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Sunday, 3 September 2017

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Cult Following: The One True Game is a storytelling game in which the Cult Leaders use random cards to create cults, potential Recruits ask them random questions about their cults and philosophies, and the Cult Leaders win the game by recruiting the most cultists. Published by Bravely Told Games following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Cult Following: The One True Game is an adult themed game for at least three players. Ideally there should be at least five players. It comes as a relatively small, square box containing some three hundred plain cards, which makes it easily portable, whilst the ease of the rules means that a game can be started without any preparation and played through inside thirty minutes.

The cards are divided into two types, both types having two options on them. The first card type is the ‘Sign’ card, which is used to create the cults. The signs on these cards include things such as ‘Social anxiety’ and ‘Everyone needs to calm down’, ‘Talking like a pirate’ and ‘Killing two birds with one stone’, and ‘Having lots of kids’ and ‘Racist Grandmothers’. The second card type is the ‘Question’ card and these are put to the Cult Leaders. Typical questions include ‘Why won’t the cult on your right last the week?’ and ‘Describe the radical wing of your cult.’, ‘What ceremonies do children have in your cult?’ and ‘Where do you see your cult in five years?’, and ‘Explain how the “buddy system” work in your cult.’ and ‘What do your cult members look forward to?’.

A round begins by dividing the players into Cult Leaders and Recruits. There should be three Cult Leaders, but with just three players, there should only be two Cult Leaders. Each Cult Leader receives five Sign cards, whilst the Recruits each receive two Question cards. Then each Cult Leader reads the Signs and selects three of them around which he will create a background about his cult. Each Cult Leader presents this background with as my style and flourish as he can muster. Once done, the Recruits take in turns to pose a Question from their Question cards which the Cult Leaders must answer. Once they have finished, the Recruits selects their favourite answers and presents their Question cards to the successful Cult Leader of their choice. Once one Cult Leader has accrued two Question cards, the round ends, everyone changes roles, and a new round begins.  Throughout, both Cult Leaders and Recruits are expected to heckle and interject to add some energy to the recruiting drive. The game ends after an agreed number rounds, a time limit has been reached, and so on, at which time, well, the game is not exactly sure who has won—though perhaps it is the player who has won the most Question cards wins.

For example, Louise, Dave, and Alex are playing Cult Following: The One True Game. Louise and Dave will be the Cult Leaders attempting to recruit Alex.

Louise has the following Signs cards: 

  • ‘The lesser of two evils’ and ‘Angry seniors’
  • ‘Tight fitting clothing’ and ‘It gets better’
  • ‘Happily ever after’ and ‘Tavern wenches’
  • ‘A very special rock’ and ‘Legal in twelve states’
  • ‘Looking on the bright side’ and ‘They’re not really dead’

 Dave has the following Signs cards: 

  • ‘The pointlessness of it all’ and ‘Willful ignorance’
  • ‘Never admitting you’re wrong’ and ‘Well, this explains everything’
  • ‘Fish people’ and ‘We don’t care’
  • ‘Violent video games’ and ‘Halloween candy’
  • ‘Nap time’ and ‘Abandonment issues’

 Louise reads the Signs and explains, “As society seems to be getting worse, there is only one group to blame—‘Angry seniors’. They are responsible for the bad things that happen because politicians are either ‘Angry seniors’ or they only listen to them. We say ignore them and wait until the time when you can transmogrify into one of the ‘Angry seniors’. Then you will have the influence and power. Until then, there is something that you can worship who will bring you happiness and make you forgot your cares—‘Tavern wenches’. Worshipping as a member of ‘The cult of she who brings you beer’ ensures that you will be ‘Looking on the bright side’ until you are ready to join the ‘Angry seniors’.”

Dave reads the Signs and explains, “The end is nigh. We are not sure how and we are not sure why. We are sure that it is. Until the time when it is nigh, we want to shield you all from the ‘The pointlessness of it all’ through ‘Willful ignorance’ and ‘Nap time’. By ensuring a plentiful supply of both, we can keep you from worrying and wondering… The ‘Cult of the pointlessness of it all’ is here to protect you from knowing too much.”

Having heard the descriptions Alex has two Question cards: 

  • ‘Why doesn’t my cat like your cult?’ and ‘New cults are full of passion. Describe the middle aged version of your cult.’
  • ‘What behaviours clearly identify your cult members?’ and ‘How does your cult stay on good terms with groups that have different values?’

 Alex is a cat lover and so asks, “Why doesn’t my cat like your cult?”

Louise answers, “Probably because our members are too busy worshipping Tavern wenches to remember to feed and water them.” Dave explains that, “Cats know that the end is nigh and resent us hiding it from their human servants. They want to be the ones that induce ‘Nap time’ in humans and keep them in ‘Wilful ignorance’.  Taking a moment to think about the answers, Alex decides that she would rather be recruited by a cult that does some of the tasks that cats do rather than one which neglects them. She decides that The ‘Cult of the pointlessness of it all’ is the better choice and awards Dave with the Question card.

Physically, Cult Following: The One True Game is a square box containing some three hundred odd cards and a small rulebook. The latter is a quick and easy read and contains both advice and options for game variants. The cards themselves are plain and simple and easy to read. A nice touch is that the box does include six Practice Cults, extra cards that provide fully worded example cults that a player could use if he new to this type of game or shy.

As a game, Cult Following: The One True Game is a bit too simplistic and underwhelming. The lack of an objective in terms of winning the game points to that, but… As a social game and a storytelling game, Cult Following: The One True Game is pleasingly themed, with a decent variety given in the Question cards and even more in the Signs cards to generate ideas and stories and interactions between Cult Leaders and Recruits. This capacity for storytelling combined with the spurs for player creativity in the cards is where Cult Following: The One True Game shines and what it makes a good social game.