When one thinks of things that go together, "slack" and "Lovecraftian horror" do not often come to mind. Yet the funny, twisted people have merged the two unlikely elements of goofing off and eldritch horror in Chez Cthulhu, the latest in their "Chez" line of games.
Each player is a roommate, with a randomly determined job (from Dog Walker to Street Corner Shouter). Jobs have Free Time (how many actions a person can take each turn), Income (to buy Things), Slack Goal (how much Slack a player needs to win), and special bonuses. Turns are the same as in the previous "Chez" games. A player rolls a die to try and call people who give Slack into their room, send people worth zero Slack (and with negative elements) to other roommates, and rolls to try and send bad people out of their room and into that of a roommate. Players then use their Free Time to shop (buying Stuff up to their Income for that turn) or pursue activities -- both of which can give Slack. And, of course, other players can use cards to counter your activities.
So what's different in Chez Cthulhu? The new rule is: Madness! Some cards give Madness tokens; these initially detract from your total Slack, but if you get enough Madness you go Stark Raving Mad -- and further Madness tokens are added to your Slack! The types of cards are also a combination of horror and humor, from the numerous Sacrifice and tentacle cards to the card names (Indescribably Horrible Nookie, Unspeakable Manifestation) to the flavor text (Miniature Golf: "Two golfers enter, one golfer leaves!"). You can mix Chez Cthulhu with the other "Chez" games, but it'll be easy to tell which cards are from this one.
Chez Cthulhu is a lot of fun. While gameplay is extremely similar to the past "Chez" games, the Lovecraftian flavor is a surprisingly good fit -- helped greatly by the goofy artwork from John Kovalic. Chez Cthulhu is a nice beer and pretzels game: pretty simple, easy to learn, quick to play, a good light time for friends (who preferably have read H.P. Lovecraft). You don't have to be Stark Raving Mad to get enough Slack before your roommates do -- but it helps!
Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch