An Occultist-Doctor Duo in Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu

October 2, 2020 | Sessions | 2 comments

Fight back the forces of evil unleashed by the Old Ones with a unique cast of characters in Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu.

A single loss wasn’t enough to deter me! I reset Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu in order to protect the small towns of this diabolical evil. Although other characters could enter the fray, I stuck with my original duo. The occultist and doctor could definitely succeed at this! Right? The cards were reshuffled as darkness descended onto my game table…

Game Overview

Game Name: Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu
Publication Year:
 Matt Leacock and Chuck D. Yager
 F. Jordan, A. Kanaani, P. Kluka, and C. Quilliams
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game (Cooperative)

These miniatures need no introduction! Actually, I dove right in. Sealing 4 gates was a challenge, as was managing the cultists and Shoggoths. Then there was sanity to keep track of… It wasn’t exactly heartwarming to run into some of these monsters at night! So began another attempt at pulling off the victory before gloom settled on all.

A Troubling Situation in the Town of Arkham with Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu

Color Contrast

This game is definitely near the top of my list of quality designs. The map is beautifully detailed with colors that stand out. It’s certainly dark, yet not hard to read.

Having the Cthulhu miniatures in a bright blue might seem odd, yet it gives them an almost eerie glow. Nice!

All of the Old Ones start facedown. A very subtle arch is formed that adds just the right touch to the game board. It actually gives it a slightly “off” feeling, which is perfect.

As expected, things took a turn for the worse with my fantastic lack of experience. Cthulhu showed up. Again!

Taking a Look at the Entire World of Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu

Into the Swamp

Time for another StoryWorld card! With a clearly labeled swamp near Dunwich, I knew just what I wanted to show.

Fun with photography! This actually gave the illusion that the car’s headlights lit up the left side of the map. Or so I thought… It was fun to set this one up, if nothing else!

On the subject of details, this map is worth examining up close. It depicts the major areas of each town, complete with glowing streetlights to guide the way. But to where?

I’m actually very pleased I found a way to incorporate this card. It’s very specific, after all. Quagmires are rarities!

Into the Quaking Quagmire or Swamp in Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu

Beyond Sanity

Teddy! Though only known as “Doctor” I gave him a name last time, and it’s going to stick around. Unfortunately, that was more than could be said for his sanity.

Indeed… Teddy went insane. Between the Old Ones and an influx of Shoggoths, there was no way to keep it together.

As usual, though, Teddy wasn’t completely out of it! He held all the clues to seal the gate in Arkham. Just like that, he awoke in the hospital back to his usual self.

On a side note, I like this way of returning a character to sanity. It makes sense, at least to me, and is strategic.

A Sudden Loss of Sanity for the Good Doctor in Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu

On the Count of Three

So close! Even after Teddy’s brush with insanity and fast recovery, the area still fell. But I made a lot of progress, going from 1 to 3 closed gates. Not too shabby!

This is often my usual path. Most games, save for a few, take time to master. Even labeling a play as decent can be a slow process, though that’s what I love about solo games.

It’s about experimenting with strategies, trying out new paths, and learning from suboptimal choices.

There are definitely better strategies when it comes to succeeding here. Clearly, I needed a reset like Teddy!

Nearing Victory with a Single Open Gate in Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu

A Selection of Relics

Special abilities come about in the form of relics. Several of these are mixed in the main deck, while defeating a Shoggoth is a surefire way to gain a new one!

These are tricky resources, though. For most of them, just using the relic requires a sanity roll. It comes down to the risk: Is the benefit worth possibly going insane? Maybe.

The Song of Kadath came out during the play when Teddy went insane. His sanity was a contentious point!

Only a few of these may be seen during a single play, so it’s never guaranteed what will happen. It’s all in the draw.

Finding Ways to Use Relics for Progress in Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu

Closing in on the Gates

I knew I could do it if I tried again. With 3 of 4 gates sealed, this duo was on fire! Well, not literally… I feel like that’s probably not a good thing around Cthulhu cultists!

It all came down to Innsmouth. The occultist had nearly all of the required clues. This was it! I could sense victory.

The only slight sticking point was her location. She was in Arkham, but far away from the bus station. It would have to be a journey on foot through the throngs of cultists.

Teddy did his part by defeating as many of them as he could. This kept the supply in good shape. Almost there…

Collecting Almost All of the Final Clues to Win in Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu

Session Overview

Play Number: 2-4
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game (Cooperative)
Play Details: Introductory Difficulty Level
Required Play Space: 32″ x 24″
Setup Time: 5 Minutes
Play Time: 15-20 Minutes per Play
Outcome: 3 Losses

Oh, come on! The penultimate Old One turned out to be the worst. Cultists were already swarming the map, though I had it under control. Except for this scenario. So very close, but Cthulhu won again! How terribly rude.

Running Out of Cultists at the Last Hour in Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu


1 Play


Price & Value



Challenges & Mechanics



Design & Theme



Components & Rules



Achievement & Enjoyment



Distinctness & Randomness


+ Pros (Positives)

  • The striking contrast between the map and Cthulhu miniatures is excellent, allowing everything to almost glow.
  • Each turn has a very simple sequence of play so that the real thought can be put into executing a strategy.
  • Overall variability is excellent with plenty of characters, relics, and Old Ones to make interesting combinations.
  • Horror is presented in a relatively tame way that isn’t too scary for those who might be sensitive to it (like me).
  • Play time is well under the 30-minute mark for a complete victory and is often much quicker for failed attempts.
  • The included insert has a designated place for everything and allows for neat storage in between plays.

– Cons (Negatives)

  • Some of the Old Ones seem to be more powerful and can wreak immediate havoc on the current situation.
  • Keeping track of active effects, particularly from the Old Ones, can be a little easy to overlook at times.
  • The cards are beautifully illustrated and of decent quality, yet the dark borders chip easily to show wear quickly.
  • Some of the areas can get a bit congested with cultists, though experience makes it easy to find the routes.

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Continue the Conversation

How well have you done in Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu? Do you have a preferred character or team? As much as I would love to fight off this wave of darkness, I do believe that my game table will play host to something else. There are plenty of spooky games to play during this solo game marathon I have going on all during October! But I may return here…


  1. I could certainly see Doctor and Occultist having a sort of Scully-and-Mulder dynamic going on. (Does that date me? Probably.)

    One of the things I like about these Pandemic: X games is that you can see how the Pandemicness has been fitted into a new theme…

    • If a Mulder and Scully reference dates you, then I’m right there with you! I might try to think up some actual duos the next time I play. Thanks for the idea!

      And it really is interesting to see how the system has evolved. Although I haven’t played all of the games, I’m always fascinated to see the changes and re-themes. Not all of the games work equally well, yet it’s really impressive to see how it continues to evolve over time. Very neat stuff!


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