Cthulhu is awakening and the ancient city of R’lyeh has risen from the depths to take you up in its madness! You must use all of your cunning and guile to cling to your sanity and avoid being forever Lost in R’lyeh amidst the cyclopean ruins when Cthulhu rises…
Lost in R’lyeh is a new card game from Atlas Games in which you’re trapped in the events of H.P. Lovecraft’s famous short story “The Call of Cthulhu” trying to escape the dread city of R’lyeh, where dead Cthulhu waits dreaming, before Cthulhu awakens to end the world. Lost in R’lyeh is a light weight game in which players attempt to empty their hands by playing progressively higher rated “horror cards” or special action cards. When players play large enough sets of horror cards, they unleash dread powers that allow them to do such things as banish cards from the game, play extra cards, reverse the direction of play, dictate what cards other players may or may not play, force other players to add the discard pile to their hand, or choose which player takes their turn next. If a player can match the last set of cards played, they append the cards they have to the set and unleash an even more powerful version of those powers. When a player can’t play an equal or higher horror card or an action card they must add the discard pile to their hand, taking them farther away from escaping R’lyeh.
Each player also has a set of escape cards face up on the table in front of them and one final escape card face down; they must rid themselves of these cards to make their escape from the city of R’lyeh and its horrible, non-Euclidean architecture. Once there are no more cards available in the draw deck and their hand is empty, they must eliminate their escape cards by playing them on their turn, ultimately escaping by playing the final escape card they kept secret from the other players throughout the game. As Cthulhu is awakening to spread madness upon the world, no player can truly win–the last player to be left with cards loses the game and is lost forever within the terrible city of R’lyeh.
I demoed Lost in R’lyeh this year at Gen Con and was lucky enough to pick up a copy before it sold out. One of the first things that sold me on Lost in R’lyeh is that it’s a really great looking game. It comes in an embossed metal box and each Tarot-sized card is beautifully illustrated with scenes from “The Call of Cthulhu.” Anyone who is a fan of the classic H.P. Lovecraft tale will immediately recognize the scenes from the story. This game is positively dripping with the theme in a great way.
Lost in R’lyeh has an interesting take on the “hand discarding” class of game. As the effects of the horror cards become more powerful with the more of them you play at once, unlike many discarding games, often it’s advantageous to pick up the discard pile and add it to your hand. Also, having your escape cards face up in front of you means your opponents know what cards you will be able to play to make your escape and can attempt to block you with the cards they play.
Games of Lost in R’lyeh go quickly, so players who have managed to escape aren’t waiting around too long for those who haven’t. Players are also not out of the running up until the very end–even if you are forced to pick up a large stack of cards from the discard pile late in the game you’re not completely screwed over as the more matching cards you have, the great the powers of those cards become! The idea of there being no winners, just one loser is a fresh twist. It’s like when you’re running away from a hungry bear (or in this case, Cthulhu)–you don’t have to be the fastest runner to get away, but you don’t want to be the slowest.
Lost in R’lyeh plays up to 3 to 6 players, so it can handle game nights of most sizes. This is a lighter weight game but with plenty of strategy to keep a high replay value. When I have brought this game out at game night, the first thing everyone wanted to do upon completion of the first game was to play again. With its quick play, level of strategy, the number of players it can accommodate, and its gorgeous artwork, I can see this game quickly becoming a game night favorite.
Overall I give Lost in R’lyeh 4.5 out of 5 stars.