Mythos Mayhem: Ia, Ia, Cthulhu Fhtagn!

Cthulhu Wars: Cthulhu Rising by Richard Luong

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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 let’s get started with the game’s namesake, Great Cthulhu!


Inspired by classic Lovecraft stories like The Call of Cthulhu and The Shadow over Innsmouth, Great Cthulhu is one of the most tightly-themed of all Cthulhu Wars’ factions. This faction is the most combat-oriented and aggressive of the 4 factions in the base game, and earns Spellbooks for killing (or Devouring) enemy models in combat.

Faction Ability
Great Cthulhu’s Immortal ability has 2 effects: first, Cthulhu’s cost to Awaken drops from 10 Power to 4 (!!) after he’s been Awakened once; and second, you gain an Elder Sign each time you Awaken a Great Old One. Note the latter half of this ability applies to any Great Old One you Awaken, including independent GOOs (or by using neutral faction GOOs).

Additionally, while not a faction ability per se, Great Cthulhu is always the first player when you start the game (every Lovecraftian apocalypse should begin with the call of Cthulhu, right?), so there’s that to consider as well.

Great Cthulhu’s Units
This faction features many of Lovecraft’s most iconic aquatic beings, together in one very fight-y package. The biggest drawback is the overall low model count in the faction; many other factions have 3 or even 4 of their mid- and high-cost monsters, meaning Great Cthulhu has to make up for its lack of numbers with naked aggression and attrition of their enemies.

Great Cthulhu Units


  • 4 Deep Ones (Cost 1; Combat 1): Deep Ones may be pretty average, but they’re cheap and easy to gain thanks to the Devolve Spellbook.
  • 2 Shoggoths (Cost 2; Combat 2): Shoggoths look mediocre at first, but present a great threat with the Absorb Spellbook in play.
  • 2 Star Spawn (Cost 3; Combat 3): These “baby Cthulhus” are great battlers on their own, and become terrifyingly good with the addition of the Regenerate Spellbook.

Great Old One

  • Cthulhu (Cost 10/4; Combat 6): As befitting his reputation, Cthulhu is one of the scariest combat pieces in the game. His special ability, Devour, allows him to automatically kill one enemy model before the battle begins, and with 6 attack dice he’s statistically likely to get another all on his lonesome. Thanks to his Immortal faction ability, his Awaken cost is reduced to 4 once he’s been summoned the first time (and he gets an Elder Sign to boot!), making him a model you want to die from time to time!


Great Cthulhu’s Spellbook requirements are all pretty straightforward, focusing mainly on combat or occurring automatically in the Doom phase:

  • Pick any spellbook during the first Doom phase of the game. Also gain an Elder Sign.
  • Automatically receive a spellbook during a Doom phase in which you have 5 spellbooks. You also get an Elder Sign.
  • Kill and/or Devour an enemy unit in a single battle.
  • Kill and/or Devour 2 enemy units in a single battle (If you Kill and/or Devour 3 enemy units in a single battle you can get both)
  • EITHER Control 3 Gates in Ocean Areas OR 4 Gates Exist in Ocean Areas
  • Awaken Cthulhu

The faction’s Spellbooks are fairly standard fare, enhancing the combat prowess of your fighty monsters even more, but also equip you with some nasty tricks to generate power and steal Gates.

Absorb (Pre-Battle)
This Spellbook gives you ability to sacrifice a model to increase a Shoggoth’s Combat by 3 for the battle, making it a great counter to Great Cthulhu’s overall low model count. Aside from the big dice swing it provides in Battle, it’s a good way to free up Deep Ones for use with Devolve or Cultists for use with Dreams later in the round (see below). I find this Spellbook most useful in the mid-game, where you need to be rolling lots of dice in Battle to earn your “Kill/Devour” Spellbooks. Deep Ones and Cultists are both great Shoggoth food, as they are super-cheap to bring back into play (especially with Devolve in your arsenal!).

Devolve (Ongoing)
An essential Spellbook, Devolve lets you swap out a Cultist for a Deep One after any player has completed an action. About 90% of the time, this is the first Spellbook I take –while you might think, “Why would I want to do that?” it does in fact offer a host of advantages.

Degenerate Deep Ones

First, so long as you have a Deep One in your pool, you can always use this Spellbook to foil an opponent’s attempts to capture your Cultists; as soon an enemy Monster enters an Area with undefended Cultists, after their move is completed, Devolve a spare Cultist to a Deep One to deny them the opportunity or Devolve the Gate-controlling Cultist to a Deep One and recruit the Cultist back to the same Area. This is tremendously handy in the opening turns, especially vs. aggressive opponents.

Alternatively, you can use Devolve when you need to free up a Cultist for other hijinks, such as recruiting a Cultist in an Area on the other side of the map, or when you want to use Dreams. In a sense, this Spellbook gives you a type of perverse “teleport” for your Cultists, which happens to let you leave Deep Ones in their wake.

Dreams (Action: Cost 3)
Cthulhu’s “sniper” Spellbook lets you pick an Area with a Cultist and replace that Cultist with one from your pool. Though expensive at 3 Power, if the use of this Spellbook snags you a Gate it’s  a worthwhile investment: hitting an an Area with a Gate and a single Cultist will cause a 6 Power swing (–3 Power for the opponent due to losing Cultist + Gate, and the +3 Power to you for gaining the same).  The threat of this kind of Power shift is so high, I’ve only ever had 2 or 3 occasions to use this Spellbook during a single game (opponents tend to stop leaving single Cultists anywhere), which still accomplishes my goal of curtailing enemy expansion…and at 0 Power cost to boot!

Devolve pairs really well with this Spellbook, since when you seen an opportunity to snipe a Gate, you can simply Devolve a spare Cultist back to your pool at the end of an enemy action, then use Dreams in a later action to use that freed-up Cultist from your pool onto the Gate. Note, however, that Dreams only lets you choose an Area to replace a Cultist, not which Cultist to replace; this restriction means that you’ll probably use Dreams most in the mid to late game, when your opponents have started to spread their Cultists thin on the board.

Regenerate (Ongoing)
This Spellbook makes your Star Spawn (and anything along with them) virtually unkillable, since only 2 Kills will remove one from the map. This ability makes Star Spawn the perfect bodyguards for Cthulhu, allowing you to keep his war party small and absorbing Kills to keep the big guy in play, while also preserving your significant 3 Power investment in the Star Spawn themselves.

Regenerate also gives you a tremendous amount of control on the outcome of casualties during Battle, which can work to your advantage in a lot of ways. Say for instance you suffer a Kill and a Pain during combat – if you wanted Cthulhu to stay in the fight, you could apply both results to the Star Spawn, causing only it to retreat. Or, if you wanted Cthulhu and the Star Spawn to stick together, you could apply the Kill to the Spawn and Pain to Big C and retreat them to the same Area. Or, if you wanted an additional Elder Sign and had 4 Power laying around, you could apply the kill to Cthulhu and the Pain to the Star Spawn and respawn Cthulhu in your next action.

Cthulhu desubmerges under the King in Yellow...

Submerge (Action: Cost 1)
This Spellbook is Great Cthulhu’s “mobility” Spellbook, allowing you to remove Cthulhu and any number of models sharing an ocean Area with him from the map, then paying 1 Power to return them in any Area you want. Aside from the fact that Submerge is an incredibly fast and Power-efficient way to move Cthulhu and friends out of the southwest corner of the map for cheap, it also backstops you when Cthulhu dies in combat and needs to cross the board to fight again.

This Spellbook has a second, and perhaps equally important function, and that is its utility of a looming threat. Submerged models can stay off the board indefinitely, allowing you to dangle the threat of a Cthulhu blitzkrieg over your opponents until the time is right to strike. Much like nuclear war, the threat of mutually assured destruction to an opponent who commits to attacking you (likely leaving his or her backfield open in the process) is often a great deterrent.

Y’ha Nthlei (Ongoing)
The unpronounceable Spellbook of the faction grants you 1 Power per enemy-controlled Gate in ocean Areas while Cthulhu is in play.  This is a great Spellbook all around, but especially in the early- to mid-game, both because easy access to more Power (your opponents aren’t probably trying NOT to build in ocean Areas) and insurance against losing your own Gates (which will probably all be built in ocean Areas in the early game). If you can get this Spellbook before Turn 3 (you’ll probably have Cthulhu out on Turn 2), you’ll be in good stead for having that extra 1–2 Power you need to go on the offensive with Cthulhu.

Your opponents may try to “deny” you use of this Spellbook by not building Gates in ocean Areas; as with Dreams, this situation is also a win for you! While you may not be gaining Power, you are instead dictating opponent movement and containing their expansion…and the small size of Cthulhu Wars maps virtually guarantees that at some point, someone will have to build a Gate you will benefit from anyway.


Opening Moves (Turns 1–2)
When I play Great Cthulhu, I tend to be pretty aggressive, with the aim of getting my first Battles in before my opponents can get out their Great Old Ones or properly fortify for my attack. I try to get Cthulhu into play in the early game where very little can stand up to him, using this basic plan:

Turn 1 Actions (start with 8 Power)

  • Move 2 Cultists to North Pacific, South Atlantic, or Indian Ocean (2 Power).
  • Build a Gate (3 Power)
  • Either move 2 more Cultists to another ocean Area, then summon a Deep One at the South Pacific Gate OR recruit a High Priest, if using that expansion (3 Power)

The ocean Areas I move to in Turn 1 depend on 2 factors: which factions are in play and whether they are also combat-oriented. If using the High Priest expansion, I’d almost always choose to recruit a High Priest over moving 2 more Cultists and summoning a Deep One.

Opening turn for Great Cthulhu

Alternative play: If the group is not very aggressive or I’m isolated (say, by playing vs. Yellow Sign and Crawling Chaos in a 3 player game), I might move 1 Cultist into two different ocean Areas and have each build a Gate, setting me up to grab 12 Power in turn 2 and earning me a Spellbook for controlling Gates in 3 ocean Areas (Spellbook choice: Devolve, or Y’ha Nthlei if I’m worried about someone taking my Gates in Turn 2).

Turn 2 Actions (start with 10 Power or 11 Power with High Priest)

  • First Doom Phase (Spellbook choice: Devolve, used to convert a spare Cultist if anyone moves to capture my Cultists at ocean Gates or if I need spare Cultists in the pool for Dreams)
  • Summon Cthulhu (10 Power; Spellbook choice: Submerge; Y’ha Nthlei can be also useful if your opponents have built ocean Gates)
  • (If using High Priest only)
    • Sacrifice High Priest (+2 Power) then Submerge Cthulhu + 2-3 Cultists from South Pacific  (1 Power)
    • Emerge Cthulhu and friends on lightly or undefended Gate (1 Power)
    • Battle (1 Power; Cthulhu Devours 1 enemy model – Spellbook choice: Y’ha Nthlei or Absorb, since Shoggoths are cheap); take Gate if Area cleared (0 Power).

Mid-Game Moves (Turns 3–4)
By Turn 3, you will likely have between 10 and 12 Power and Cthulhu in play, so it’s time to go on the attack and get your hardest Spellbooks (Kill or Devour 1/2 units in Battle) if you haven’t already. Since it’s still quite early in the game, you will probably have the opportunity to attack a number of Areas on the board where the defenders may only be rolling 1 or no Combat dice, meaning that Cthulhu is largely safe from being killed, but it’s still a good idea to take at least 1 model along with him to absorb casualties. If Cthulhu happens to die during his adventures into enemy territory, he’s only 4 Power to summon again (and you get an Elder Sign to boot); however, he always starts back at South Pacific, so you don’t want to throw him away needlessly.

Ocean Gates are prime targets for in the mid-game, as you can Submerge again after battle rather than spending additional Power to move – and if you control 3 ocean Gates you will also get another Spellbook. If your opponents are wisely staying out of the ocean Areas, attacking ocean-bordered Areas are the next best bet. Remember that the Arctic Ocean (topmost Area of the core game map) borders a huge amount of Areas and is an ocean to boot, even though it doesn’t look like it!


Creatures to summon during the mid-game are Shoggoths (especially if you’re making generous use of Devolve or have good dice-luck in battle), and later Star Spawn (more expensive, but more reliable and very useful as Cthulhu bodyguards with Regenerate in the mix). Shoggoths are probably the better choice when you’re still trying to earn the Kill/Devour Spellbooks, as those rely on rolling a number of 6’s, so the more dice the better! Don’t be afraid to use your Cultists as Shoggoth-chow, either – Great Cthulhu recycles its Cultists nearly as much as Black Goat (via Dreams, Devolve, and/or Absorb), so as long as you have 1 Power to recruit the again after a Battle, there’s no reason not to take advantage.

After getting your Kill/Devour Spellbooks, the rest is pretty self-explanatory; build a third ocean Area Gate (or steal one), and get to 5 Spellbooks, both of which are perfectly achievable by the end of Turn 4. The order I would earn my Spellbooks after Devolve and Submerge, barring particular opponent decisions, is:

  • Y’ha Nthlei (Power is good)
  • Absorb (cheap critters with a huge combat potential)
  • Dreams (useful, but situational; best in the late game or when you have very expansion-minded opponents)
  • Regenerate (most useful in the late game; see below)

Late-Game Moves (Turns 5+)
The name of the late game for Great Cthulhu is “aggression.” Provided you’ve been getting Cthulhu out and about and building up your aquatic power base, you should probably have all 6 Spellbooks by the beginning of Turn 5, which, conveniently for you, makes Battle an unlimited action! You should now feel free to go on a rampage in an effort to disrupt your opponents – especially those that do not yet have their 6th Spellbook! Mutually-assured destruction is OK; even if Cthulhu dies, doing so in the pursuit of shutting out an opponent entirely from winning the game is a cost worth paying.

Cthulhu attacks!

If you’ve been letting Cthulhu die in battle, then resummoning him to get Elder Signs, consider the costs of doing so in the late game carefully. While you don’t need Cthulhu to win, if he’s dead you lose your Submerge alpha-strike, bonus Power from Y’ha Nthlei, and bonus Elder Signs when you perform a Ritual of Annihilation. Bringing Big C back and into battle also runs you at least 6 Power (4 to Awaken; 1 to Submerge; 1 to de-Submerge where you want to attack); for that sort of Power, you could move and initiate Battle 3 times. Consequently, it’s a good idea to pair Cthulhu with a Star-Spawn in the late game, as it will let you control when (and if) he dies (as noted in the Regenerate discussion above).

While you’re out waging war on every front, be sure you’re capturing Gates as often as possible, too. More Gates means more Doom and more Power, which means more battles; having the most Power gives you crack at first player for the cheapest possible Rituals of Annihilation (each of which gives you another Elder Sign). Though I’m sure you’d like to wipe your opponents from the map, the game’s most likely to end with a Ritual of Annihilation, so pull the trigger early and often to force the end of days for everyone (and hopefully squeeze slow-playing opponents out of the winner’s circle in the process)!


So concludes our run-down of the Great Cthulhu faction and its many paths to victory. Cthulhu and his soggy pals are the perfect faction if you love giving your opponents the good old Ameritrash beatdown using powerful monsters, effective Spellbooks, and the threat of utter annihilation to any who defy you.  Just remember: Big C is all about subjugation, so when in doubt, do what it takes to make the enemy bend the knee!

Next time on Mythos Mayhem, we’ll dig into Cthulhu’s favorite vict…I mean, opponent – the forces of Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat! Until then, fellow cultists!

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