I have looked upon all the universe has to hold of horror – which basically means I’ve played a lot of Cthulhu board games. There’s something about H.P. Lovecraft’s sleepy, tentacled elder god, and he’s beloved by tabletop hobbyists everywhere. Even if you’ve not read Lovecraft’s work, you probably love Cthulhu for his great selection of cosmic horror board games.
We’ve selected the best board games the mythos has to offer. Whether you’re looking for the best card games, tabletop RPGs, or co-op board games in this genre, we’ve got plenty of R’lyeh to wgah’nagl your fhtagn. Beyond lies board games so brilliant they’re maddening.
These are the best Cthulhu board games:
- Arkham Horror: The Card Game
- Eldritch Horror
- Elder Sign
- Call of Cthulhu RPG
Arkham Horror: The Card Game
The Arkham Horror board game series is the first place my mind goes when I think of Cthulhu. Fantasy Flight’s Arkham Horror: The Card Game is one of the more compact ways to meet Cthulhu. Don’t be fooled, though; within the relatively small box, there’s plenty of depth and complexity.
Arkham Horror: The Card Game can be played single-player or with up to four players working together. You’ll each play an investigator with a unique deck of cards, and you’ll be working to complete a scenario, uncovering clues and battling any eldritch nonsense the game throws your way.
Like most Cthulhu board games, Arkham Horror: The Card Game can be fairly challenging. Investigators are mere mortals with squishy minds, and sometimes fate deals you a harsh hand. The challenge is addictive though, and even when you fail, you’ll scurry back to the drawing board with fresh resolve and deck ideas. There are also plenty of expansions waiting in the depths, ready for when you’ve worn the starter campaign out.
Eldritch Horror is another branch in the Arkham Horror board game family tree. The core concept will be very familiar to you. In this co-op board game for one to eight players, a group of investigators band together to solve arcane mysteries and defeat cosmic horrors, all while a ticking clock counts down to some eldritch apocalypse.
In Eldritch Horror, this scenario goes global. You’ll be hopping from continent to continent to close portals and hopefully stop Cthulhu from destroying the world.
Eldritch Horror relies heavily on luck-based rolls, and the cost of failure is often steep. This might make the game frustrating for fans of crunchy, seamless strategy. However, the highs and lows of the game are thrilling if you’re willing to put your sanity in the hands of the dice.
Think of Elder Sign as the baby sibling of the Arkham Horror board game family. While you’re still hunting for clues and creatures to combat, it’s got a much smaller board (and runtime) than Arkham Horror and Eldritch Horror. The setting is also scaled down: this time, you’ll be confined to a single museum, closing rifts in dimensions to stop the appearance of an elder god.
Elder Signs are quite literally the name of the game, as you’ll need to collect a certain amount to seal Cthulhu and his cronies away. It’s another cooperative dice-rolling experience that’s heavy on theme and atmosphere. Many people don’t rate Elder Sign as the best of the Arkham Horror bunch, but it will be one of the kindest options for your purse.
Call of Cthulhu RPG
While this technically isn’t a board game, you can’t talk about Cthulhu games without mentioning the Call of Cthulhu tabletop RPG. First released in 1981, this remains a staple of the TTRPG hobby – particularly if you’re a lover of mystery and intrigue.
If you liked the splash of roleplaying found in games like the Arkham Horror card game, Call of Cthulhu lets you explore that further. You create your very own investigator, and you’ll find yourself thrown into H.P. Lovecraft’s most ghoulish settings and stories.
Bear in mind, this isn’t Dungeons and Dragons. Characters are puny humans going up against unknowable horrors. There are no magic spells to save the day; only your wits will keep your body and brain intact. Generally, that means avoiding certain-death combat wherever you can.