Lost in R’lyeh Review

Lost in R'lyeh
Atlas Games
Kedric Winks
Kelley Hensing

Lost in R'lyeh is a hand management game that's all about emptying your hand as quick as possible while tripping up your opponents' efforts toward the same.  Interesting mechanics have cards potentially comboing with previously-played cards, adding strategy to this light, fun filler.

By all accounts, R’lyeh is a terrible place.  The cyclopean city of Lovecraftian nightmares not only spends most of its time at the bottom of the South Pacific, but locked within its non-Euclidian geometries is the dread C’thulhu itself, along with a horde of its unknowable followers.

So, you know, a terrible place.

Great art manages to highlight the otherwordly horror without being gross or gory.

Understandably then, Lost in R’lyeh is a hand-management card game where players will seek to discard their cards more quickly than their opponents as each race to avoid being the last one left in the titular nightmare city.

Each player will start with a pile of face-up cards in front of them, their ‘Escape cards’, as well as a single face-down card, their ‘ultimate escape’.  They also start with a hand of cards.  There are two kinds of cards in Lost in R’lyeh – Horror cards and Event cards.  Horror cards are numbered and Event cards display the Elder Sign (yes that Elder Sign).

Smart insert design even tucks away the turn direction token, which can be flipped when the order of play changes.

In order to win (or actually just not lose, more on that in a second), each player will discard cards from their hand onto the central discard pile, resolving abilities on the cards as appropriate.  There are a couple of simple rules for how one may play their cards:

  • Event cards can only be played one at a time and are resolved immediately.
  • Horror cards can only be played if their value matches or exceeds the most recently played Horror card (ignoring Event cards).  A player can discard as many Horror cards as they want on a turn, as long as they are all of the same value.
  • If you can’t play a card (because you have no events or no Horror cards which meet or exceed the current top of the stack), you pick up the stack.
To play on top of this stack, you would need an Event or a 3 or higher Horror. Events get turned so they don’t cover Horror numbers.

Interestingly, Horror also have powers (like Event cards), though their effects aren’t static.  Rather, when Horror cards get played, their effect is determined based on the number of cards of that value which are on top of the stack – this includes previously played cards of that value.

Andrew:  So it is entirely possible for someone to play three 9s for their ‘Banish an Escape Card’ effect, and then for the next player to play a fourth 9, allowing them choose between the ‘Banish the stack and play again’ and ‘Swap any card in your hand with any escape card’ effects.  By timing your plays to take advantage of what other players have put down before you, it can become much easier to manipulate the cards and empty your hand as quickly as possible.

The more of a given Horror card on top of the deck, the more potent its ability becomes.

Each turn that a player starts with an empty hand, they are allowed to draw one of their face-up escape cards and play it.  Once all your face-up escape cards are played, you can finally pick up your face-down Ultimate Escape card.  The instant your hand is empty and all your escape cards have been played, you have successfully escaped R’lyeh and haven’t lost the game!

Jess:  Did you say ‘haven’t lost’?  Don’t you mean won?

Andrew:  Well, sorta?

Lost in R’lyeh is a member of a fairly old-school breed of game, a race to self-eliminate as efficiently as possible.  Each player that escapes meets the ‘victory’ condition, and it is only the last player in who is considered as having lost.

Andrew:  So, while it is certainly satisfying to slam down your last card, throw your hands in the air, and say some variant of ‘I’m out!’, the game isn’t truly over until just one of your opponents finds themselves unable to escape.

Jess:  And so there is no difference between getting out first or being the last person to escape?

Andrew:  Right.  We all ‘don’t lose’ equally.  The way the game ends is a real ‘your mileage may vary’ thing.  I personally don’t mind it at all, but I can see some players being sore at the idea of being the only person at the table who didn’t win.

Banishing the stack (removing it from the game) is a powerful tactic for getting rid of cards you don’t want to ever see again…


Jess:  Ah, that’s no big deal, and it can be even more exciting to be the last two in, dueling to see who can get out!  And it really is perfectly thematic, if you think about it.

Andrew:  Right!  When a tentacle monster is chasing you and your friends, you don’t need to outrun the tentacle monster…

Jess:  You just need to outrun your friends.

…Or you could always just hand that big stack of cards to an opponent.

Lost in R’lyeh is a good game at its weight, which is fairly light.  With nice production value and a quick playtime at any player count, it’s a solid little addition to any card-gamer’s collection and can probably act as a bit of a gateway for non-gamers besides.

(Gameosity received a review copy of this game.  We were not otherwise compensated.)

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