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Only the Library Committee Can Save Us In This New Cthulhu Kickstarter

Only the Library Committee Can Save Us In This New Cthulhu Kickstarter

Each week here at Geek & Sundry we take a look at new and upcoming exciting titles on Kickstarter! This week’s Kickstarter of the week is  Miskatonic University: The Restricted Collection which as of this writing is fully funded having raised over $75K.

Something abominable stalks the streets of Arkham, Massachusetts, and it is up to the Miskatonic University Library Committee to stop it.

In Miskatonic University: The Restricted Collection, you take on the role of brave (or foolish?) academics scouring the stacks of the eponymous restricted collection in search of forbidden knowledge which will banish said loathsome horror back to its non-Euclidean dimension of origin. But the stacks contain terrors of their own, which endanger not the body but the mind. Which committee member’s sanity can sustain the discovery of the unutterable and Stygian secrets of the restricted collection?

A return to board games

Chaosium is one of the grand and hoary corporations of the gaming world. The company started out making board games, such as White Bear, Red Moon, before moving into role-playing games like RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu, but the company ceased production of all board games in the 1990s. Last year, Chaosium plunged back into the board game market with Khan of Khans, the greatest game about stealing cows produced since the dawn of the industrial revolution. The game was designed by Reiner Knizia, a genius of game design and titan of industry whose games you likely already have lining your closet shelves.


Chaosium again tapped Knizia to be lead designer for The Restricted Collection, but the company’s connections with Knizia go back farther than that. Chaosium president, Rick Meints helped produce a game co-authored by Knizia entitled Hollywood Lives, a party game of movie creation. Meints met Knizia in the flesh at the Origins Game Fair in 2004, where Hollywood Lives made its debut. According to Chaosium’s board games line editor, Susan O’Brien, Meints’s experience with Knizia went far beyond a simple handshake in the dealers’ hall. She said, “Not only did Rick… bunk in Reiner’s hotel suite, but when Reiner couldn’t fit some of the awards he won at the convention in his luggage, he left them with Rick for safe-keeping. (And Rick’s still got them!)”

Mechanics of Saving Arkham

In an exclusive interview with Geek & Sundry, Reiner Knizia said about designing game mechanics:

“Games are a mirror of our times. In order to be attractive and enjoyable for the players, the games must be relevant in today’s world. Consequently, the mechanisms of the games also need reflect the higher energy and drive of our times – and the shorter attention span, and possibly the small screen size which seem to limit some people’s field of awareness… In the end, the mechanism, the components and the theme of the game need to melt together into one natural whole that offers a very intuitive game play. None of these elements can be seen or developed in isolation.”

The mechanics created by Knizia for The Restricted Collection carry these ideas about game design into practice. During the game, players pick up cards that represent their exploration of the Restricted Collection. They discover either pieces of a sigil, fragments of a grimoire of spells, or graduate students wandering the darkened stacks. The sigil and fragments are needed to expel the monstrosity that is plaguing Arkham. But if in your explorations, you turn the same card up twice, you have learned secrets it was not within humanity’s ken to know, and you run fleeing from the library, dropping everything you found (And losing all your cards!) in the process. Defense cards, and graduate students, are your only defense against this horrid fate.

The game consists of five rounds of scouring the library, and the player who brings out the most useful items and knowledge (represented by a score) wins the game and saves Arkham.

Susan O’Brien pointed out that the mechanics of the game emulate the core of one of Chaosium’s flagship products, Call of Cthulhu. She said:  

“One of [the game’s] most important themes is pushing your luck as you go deeper, seeking to learn and understand forbidden mysteries at risk of your sanity and your soul. We wanted to emulate that experience in a board game, and as a designer, Reiner Knizia certainly knows a thing or two about pushing your luck. Where better to seek secret wisdom than a library, especially the library at Miskatonic University?”

Knizia’s Advice for the Designers of Today

Lastly, in our exclusive interview, Geek & Sundry asked Knizia what advice he would give any of our readers thinking about designing their own board game. He replied:

“Hemmingway once so fittingly said, ‘In order to write, you need to live.’ I believe this also applies to developing games and their mechanisms. The best way to discover relevant mechanism is to go through today’s world with open eyes to experience what processes and feelings resonate with the players today, and to use this as a starting point for the development… which then advances in a step-by-step iterative process to a hopefully perfect product like Miskatonic University.”

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You can check out Knizia’s “perfect product” on Kickstarter now – a mere $25 gets you a copy of the game, and a PDF granting backers a BA in medieval metaphysics from Miskatonic Universtiy.

What games do you think have the most cutting-edge mechanics? Let us know in the comments below!

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All images courtesy Chaosium.

Ben Riggs speaks five languages and has lived in four countries on three continents, but still manages to lose his keys in the bathroom. A friend to man, animal, and werewolf alike, you can discover more of Ben’s thoughts on game, the universe, and everything on Twitter, or on the Plot Points podcast. you can read his novel about the only good orc here.


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