Pandemic Reign Of Cthulhu – When a Spin-Off surpasses the original

There’s a joke in our group saying… “slap Cthulhu on something and it becomes 100 times better.”

Not always true believe me… maybe it’s the other way; a game is successful and works so they add Cthulhu.

However a game that I’ve always had an “It’s OK” for has had it’s Cthulhu Spin Off and they have taken advantage of the change in the location to IMPROVE the formula.

And it’s not major changes either; it’s a series of small tweaks as well as the usual trappings of the Cthulhu trappings that really makes it work.

Image Sources: Board Game Geek


During the original Pandemic you have 24 tokens per colour of 4 colours which if one set ran out the game is lost.

A single group of Cultists replace the four contagions.  If all the Cultists reach the board the game is over NOT just a single contagion.

There are only  26 Cultists compared to the 4 groups of 24 cubes per contagion however and they all return to same pool when returned from any town so the reduction in Cultists doesn’t actually increase the difficulty.


In pandemic, if there are three of the same contagion on a single city, there is an outbreak and cubes are placed on adjacent cities that can create a chain reaction that will perform multiple outbreaks

Outbreaks may not trigger an explosions in Cultists, however it summons a creature for the void and this does change the game up as each monster either triggers an instant event or a permanent change to the games rules for that game-play session.

This varies from sanity rolls (see further down) to a ban on using the local bus routes.

The change in Outbreaks also reduces the amount of complex AI work and avoids a chain reaction that, for Cthulhu and the creeping horror, doesn’t actually make sense.

Clue Cards

In Pandemic you gain 2 cards every turn each with a city on it that can be used to either travel to or from the city or build a research station to cure a disease.


The best thing I believe they have linked it to the 4 towns only, this makes fast travel easier as you only required to be on a bus location and have 1 of 4 of the right coloured clue at the start or finish compared to .  At the same time the sealing zones are automatically on the board.

At the same time however there is a reason for printing the portals on the board; the Shoggoth move towards the portals at certain points so they are required on the board at all times.

So that was the minor changes however there is one major change from the original.


In this version you can be attacked directly; just like every Cthulhu game under the sun (or moon) you have a Sanity Meter.  If all the players run out of Sanity… GAME OVER.

Entering a Shoggoth location (you want to stop them as they WILL cause problems if they reach the open gates), using Ancient Relics, even outbreaks can all trigger Sanity Tests on the die provided.

However the triggers are reasonable; as such the difficulty doesn’t increase BUT it is a different type of difficulty making it more interesting.

What I believe is that the entire game flows better because of the minor changes that streamline it and the removal of some of the AI busy work.

As such I believe that the original has been surpassed and Pandemic has grown up be be the Reign of Cthulhu.

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