Mythos Mayhem: Getting Your (Black) Goat

Shub-Niggurath visits the city.

Hello again, fellow Cultists, and welcome back to Mythos Mayhem, our series of articles breaking down strategies and gameplay in Petersen Games’ Cthulhu Wars! Now that we’ve talked about the gameplay basics and general strategies for every faction, let’s get down to the heart of the game – the factions. As an asymmetrical strategy game, each of Cthulhu Wars factions has its own unique units, Spellbooks, objectives, and strategies for world domination, so this week let’s dig into the faithful of Lovecraft’s ancient fertility goddess, Black Goat!

THE BLACK GOAT FACTION

The forces of Black Goat play a lot like a virus: they start out building concentrated forces as an acute infection of a small area, then gradually spread out to infect the map. Inoculating against Black Goat is quite difficult – while the faction is not fast (in fact, it’s the slowest of all the core factions), failing to rout its forces only guarantees they will return almost immediately in the same or even greater numbers. While not nearly as aggressive as Great Cthulhu or Opener of the Way, the red faction’s high model count and cheap units means it excels at wars of attrition, bogging attackers down in bodies until the cost of an assault becomes too high.

Faction Ability
Black Goat’s Fertility Cult lets you summon as many monsters you wish, from as many Gates as you wish, with a single action. Not only does this represent the core of what Shub-Niggurath means in the Mythos, it also is a powerful tool for defending against and repelling the inevitable attacks from factions like Great Cthulhu and Crawling Chaos. When combined with The Thousand Young Spellbook, you’ll be able to instantly fortify newly-captured Gates and build excellent defenses quickly for very little Power. Note, however, this only applies to monsters, and not Cultists (which are recruited, not summoned).

Black Goat’s Units
Black Goat dispenses with simple combat effectiveness of Great Cthulhu’s monsters and  the tricks of Crawling Chaos or Yellow Sign which help them zip around the map. Instead, the faction’s monsters and Great Old One are deeply synergistic; The Thousand Young reduces monsters’ costs while Shub-Niggurath is in play, and Shub-Niggurath grows more powerful when Cultists or certain monsters are on the map.  Understanding how and when to exploit that synergy is the key of getting the most out of the faction.

Black Goat Units Lineup

Monsters

  • 2 Ghouls (Cost: 1; Combat 0): The “red weenies” are mainly good as Cultist protection and meat shields but become real pests to everyone once you have The Thousand Young and Necrophagy Spellbooks (see below).
  • 4 Fungi from Yuggoth (Cost: 2; Combat 1): Mi-Go are the most middling of the Black Goat critters, but with a little luck and Ghroth they can prove supremely annoying brain snatchers.
  • 3 Dark Young (Cost: 3; Combat 2): Mother’s favorite children are also your best monsters, both good at combat and essentially super-Cultists once you get The Red Sign Spellbook.

Great Old One

  • Shub-Niggurath (Cost: 8; Combat 0–18+): Shub-Niggurath is a central part of any good Black Goat strategy; the faction’s two best Spellbooks, The Thousand Young and Blood Sacrifice, require her to be in play.  Fortunately, she draws strength from her “family” – her Combat dice are equal to the number of Cultists and Gates (and Dark Young, with The Red Sign Spellbook) she has on the map at a time. Her Avatar ability which allows her to exchange Areas with an enemy Cultist or monster, letting her be a bully running down poor Cultists at lightly-defended Gates in the early game, and a valuable defender running to the defense of her brood when an enemy attacks in the late game.

Two Bad Muthas
One neutral Great Old One is a great pal to Black Goat – Mother Hydra! The main reason is her Spellbook, Zygote – its requirement is that at least one player has no GOOs in Ocean Areas (easy), and it allows you to return all your Cultists from your pool to the map for just 1 Power! This is tremendously useful for the faction, considering that Black Goat churns Cultists frequently (via Blood Sacrifice, summoning Shub-Niggurath, to get a Spellbook, or by using them in combat with Frenzy) and Cultists brought into play via Zygote anywhere you’ve got friendly units – setting you up to grab Spellbooks for occupying Areas or sharing Areas with enemies incredibly easily. If the Cultists die as a result, no big…just Zygote them back into play later on!

Mother Hydra

BLACK GOAT’S SPELLBOOKS

Black Goat earns Spellbooks for spreading its cult around the map, making them among the easiest of all factions to earn. Spellbook requirements include:

  • Have units in 4 areas.
  • Have units in 6 areas.
  • Have units in 8 areas.
  • As your sole action in a round, eliminate 2 of your Cultists.
  • Share areas with all enemies
  • Awaken Shub-Niggurath

As you can see, these Spellbook requirements are pretty easy. In fact, if you’re a little cagey, your opponents’ actions can earn Spellbooks for you – you might let that aggressive opponent help you earn your “Share areas with all enemies” spellbook, or use retreats from Battle to spread into different areas and get the “Have units in XX areas” Spellbooks. “Clever girl…”

It’s fortunate that Black Goat doesn’t have a hard time earning Spellbooks, since its Spellbooks is almost an embarrassment of riches. Most bring great synergy and emphasize the synergy and strengths of the faction’s units in full flower, as well as presenting a few dirty tricks. Most noticeably absent from Black Goat’s Spellbooks are abilities which make Moves cheaper or more efficient, emphasizing the faction’s nature as the game’s most “defensive” force.

Blood Sacrifice (Ongoing)
This Spellbook is the single most efficient and reliable engine for generating Elder Signs in Cthulhu Wars, allowing you to sacrifice a Cultist during the Doom phase for an Elder Sign while Shub-Niggurath is in play. Note the timing of this Spellbook: it comes after the Gather Power phase, so you’ll choosing to use this Spellbook in no way impacts your Power for the current phase. Note, however, you won’t be able to use this Spellbook until Turn 3 at the earliest, since you need your GOO in play first.

The math behind Blood Sacrifice is undeniably good. Earning 1.66 Doom (the average value of an Elder Sign) at the cost of 1 Power and an action (to recruit the Cultist) is tremendously powerful, and well below my general rule of a Doom Point being worth 2 Power (as listed in my general tactics article). This ability is best used when you’re in a defensive posture – preferably, in an Area where you have Shub or some tough monsters to recruit the sacrificed Cultist (preferably, Dark Young with Red Sign) to ensure your opponents are loathe to try and sneak in and grab an empty Gate.

Frenzy (Ongoing)
This Spellbook, which gives your Cultists a Combat of 1, is almost always the first I see most Black Goat players take. It makes sense, in a way – your Cultists become fighters as good as Fungi! However, Black Goat’s reliance on Cultists means she rarely goes on the offensive with them, and no amount of Combat dice will prevent monsters from capturing a Cultist (the most common way they’re removed from play).

Cultists using their Frenzy Spellbook

Frenzy’s best use is as an early-game deterrent to very aggressive factions like Great Cthulhu or Opener of the Way who forgo capturing and attack in order to get Spellbooks or kick off combos of their own. Having even a few dice to throw back at an attacker will cause your opponents to pause – do they really want to chance losing a 6+ Cost unit (and the turn summoning it) on the off-chance you roll a Kill? Still, having Frenzy should not encourage you to spread out your Cultists any more – you’re still vulnerable to capture even if you can attack back!

Ghroth (Action: Cost 2)
Ghroth is perhaps the least-used of Black Goat’s Spellbooks, mainly because of its dependence upon a) having a lot of the faction’s least-attractive monsters (Fungi) in play and spread out around the board, and b) good dice rolling to justify its action cost. However, its benefit – forcing your opponents to lose a number of Cultists equal to the number of Areas containing Fungi (presumably, by the Mi-Go stealing the cultists’ brains!), which you can choose yourself if they can’t agree – can be devastating with a little luck and planning.

With The Thousand Young in play, setting up a full-strength Ghroth costs as little as one action and 4 Power (by using Fertility Cult to summon all 4 Fungi from different Gates around the board), and only a dedicated counterattack can seriously undermine it. This makes the Spellbook an excellent “stick” to wave at opponents; attack me and I’ll indiscriminately attack your ability to generate Power! Ghroth is even more powerful when you have an alliance with another player, as they’ll likely disagree with any choice made by the other players, either narrowing the folks who have to lose Cultists or (if they can’t agree) granting you the ability to choose whose Cultists are removed!

No matter how you employ it, Ghroth is best used at the end of the turn, when your opponents are low on Power. This way, they are forced to break off their plans to recruit Cultists so they get Power in the next turn, or simply accept they’re getting far less Power next Turn than they may have planned. It’s also worth noting a late-turn Ghroth will also net you more Power; every empty Gate left by your opponents will give everyone 1 Power  during the next Gather Power phase…or provide you opportunities for your spread-out forces to capture them for easy Doom!

Necrophagy (Post-Battle)
The Necrophagy Spellbook grants your Ghouls the ability to move to any Area where a Battle has occurred (other than their own) and in so doing, inflict 1 additional Pain to both sides per Ghoul moved. If you’re new to Black Goat, this ability may seem superfluous – why do you want to expose your Ghouls to potential attack? – but the Spellbook can prove to be essential in getting multiple Spellbooks in addition to being one of the most obnoxious harassment abilities in the game.

Ghouls using the Necrophagy Spellbook

Typically, you use this ability to drive back attacks at near your Areas – after the results are determined, send in the Ghouls to inflict additional Pains and send both sides running…hopefully away from you! You can always use this in your own Areas as well to help your side retreat and consolidate after you’re attacked (though not recommended if playing with Crawling Chaos, thanks to that faction’s Madness Spellbook).

But the most useful application of Necrophagy is to grab Spellbooks without having to spend Power or actions. For instance, in a three player game you can easily get your “Share Areas with all enemies” Spellbook just by sending your Ghouls in after your two opponents fight! Alternatively, you can split your Ghouls up and send them into different areas to help get your Spellbooks based on getting to X number of Areas, since the movement is free and out-of-turn. Once you have Thousand Young in play, Ghouls are 0 cost, so don’t worry about losing them to attacks – all you have to do is spend an action to bring them right back to annoy everyone all over again.

The Red Sign (Ongoing)
This powerful Spellbook upgrades your Dark Young from your best monsters into “super-Cultists,” who generate Power, may control Gates, and contribute to Shub-Niggurath’s Combat score. This Spellbook makes Black Goat the only faction currently capable of generating 9 Power each turn (the upcoming Tcho-Tcho faction will likely be the second), or 10 with a High Priest in the mix!

Uses of the Red Sign are pretty obvious, though I generally recommend getting it after you get The Thousand Young, as your Dark Young get substantially cheaper in the process. I find this Spellbook most useful in the mid- to late-game when you need strong combat units and lots of Power, though it can be very good in the early game when you need to deter the inevitable attempts by your opponents to stop your expansion.

Dark Young using The Red Sign Spellbook

The Thousand Young (Ongoing)
Saving the best for last, The Thousand Young is Black Goat’s most infamous and sexy Spellbook, and with good reason – it reduces the cost of all the faction’s monsters by 1 while Shub-Niggurath is in play! When combined with Fertility Cult¸ this makes for the faithful of Shub a relentless and insuppressible force, who, as long as they have the Power on hand, can instantly recover losses from battle, making them a champion at wars of attrition.

The question is not when to have The Thousand Young in play – you obviously want it in play by the time you bring Shub into play – but how soon you want it in your arsenal. Generally, I think it should be the third Spellbook you grab, as your “Awaken Shub-Niggurath” Spellbook. Red Sign, Blood Sacrifice, or even Frenzy are all good Spellbooks to have first, to ensure you can protect your GOO and make the most of her abilities once she hits the map.

STRATEGIES FOR BLACK GOAT

Opening Moves (Turns 1–2)

Black Goat has a wealth of opening play options (as Sandy notes in his excellent Design Corner article), but there are a few rules you want to follow no matter what you choose to do:

  • Don’t overextend yourself: Even though most of the faction’s Spellbooks come through expansion, you have to be careful about overextending yourself. Black Goat can get enough Spellbooks and Power to really start punching hard in Turn 3 with just 4 Areas total – going further out than that is just inviting your enemies to capture your Cultists.
  • Don’t awaken Shub-Niggurath in the first turn: When I first started playing Cthulhu Wars, I was immediately struck by the fact I could get Shub out on the first turn if I wanted. However, in my experience this is a supremely bad idea – low cost in Power is offset by the additional loss of Cultists required…which, if done on a “shoestring budget” will stunt your growth for a turn and make you vulnerable to attack. Wait until Turn 2, because then you can afford to both bring Shub into play AND act to replace your losses or go on the offensive.
  • Don’t go on the offensive in the early game: Black Goat is not an aggressive faction (relatively, at least); it has no Spellbooks that make for cheaper movement, nor does it earn Spellbooks for winning fights. Settle for “castling” in the early game, and focus on managing your Cultists’ exposure to the enemy until you have your faction fully up and running.

Your goals in the opening game are simple: by the end of turn 1, you want to have 10 Power and at least 1 Spellbook; by the end of turn 2, you should have Shub-Niggurath in play and 2 more Spellbooks to get the faction running on all cylinders. Generally speaking, I follow one of two different strategies to fulfill these goals:

Opening Turns Option # 1 – Standard Setup
I use this strategy when playing with a group without a lot of early-game aggression. I usually avoid this strategy with veteran opponents or when there’s an aggessive Crawling Chaos player at the table, since you have only limited ability to protect your Cultists in turn 1.

Turn 1 (8 Power)

  • Move 1 Cultist to a second Area (1 Power)
  • Move 1 Cultist into a third Area (1 Power)
  • Move 1 Cultist into a fourth Area (1 Power; Spellbook choice: Frenzy)
  • Build Gate in “safest” outlying Area (3 Power)
  • Sacrifice 2 Cultists in starting Area, or in the outlying Areas if you are threatened with capture (Spellbook choice: Blood Sacrifice)
  • Recruit Cultist in starting Area (1 Power)
  • Reaction: If anyone moves onto one of your Gates, summon a Ghoul; if no one does, recruit a Cultist in the outlying Gated Area instead (1 Power)

Black Goat Turn 1 Setup

Turn 2 (10 Power, or 9 if you had to summon a Ghoul)

  • Sacrifice 2 Cultists and summon Shub-Niggurath (8 Power; Spellbook choice: The Thousand Young)
  • Summon a Ghoul in Shub’s Area (0 Power; whenever you lose a Ghoul, you can always resummon them as a delaying tactic)
  • Summon a Ghoul at your second Gate (0 Power)
  • Recruit Cultist in a non-Gated Area (1 Power)
  • (if you have Power left): Recruit Cultist at your remaining non-Gated area (1 Power)

Turn 3 Status: 8–10 Power (4–6 Cultists, 2 Gates); 4 Doom; 1 Elder Sign (from Blood Sacrifice).

Opening Turns Option #2 – Versus Aggressive Opponents

When playing against more aggressive factions like Great Cthulhu, Crawling Chaos, or an Opener who sets up next door, I switch to a strategy that uses Dark Young to blunt early attempts to attack my Power base.

Turn 1 (8 Power)

  • Sacrifice 2 Cultists (Spellbook: Red Sign)
  • Summon Dark Young at your Gate (3 Power)
  • Move Dark Young to a second Area (1 Power)
  • Build Gate in second Area (3 Power)
  • Recruit Cultist in second Area (1 Power)

Turn 1 Setup vs. Aggressive Opponents

Turn 2 (10 Power)

  • Sacrifice 2 Cultists from your starting Area and awaken Shub-Niggurath (8 Power; Spellbook choice: The Thousand Young)
  • Summon a Ghoul in Shub’s area (0 Power; whenever you lose a Ghoul to combat, resummon them as a delaying tactic)
  • Summon a Ghoul at the Dark Young’s Gate (0 Power)
  • Move 2 Cultists into third and fourth “safe” areas (2 Power; Spellbook choice: Necrophagy if opponents are Battling, Blood Sacrifice if they are not)
  • If you choose Necrophagy: When opponents attack (especially each other), use Necrophagy to send in 1 Ghoul in the hopes of getting your “Have units in 6 Areas” and/or “Share Areas with all enemies” Spellbooks.

Turn 3 Status: 8 Power (3 Cultists, 1 Dark Young, 2 Gates); 4 Doom; 1 Elder Sign if you chose Blood Sacrifice.

Mid-Game Moves (Turns 3–4)
By turn 3, you’ll likely have 8–10 Power, half your Spellbooks, Shub-Niggurath in play, and the most cost-efficient and reliable monster-and-Elder-Sign-generating machine in Cthulhu Wars up and running. While you’re likely down on Power, and a tiny bit behind in Doom, thanks to your early sacrifices of Cultists to get things rolling, you now can come roaring back and start expanding your footprint on the map to get the rest of your Spellbooks.

The first order of business is to get your Power above of the 8­–10 range, especially if you’ve started using Blood Sacrifice to keep your Doom score on par with that of your opponents. Your magic bullet here is Mother Hydra (if you’re playing with independent Great Old Ones or got her as a freebie from the first Cthulhu Wars Kickstarter) – she costs just 4 Power to awaken, and her Zygote Spellbook (which you should get automatically, if you’re not Avatar-ing Shub around the map) lets you bring all those lost Cultists back for 1 Power! That little trick alone can net you 3-4 more Power plus at least one Spellbook for just a few Power more (for having units in 6 Areas), setting you up to go on the offensive in a big way in turn 4. Build a Gate in your backfield with your remaining Power and you’re in contention to net 14+ Power and up to 3 Elder Signs the following turn (with a Ritual of Annihilation and Blood Sacrifice) – nasty!

Effective defense is key to Black Goat midgame strategy

If you are not using Mother Hydra, things will be a bit slower. Your best play is to fortify the Areas into which you’ve expanded; building a Gate nets a 2 Power/1 Doom boost in the following turn, so I’d recommend building a Gate and either summoning 3 Cultists and 2 Mi-Go (if you’ve taken Option #1 in the early game) or 2 Dark Young and 1 Cultist (if you’ve taken Option #2). That’s a 5 Power boost for turn 4 and beyond, and gives you 5 more combat dice on the board to boot.

By turn 4, you’re fully ready to go on the offensive, starting to grab enemy Gates and earn your remaining Spellbooks. Dark Young with Red Sign are huge in this role – not only do they give you a base 9 Power, they can capture and are immune to capture themselves. Getting “have units in 6 Areas” and “share Areas with all enemies” Spellbooks will become increasingly easy as the map starts to get crowded and Battles start breaking out, so you can continue to slowly and virally expand. Assuming you have The Thousand Young, Blood Sacrifice, and either Frenzy or Red Sign by mid-game, the order you’ll want your remaining Spellbooks in is:

  • Necrophagy: Your 0-cost Ghouls are essential tools for harassment and earning Spellbooks, especially if you’re not being attacked.
  • Frenzy: A big combat boost if you’ve already got Red Sign, or are making use of Mother Hydra a lot.
  • Red Sign: A big Power boost if you’ve already got Frenzy. Investing in Dark Young is a great idea to really spike both your Power and combat abilities.
  • Ghroth: Nice to have, but most useful when both you and enemy Cultists are spread out, by opening up Gates which you can capture more easily.

Late-Game Moves (Turns 5+)
Chances are going into the late game, you’ll be ahead of most of your opponents, having already earned most or all of your Spellbooks and now covering a large swath of the board in red plastic. With all Spellbooks in hand, Battle has become an unlimited action for you – but unlike Great Cthulhu, who will be using this to attack, you’ll be likely be using it to fight wars of attrition to defend your growing mass of Gates. If an opponent is bold enough to try and walk into a Gated Area, especially without all his or her Spellbooks, use Fertility Cult to summon reinforcements (with The Thousand Young discount), then counterattack! Once again, your Ghouls (with their Necrophagy work mostly done) are great 0-cost meat-shields; summon them and ensure they’re the first to take casualties for your more valuable combat units.

By the late game, your endless cycling of Cultists (other than for Blood Sacrifice) should be over, giving you up to 9 units to control Gates. If your enemies are still foolish enough to ignore the scoring threat you pose, take full advantage – use Ghroth late in the turn to clear out enemy Cultists, then move in your Dark Young/Cultists to score Power and Doom from recently-occupied Gates. You should have lots of Power from all your Gates, Cultists, and Dark Young, so don’t be afraid to perform Rituals, especially if you have 5 or more Gates – doing so will help you surge abreast of or even past your opponents!

Shub-Niggurath throws down against Hastur

Ultimately, the real challenge (and likely lynchpin) to your victory will be keeping Shub-Niggurath alive. Smart opponents are going to zero in on her to break your Blood Sacrifice/The Thousand Young Spellbooks as well as remove your biggest combat threat from the board. Even though she’ll be rolling a massive amount of dice, plan on keeping Shub near plenty of groupies to absorb casualties. You’ll want to keep all your Power for grabbing Gates rather than re-awaking her, so be prepared to use Avatar to flee to safety if you’re facing a deadly threat like Hastur, Nyarlathotep, or Cthulhu. If you can hold on and keep Big Mama alike and kicking, you have a great shot at taking the game!

MOTHER KNOWS BEST

The Black Goat faction is one of Cthulhu Wars’ most characterful factions, whose look, unit options, and playstyle all fit the fiction upon which it is based to a T. The slow, almost inevitable growth of Shub-Niggurath’s legions have the character of plague on the map – a slow, inexorable march across the board, all the while fending off its enemies’ best efforts to suppress it. If you’re a player who likes more defensively-minded forces, and who always plays the “long game,” I bet you’ll have great success heading up Black Goat.

Next time on Mythos Mayhem, I’ll be digging into the devious and underhanded forces of Nyarlathotep, Herald of the Outer Gods – the forces of Crawling Chaos! Until then, fellow cultists!

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