So, how does one PLAY this unusual new faction? Most obviously, you need to worry about your Cathedrals. Because you don’t have a Great Old One, you get major power savings, but this is ultimately negated by your need to spend 4-10 Power on Cathedrals. This is spread over time, however, so you never lose a whole turn to Awaken (unlike other factions). And your Cathedrals can earn extra Power, eventually reimbursing part or all of their cost.
You must balance your Cathedral construction with your Gate construction and your army. You need enough combat effectiveness to place your Cathedrals without undue interference. It may seem obvious to build a Cathedral in your starting Area on turn one, but that choice is still available later in the game. You are often better off building a second Gate in a neighboring area with a different glyph. You need a monster to protect your Gate too, so Brainless or Festival are good to aim at early on.
Your greatest advantages are first, how cost-effective your monsters are and second, your ability to engage in “social engineering” with the other players.
Your greatest weaknesses are first, your lack of a Great Old One, which renders your cultists vulnerable and second, your need to travel around the map. You must build strategies around this.
The real menace of the enemy Great Old Ones is not that they might fight you, but that they may Capture your cultists, against which you may seem defenseless. To avert this, you need to threaten battle (they’ll fear Cathedrals once you get Unholy Ground) or at least offer to withhold your favors of Cathedral placement and Festival.
You don’t need to fear combat. Your Un-Men is practically advantageous. Not only does it let you walk in place for a turn without spending Power, but you can strategically boost another player, presumably against a mutual enemy. Your Reanimated are often worth killing off instead of a Cultist, since a Reanimated pained off by itself is nigh-worthless. They’re cheap, too.
With Yothans, you have more battle dice than any Great Old One. Don’t unnaturally worry about losing them in battle - consider them an investment that needs to be cashed in at some point. You may need to pace out their loss however. In an ideal world, you’d lose your last Yothan on the last action of the last turn.
You don’t have any reliable way of getting bonus Elder Signs until later in the game, so you need to keep ahead with Gates.
SAMPLE ANCIENTS STRATEGY
Here is a sample plan for the Ancients. They have many possible choices. This is just one.
SETUP: Start in a spot that gives you at least three glyph options (hopefully more). For example, if you start in Earth’s North Atlantic, you’re adjacent to all four possibilities. Of course, this may leave you a little vulnerable, but remember Cthulhu Wars is about aggression, not passivity.
PHASE ONE: Move to an adjacent area, and build a Cathedral for 1 Power. Take Festival. Build a Gate at the Cathedral, then summon an Un-Man to guard it. (Choose someone far away from you to get the Festival power.) Move from your home area to an area NOT adjacent to the Cathedral, and build a Cathedral there. Do NOT defend this area – your plan is for another player to occupy it. Take another spellbook (I’d suggest Mindless or Worship Services.) Stall by summoning another Un-Man in your home area, or get a Reanimated.
In the Doom phase, use Dematerialize to move your home area Monster, plus a cultist or two to an area with a new glyph, not adjacent to your current areas. You’ll probably be vulnerable to another faction, so point out they’ll WANT your Cathedral to stay after you leave. (If you don’t have Worship Services yet, point out you may have it before next Doom phase.) You’ll end the turn with 10 Power and 2 Doom.
PHASE TWO: Build your third Cathedral, and take a useful spellbook. If you see other players plopping down Great Old Ones, you’ll want Extinction or Unholy Ground to defend yourself. In any case, you may want to take the spellbook that gives your foes their cheapest monsters this turn. Do this late in the turn, so they are short on Power to use their new toys. With luck your enemies will use their new freebies to fight one another instead of you. Take Consecration if you are not yet direly threatened. You have 9 Power left, so get a Yothan (if you have Extinction), plus build another Gate and guard it. If you don’t need a Yothan, you might be able to build a fourth Gate or your last Cathedral. Let’s assume you build that fourth Gate, instead of a Yothan. In any case you’ll need to spend Power to get your cultists in non-Gate areas to safety.
By the time of the Doom phase, assuming at least two other players have Gates at your Cathedrals, you start with 6 Doom, 16 Power, 4 Gates, and a fair number of monsters. Ritual, using Consecration to take an Elder Sign. You may be the first player to Ritual. If so, you’ll end up with 10 Doom, 11 Power, and an Elder Sign.
PHASE THREE: You may feel impressed by that 11 Power total plus a Ritual, but don’t forget, it means two other players got Power too. Plus if you’ve been steadily summoning Un-Men, your enemies are getting Power from that. Basically, when the Ancients are in play, ALL the other factions are a little stronger. So don’t get too cocky.
This turn you must aim at getting your last Cathedral placed. Don’t worry about trying to save Power by moving a long distance. Now that you have three Cathedrals already in play, it would be awkward anyway, so just suck up the 3 Power cost and get that sucker placed. Then start pulling out Yothans to hammer your enemies, steal their gates, and make them pay. You can get one big attack off each full turn with ease, using Dematerialization and proper preparation in the previous turn. I’ll assume you manage to hold onto your four gates (or capture one, but lose one), and build that last Cathedral during the course of play.
In the Doom phase, assuming three of your Cathedrals benefit from Worship Services, you should have 14 Doom and 17 Power. Do a Ritual of Annihilation (let’s assume it costs you 7). With four Cathedrals, you’ll get two more Elder Signs. At the ritual’s end, you have 18 Doom, 10 Power, and 3 Elder Signs. Plus if you planned carefully, you can Dematerialize and be in place to capture an enemy Gate with your Yothans & their little buddies.
PHASE FOUR: Use your 10 remaining Power to attack key positions and take Gates. If you are not afraid of losing a Yothan or two it shouldn’t be hard to get up to 5 Gates. You may need to sacrifice a Cathedral to take out an enemy Great Old One – if you do, rebuild it as soon as possible. Late in the turn, you should take your last spellbook – giving each enemy his “most expensive monster”. With luck, at least some enemies will already have those monsters on the tabletop, so they will be forced to take a cheaper monster from their pool.
In the Doom phase of this turn, you have 23 Doom, 17-18 Power, and 5 Gates. Naturally you should Ritual – this will bring up your Doom to 28, and now you have 5 Elder Signs, enough to end the game.
Note that this game only lasted four turns! Of course, I have assumed that your enemies didn’t mess with you too aggressively, or that if they did, they were not victorious. Naturally many games won’t go quite as smoothly for you. Beware Cthulhu using Submerge to annihilate your homeland, or Sleeper going on a rampage capturing your monsters when you are out of Power and defenseless. Or … any number of other possibilities. You have defenses, but it takes cunning and preparation to use them.