Cthulhu Wars from Petersen Games - Boardgameimage © Petersen Games

Article updated: 2017.07.03

The Cthulhu Wars - Core Game v1 is a board game from Petersen Games, set in the universe of Cthulhu Mythos (the setting of the H. P. Lovecraft stories).

The Cthulhu Wars base set v1 received an updated version in 2017, the Cthulhu Wars base set v2, also called Cthulhu Wars: Onslaught Two.

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Board game base set: Cthulhu Wars base set v1, Product name: Cthulhu Wars - Core Game v1, Set type: Board game base set (Game base set), Product code: CW, System: Cthulhu Wars, Series: Cthulhu Mythos, Miniatures Range: Cthulhu Wars (Modern Fantasy), Company: Petersen Games, Production: 2015-2016 (out of production)
Designer: Sandy Petersen
Style: Miniatures

Range: Cthulhu Wars (Modern Fantasy), Species: Various, Scale: 1:56 (28mm / 32mm), Proportions: Realistic, Size: Various, Material: Soft plastic, Priming: Not necessary
Assembly: One-piece, Sprueless, No cutting required, Posing: Medium, Paintjob: Unpainted, Base: Integral scenic base, Sculptor: Various (Fenris Games)
Features: Various

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Contents - Cthulhu Wars - Core Game v1


Cthulhu Wars from Petersen Games - Boardgameimage © Petersen Games Cthulhu Wars from Petersen Games - Boardgameimage © Petersen Games Cthulhu Wars from Petersen Games - Boardgameimage © Petersen Games
Cthulhu Wars from Petersen Games - Boardgameimage © Petersen Games Cthulhu Wars from Petersen Games - Boardgameimage © Petersen Games Cthulhu Wars from Petersen Games - Boardgameimage © Petersen Games

Full-Color Rulebook
Player Hint Cards (4)
Huge Map Boards of Earth (2)
Faction-specific Markers (8)
Ritual of Annihilation Tracks (3)
Doom Track
Six-sided Dice (20)
Faction Cards (4)
Ritual of Annihilation Marker
First Player Token
Spell Books (24)
Desecration Markers (12)
Gate Markers (24)
Elder Sign Chits (36)

Contents - Miniatures

Cthulhu Wars from Petersen Games - Boardgameimage © Petersen Games Cthulhu Wars from Petersen Games - Boardgameimage © Petersen Games
Cthulhu Wars from Petersen Games - Boardgameimage © Petersen Games Cthulhu Wars from Petersen Games - Boardgameimage © Petersen Games

64x High-Quality Plastic Figures:

24x Acolyte Cultist : 6x for every faction

Black Goat faction (red)

1x Daughter of Shub-Niggurath

3x Dark Young

2x Ghoul

4x Fungi from Yuggoth

6x Acolyte Cultist (red)

Crawling Chaos faction (blue)

1x Nyarlathotep

2x Hunting Horror

3x Nightgaunt v1

3x Flying Polyp

6x Acolyte Cultist (blue)

Cthulhu faction (green)

1x Starspawn

2x Starspawn Larva

2x Shoggoth

4x Deep One

6x Acolyte Cultist (green)

Yellow Sign faction (yellow)

1x Hastur v1

1x The King in Yellow

4x Byakhee

6x Undead

6x Acolyte Cultist (yellow)

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Review - Cthulhu Wars - Core Game v1

Opening the box

The box is thick, it protects the game during shipping, and when you carry the game around. The box is full of quality content. Everything is huge and sturdy, except the spellbook cards, but those have to fit on the faction sheet.

The huge miniatures are put into the box insert. The others are put under the insert in plastic bags. Every miniature is looks different, and if there would be some similarities (for example the flying polyp and the shoggoth), the coloured plastic makes it easy to recognise them. Putting the minis back under the insert can be problematic, and if they slide in a wrong place, it can damage the mini, if you close the box and put something heavy on it. I ditched the insert, others put back everything upside down in the box top, pour the minis into the back of the insert, then put the bottom of the box on.

The website contents show a coin-like Doom marker, while in my box there was an extra power marker instead for each faction. I think the 2 power markers were included in the Kickstarter version, while the retail version has a distinct Doom marker. The coin works better on the Doom Track, as you can stack them easier, so that's an improvement.

The two halves of the two-sided map provides setup options for 2, 3, 4 or 5 player games. For 4-player games you can choose which side you'll use, so there's some variety in setup.

The four factions included in the game provide totally different gameplay.

The tokens and spellbooks fit back into the box. Getting the minis back is problematic though, so in the end I ended up using a smaller box to hold the cardboard parts, and a bag to hold the minis.

Reading the rulebook

The rulebook is nice and fully illustrated.

You can download the Cthulhu Wars Rulebook Omega Edition for free, that is an improved and updated version of the ruleset included in the Core Game box.

Text: The text is easy to read. I think the language is easy to understand even for those who've learnt English as a second language.

Setting: The setting gets in the mood of the Cthulhu Mythos stories, but I think it mostly builds on previous knowledge.

Rules: The rules look easy to follow and I've felt I understand most of them for the first read-through, or at least I'll know where to look them up. There were some cases though when during play we couldn't find the specific rule we were looking for, especially as I had the original rulebook, while the players read the online rulebook, that has a different layout and editing.

Although the rules are easy, the faction information on the faction sheet and spellbook cards can be overwhelming. Don't be frightened, start your game, and everything will become clear. The rulebook itself doesn't prepare you for the experience, but I can't decide whether it's an adventage or a mistake.

Information: While I can't be sure but I suppose the rules give you everything you need to know about playing Cthulhu Wars, without the need to know further wargames.

First play

Getting the players ready for their first play is not as easy as it seems. Although the rules are really easy, and there are only a couple of action a player can take (move, create gate, summon, attack), due to their unique faction rules, practically every player their own game. So after you've explained the players how to play one faction, you need to do that for every single one that exists in their game, unless they belong to the fraction of gamers who prefer to learn the game by playing it, and try to best the system through experience.

When you play your first game, without explanation about your faction gameplay, read your own faction abilities, check what your Great Old One can do. When you decide what should you do, try to achieve your spellbook requirements. That way you can't go wrong. For example, if you play Cthulhu, you need gates in the ocean, so build some, or try to get others build their own gates in ocean areas.

For your first play I also recommend drawing spells instead of choosing them. Reading all the spells and choosing can lead to decision paralysis. If you draw a spell that's no use to you at the moment, you can aim to go for the missing requirement.

I have to admit, that my own first play was somewhat chaotic - I had to remember my own faction abiliies and spells, while trying to gain the victory points, and that was enough for me, so  couldn't really remember what the other factions did. However, after a few games, you can memorise enough so you can actually concentrate on your strategies.

Who will need this product?

I think everyone who enjoys boardgames or wargames will like Cthulhu Wars, unless the theme of the game (demonic apocalypse) is against their tastes.

If you are into miniature games, or miniature wargames, the sheer amount of plastic miniatures can be enough to convince you to get the box.

Gamist players: They will enjoy the complexity of the game.

Narrativist players: If you play the game to the end, you might get a complete story. However, for narrativist tastes the game is somewhat lacking in depth. I think adding flavour text about events to the Doom Track or the Ritual of Annihilation Track would improve the game a lot for narrativist tastes.

Simulationist players: I don't think this game provides a realistic simulaton of a Mythos apocalypse. However, if you accept that the simulation is based on the ruleset, you can enjoy this.

Immersionist players: If you can get into the mindset that you lead a Mythos cult, bent on destroying the world, you won't have any problems. There are no rules in Cthulhu Wars (at least in the core game) that would break the immersion.


The gameplay is so unique, I recommend everyone to play a game of Cthulhu Wars to experience it. It is similar to chess as the basic rules are easy to learn, but closer to collectable card games (or Loka), as every faction will create a totally unique way to play the game.

Possible uses

Rules: For role-playing settings, I'm pretty sure you can create the history of your own imaginary world using the Cthuhu Wars rules, if you substitute the names of the gods.

Miniatures: As they fit other 1:56 scale (28mm / 32mm) miniatures, you can use them in other games. Achtung Cthulhu comes to my mind, but Petersen Games recommends it for the Pathfinder RPG.

Map: The map can be used for area based wargames, similar to Risk.

Possible improvements

Tokens instead of minis: As the rules are really genial, but the price of the minis makes the game extremely expensive, using tokens instead of plastic minis would make the game more affordable.

Further thoughts

I recommend to keep the everything that belongs to a faction (miniatures, spellbooks, tokens) in a separate bag. That way it will be easier to sort them for setting the game up.

The insert is so thick and heavy I got it out of the box so it would be easier to carry the game around. Another problem was that the miniatures would fit under the insert, but it was not easy to set them up in a way that would work. So removing the insert is the easiest way. I've heard that the second version of the game has an improved insert.

Some of my players complained that they've felt the dice are too small, but I think they are fine, they just feel small compared to the large components. However, if you can spend the money for the box, getting some dice that fits the factions better would be a nice addition. 15-20 dice for each faction will be enough. Petersen Games produces the Battle Dice, that shows Pain and Kill results, but from the looks, it's similar in size to the originals.

Although you can paint the miniatures, the coloured plastic helps you see their faction, while their original paint schemes don't. If you paint the minis, leaving the base in the original colour is a good idea. Also, I recommend to paint some parts of every mini with their faction colour, even if they don't have that colour originally. For example, paint the shoggoths with green eyes, the fungi from Yuggoth with red wings, the byakhee with yellow thorax, and so on. That way it will be easier to see which mini belongs to which player.

As Cthulhu Wars provided me an experience I didn't feel before, I recommend for everyone to give it a try. Although you might think you understand the basic concepts, the complexity and the enjoyment that comes from that gets realised while playing the game. From just looking at others playing it I don't think you might really get the game.


Risk: The game is similar in that several factions try to achieve their goals to win the game, and both game uses miniatures instead of tokens. Cthulhu Wars is better in every single way, but the random goal mechanic could be used from Risk if you start to get bored by your generic Cthulhu Wars games.

God War from Petersen Games: Basically Cthulhu Wars with a fantasy retheme, set on the world of Glorantha, from the Runequest RPG.

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Resources - Cthulhu Wars - Core Game v1


Petersen Games: Cthulhu Wars: Official page.

Petersen Games: Cthulhu Wars - Core Game: Official page.



Content overview

Lordnine: Cthulhu Wars (Board game) Season 2: Review article about the contents of the Cthulhu Wars boardgame, with size comparison photos. 


Antonios S (for RPGnet): Review of Cthulhu Wars: Compensated review article, based on playtest. The reviewer received a complimentary copy to review.

Michael Langlois: Cthulhu Wars - A Look at the Entire Beast: Review article about the Core Game, the Windwalker, The Sleeper, the Opener of the Way factions, and the Primeval and Yuggoth maps.

Rules overview




Play strategy & tactics

Cthulhu Wars Strategy Wikia: Strategy article collection.


Lost Minis Wiki: Cthulhu Wars: Database article about the Cthulhu Wars concept art.

Lordnine: Cthulhu Wars (Board game) Season 2: Review article about the contents of the Cthulhu Wars boardgame, with size comparison photos. 

phf (from Heroes of the Age): Cthulhu Wars! On Tékumel???: Comparison article with size comparison photos of Cthulhu Wars miniatures.

Ralph's Little World: Cthulhu Wars: Contents overview article about the miniatures.

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Buying the product - Cthulhu Wars - Core Game v1

Base price (Cthulhu Wars base set v1): 200 USD (188 EUR / 158 GBP), Price/model: ca. 3 USD (3 Euro / 2,3 GBP) if you need the other components

Petersen Games: Cthulhu Wars - Core Game: Official page.

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Do you have the Cthulhu Wars - Core Game v1 boardgame from Petersen Games? How do you like it? Would you recommend it to others? Tell your opinion in the comments!


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