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The popular fascination with Lovecraftian horror continues to spread its tentacles in every direction. In addition to Cthulhu-knit caps and comics, some of the best Lovecraftiana has come out of the world of gaming, whether as card games, story-rich board games, or extended expeditions through Arkham. The new H.P. Lovecraft's Kingsport Festival game from Italian game-makers Stratelibri brings together the great depth of world-building for which Lovecraft was known and a powerful, yet easy-to-learn, worker-placement system. Kingsport Festival is published in English through Passport Game Studios.

The basic mechanics of Kingsport Festival borrow from another of creator Andrea Chiarvesio's games, Kingsburg, a dice-placement game that adds an element of chance to the typical worker-placement style. In the beginning phase of each round, players roll dice to determine turn order. From these dice, players also gain numbers on each die that may be used for the “invocation phase,” where the dice are placed on the 20 elder god cards circling the main board. Each god, from Nephren Ka the Black Pharaoh to Azathoth (with fan-favorite Cthulhu of course making an appearance), is numbered. Players may pool their dice to invoke the more powerful gods or they may spread them out, using small numbers to pick up several different positions. Based on the player's choice and strategy, the gods give great and powerful resource-rewards.

After the dice are managed, players then manage their resources to spread their wicked ways. Many Lovecraftian horror games have players working to defeat the great evil or at least to stave it off for a short human lifetime. In Kingsport Festival, the goal is to become the most powerful cultist by borrowing that power from these shadowy immortals. While other games may offer the same “good to be bad” style, none goes into as much depth as Kingsport Festival.

As the game progresses, players not only manage resources but enjoy the richness of creating a story-world, setting Kingsport Festival above many other games that may have a fun and challenging system, or a great deal of theme, but rarely both. Cultists are actively building their power, competing with each other, while non-player Investigators appear periodically to fight the growing evil (and hopefully fail). The cards and instruction book give detailed information about the characters, helping to fill the minds fans of the mythos, both new and long-time. None of the theme elements get in the way of the solid gameplay, which has one of the smoothest and lowest learning curves of any resource management game.

KingsportgameThe game continues through 12 rounds of increasing power for the players and trials by tougher and tougher Investigators. Players assemble spells, strength, and money, and must be careful not to lose their own minds in the shuffle. At the game's end, the player with the most points is the winner. Scenario cards may be added to the game to give a sense of setting for the festival and a special bonus, making each game a little different and requiring another angle of thought and strategy. This greatly increases replayability both in theme and strategy.

H.P. Lovecraft's Kingsport Festival is a game for three to five players aged 13 and up. It is a moderately long game, usually requiring about 90 minutes, depending on how long players ponder their actions. With its time-tested system and innovative dynamics, Kingsport Festival is a perfect balance of Euro-style logic and the storytelling power of theme-styled games.
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