Last spring we reviewed Cult Following: The One True Game, a party game of improvised storytelling, in which some of the players are cultists trying to recruit the other players to follow them. Obviously, you should go read that review, but I’m going to go through some of the gameplay here again anyway.
There’s no hard and fast rule about how many Cultists and how many Recruits there will be in a round. Nor is there any set order or rotation to who gets to be the Cultists. In a different game, that sort of set up could have the potential to be a terrible night. But because this isn’t a game about “winning” it works. There’s a chance for everyone to interact in the way they are comfortable, and that’s great.
Cultists start by drawing five purple-backed Sign Cards. Each Sign Card has two “signs” on it, and the Cultist will choose three of those “signs”. From those three cards, the Cultist will create and describe the cult they have conceived, in as dramatic fashion as they desire.
Meanwhile, the potential Recruits draw a white-backed Question Card. Like the Sign Cards, each Question Card has two questions, and once the Cults have been pitched each Recruit may ask one question. The Cultists each get a chance to respond before the Recruit chooses which cult to join by giving that Cultist their Question Card. The Cultist with the most cards at the end wins the round. Wash, rinse, repeat, until you feel like playing something else.
The Not Safe For Worship expansion is intended for mature players, or at least players of legal age since those things aren’t always the same. In fact, since most of the cards aren’t actually explicitly worded, a certain amount of schoolyard immaturity is probably better.
The vast majority of the cards in the NSFW deck are question cards. These questions can range from the mundane, like “Is there any way your cult could get darker?” (yes, that’s mundane. NSFW, remember?) to the ridiculous, such as “I found your cult’s phone number on a bathroom stall. Explain how your cult provides a good time?” or “What sexual rituals of the cult to your right are intolerable to you?”. There is a handful of Sign Cards as well, but not so many that you could easily play this without the core deck. A quick look at history and you notice that “signs” are rarely obvious to anyone but the person seeing them. So we get cards like “What happens in the basement” and “Technically, it’s legal”. Of course, no cult description is complete without adding “…in bed” to the end.
The second expansion, Cult Classics, keeps things simple. It is completely made up of Sign Cards. The signs are obvious or obscure, depending on your knowledge of various classical religions, but they were ALL drawn from “authentic” religious source material. Authentic doesn’t mean specifically quoting scripture, but more often means observations about rituals, commonly associated tropes, and things blatantly presented without context.
Some are pretty obvious, “Envy” and “Lust” are obvious sins, while “Symbolic cannibalism” and “A tight seven day schedule” are still obvious in their origins without being as literal. Some things can be less obvious. “Recruiting at the airport” is something that has a largely generational significance (unless you count people selling credit cards as a cult…), and “144,000” takes a decent amount of religious conspiracy knowledge to catch the meaning. Most of the “signs” are, in some fashion, taken from Abrahamic religions, but not all of them. This stems mostly from the fact that the Western society that makes up most of this game’s market is going to be most familiar with those concepts.
While neither deck is playable on its own, you can certainly run a smaller game with just these two expansions by themselves, but neither has a distinct enough theme to really encourage that sort of thing. Both expansions are well labeled, making for moderately easy sorting after playing, so there’s no reason not to play with some or all of the core deck.
This is a great game, and I hope to see more of it in the future. My understanding is that Bravely Told Games isn’t NOT working on future expansions (you can even submit card ideas on their website), but they are focussing on a new project for the time being. I’ve heard rumors, and it should be just as great as Cult Following. Who knows, maybe they’ll even carry the theme of the new game into a Cult Following expansion during the Kickstarter. (I have no reason to believe that’s the case, but now that I’ve said it, I bet it’s now in Tom’s head.)