NOTE: this game has been discontinued. Find similar games here: Unusual TCGs.
Necronomicon Redux is a solitaire strategy card game set in the horror setting of H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, where you’ll manage a deck full of Investigators, Monsters, Curses and Spells. The deck is random and you must place cards onto the board as they come out, dealing with both the positive and negative cards appropriately in order to defeat the dark forces that come at you continually.
As a single-player-only game, Necronomicon Redux sets out to offer a slightly different experience than most strategy card games. It’s quite different from a lot of TCGs/CCGs, but obviously draws upon the genre for inspiration with its gameplay mechanics.
So what do I make of this strange and bizarre card game of horror and evil? Read on to find out…
Necronomicon Redux is truly solitaire because there is not even an enemy AI to play against: you are playing against yourself, with a deck full of positive and negative cards. You draw cards one at a time and you must place the card somewhere: either on the board, or into the graveyard or side slot for later use (but not all cards let you do this, some force you to play them, such as Monsters).
The board is made up of two rows of 5 slots – your row and the Monster row. When you draw a Monster card, you must place it in an empty slot in the Monster row. If there is an Investigator opposite it, it will automatically trigger combat. If not, it will stay there until this happens.
Investigators are your characters. You play them to the field and attempt to increase their stats with buff cards: Allies, Weapons, Spells and so on. The key thing here is that Investigators can only have one of each kind of card equipped to them and this can not be replaced later on, so it’s important to pair up the right cards together. Curses will take away stats from your cards, yet you have no choice but to play them onto an empty slot or an Investigator.
Combat should ideally occur when you know you have the best chances at winning (including automatic wins due to double-highest stats), but sometimes it’s unavoidable given the order of cards coming out of the deck. Each Investigator has two main stats: Defense and Sanity. They also are assigned a polyhedral die (dice with multiple sides, sometimes more than the usual 6-sided die) which is their base attack value.
When a Monster and Investigator clash, the game looks at their two stats: if either of them has both stats higher than the other, it automatically wins the fight. If one stat is equal or higher, but the other isn’t, it will initiate the dice rolling attack. The Investigator and Monster then roll their base die (d6 or d10 and so on), the Investigator adds any modifiers from attached cards, and then the higher number wins (while Investigators win on ties).
The victory and loss conditions are this: if you have 5 Investigators on the board, you win on the 3rd successful draw of an Investigator. If there are 5 Monsters on the field, each Monster drawn will damage the Cthulhu seal in the bottom corner, and on the 3rd point of damage you lose the game, presumably unleashing the forces of darkness to destroy the world and everything in it because you were too weak to stop it. (Good job.)
Yes, this all sounds extremely random, and at first it really is because you don’t understand much of what you’re doing. It takes a lot of time learning the system and playing it repeatedly before it all starts to click: the strategy of what to place and where. By that point though, you may have already got bored with it and turned it off because this game is very, very hard. You lose a lot to randomness and that will upset a lot of people. I really enjoy it – I see the difficulty as realistic, just as it would be difficult facing off against dark, occult forces and shadowy cultists around every corner.
Modes and Features
Since the scope of Necronomicon Redux is to offer a strong single-player experience, there is no multiplayer mode. Unfortunately, there isn’t really anything like a campaign, either: you simply play the game over and over, unlocking new cards for the deck as you win matches against the game. This does provide some slightly different gameplay over time, since the new cards added to the deck modify gameplay a bit, but it isn’t drastic enough to change the way the game is played.
There is a very long but helpful rulebook, and it’s worth reading through all of it (dry as it is) because otherwise you will feel completely lost when playing the main game.
The only other addition to the game is an expansion for purchase in the game’s store, providing a small set of cards which are automatically added to the draw deck. It adds some cards which have an interesting new mechanic (Puzzle cards which need to be played onto the right Investigator card, which then “creates” a new card with positive effects for you to use) but I would only recommend getting this if you enjoy the game so much that you want more of the same.
Since the draw deck in Necronomicon Redux comes out completely randomly, the strategy of the game comes down to resource management of your helpful cards while mitigating the damage of negative draws. Investigators usually should not be paired up with a Monster straight away, as they are weakest without any of the buff cards they need to be stronger. Try to put them on an empty slot and use the right kinds of Allies, Weapons and so on to increase their stats enough that they have a chance at fighting most Monsters you can put in front of them.
Cycling through your graveyard and the slot next to it is a way to “store” cards that you want to keep for later, such as helpful Allies and Weapons. It’s not always good to put these straight onto an empty slot as soon as you get them, because you don’t know what kind of Investigator will end up paired with it. Sometimes the Investigator needs a different kind of buff to the one you placed onto that square, which may lead to wasting both the Investigator and the buff card to a nasty Monster.
Ideally, you want to build up an Investigator whose Defense and Sanity is so high, it automatically defeats most Monsters you throw in front of it. This will give you the time and resources needed to build up all of your other Investigators to be strong enough as well. There is no such thing as a perfect Investigator that defeats everything, however, and you’ll come across Monsters that get to roll a d20 for an attack which you just can’t match even with all of the strongest buff cards. In that case, all you can do is throw the dice and hope they land the way you want them to.
I really like Necronomicon Redux, and I want to give it a higher score than I have, but I can’t justify it given how much the randomness of the draw deck is extremely frustrating. I know that this is likely the point of the game, and that it’s supposed to be quite difficult, but when the order of cards coming out of the deck is so consistently bad for you as the player, it makes you feel like nothing you did otherwise could have helped the situation. So many Curses and Monsters in a row with no viable way to set up any Investigators that can get strong enough to deal with them will often have me banging my head against the wall, resetting the game just to have better luck with the deck.
Every so often, I manage to get a game where things seem to go a bit better and I know it’s because I’ve made the right choices as a player. It’s great when it happens, but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule, and that’s where I think this game ultimately falls down: there aren’t enough meaningful choices given to you to be able to make this feel skill-based. I love a lot of the mechanics here, especially the way the stats work in regards to combat, but if Monsters and Curses come out first and block up the board then you don’t have much of a chance at playing any Investigators that can take care of them without Allies and Weapons to help them out.
Nevertheless, after enough games, you start to get “better” at managing the randomness, and that’s where I feel the skill of this game lies: when you play it so much that you come to know intimately all the cards, their stats, what they’re capable of, and where you should play them to. It is only once you’ve reached this point (probably after countless frustrating, non-enjoyable games) that you’ll start to see where this game is brilliantly clever and admire the puzzle it throws at you. I’m afraid that by this point, though, it’s probably already lost you as an interested player by making you work so hard to even reach the first enjoyable experience with it.
Make no mistake, this game is very hard, and you will lose a lot, especially at first. However, if you’re willing to push yourself through that to get to a point where you intimately understand this game, you just might have a brilliant time with it. Like all dark, occult, secret mysteries… power is given to those who are the most patient and the most persistent. Is that you? You’ll have to find out. There certainly isn’t anything else like it out there right now.
For more screenshots, click here.
NOTE: this game has been discontinued. Find similar games here: Unusual TCGs.
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