxx games in many of their varying themes and bring them along for party situations/theme nights because they can usually be played in a reasonable amount of time…. Tabletop University regulars, please do not mention the ill-fated, zombie-themed game of Fluxx that refused to quit and shut the game store down…. Thanks!