H.P. Lovecraft's story "The Call of Cthulhu" begins with an accidental discovery and ends with a monstrous entity and inevitable doom.  Lost in R'lyeh from Atlas Games puts the players into this story, working to get rid of all their cards so everyone but one person can win -- or, as the rules put it, "You cannot win in Lost in R'lyeh.  But one player will lose -- the last player remaining when all the others have gotten rid of their cards and made good their escape."

At the start of the game, each player gets a face-down hand of cards, then five face-up cards (called Escape cards).  The player then picks a card from their hand and puts it face down next to the Escape card; this is the Ultimate Escape card and will be the last card played.
On each player's turn they can play either Horror cards or an Event card to a stack at the center of play.  Horror cards are numbered 1-10 and can only be played if their number if equal to or greater than the top Horror card on the stack.  (The exception is ark Cult's Voodoo Rite, which requires the next Horror card be lower than a certain number.)  A player can play multiple copies of the same numbered card at once, and they can have special effects (like taking another turn or Banishing (removing from the game) the stack).  Event cards are played one at a time and can always be played.  After a player plays their cards, they draw back up from the Draw Pile of cards to the starting hand size.  If a player can't play any cards, they have to take all the cards from the stack into their hand.  While this seems bad (giving a player more cards to get rid of), it can be beneficial by giving a player numerous multiple copies of Horror cards.

When the Draw pile is empty, players try to play all the cards from their hand.  When those cards are gone, a player takes one face-up Escape card into their hand and plays it.  And when those are all gone, the player puts their Ultimate Escape card in their hand -- and if they can play it and not get more cards, they've escaped and won (or at least not lost).  And the last player with cards is the game's loser.

Lost in R'lyeh is fairly simple and pretty enjoyable.  The gameplay is both simple and complex, as players try to jettison their cards while sometimes grabbing the stack to get a lot more cards and a lot more options.  The card names and art reflect "The Call of Cthulhu" well -- you get a good feel for the story if you read the Horror cards from 1-10 -- and the game plays pretty quickly, as cards are played and removed from the game.  And the metal tin is a nice touch!  There's a lot to like when getting Lost in R'lyeh.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

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