Any reviewer will tell you that the fun of Cultist Simulator is the mystery. The obscure mechanics and gradual process of discovery are precisely what make the game such an evocative simulation of delving into the chthonic world of esoteric knowledge. While true, what they don’t tell you is that you can also get easily frustrated managing the game’s earlier, more mundane tasks. Cultist Simulator is one of the few games where you can starve to death in the first ten minutes from pure ignorance.
Whether you are brand new to the game or just someone who googled ‘Cultist Simulator Tips’ after staring blankly at its virtual table, this guide is for folks who want a softer landing when they’re getting started, but don’t want the cool stuff later on spoiled. Feel free to stop reading once you think you have enough to get going on your own!
The most important rule is this: pause the game. Don’t leave the timers running while you are trying to figure out what to do. Run time with a purpose and keep track of everything that is happening. Stop time when you need to check up on something, read some tooltip text, or sort your cards. It’s easy to get pulled into a complicated task without realizing something terrible is about to happen.
This can be difficult because the playing field is larger than you might expect, especially on a tablet. When you pause, be sure to zoom out and check the state of all your Action timers, and make sure no unexpected new ones have appeared. In addition to your standard Actions like Work, Study, and Dream, temporary ones will appear and are often an emergency you’ll want to deal with right away, like Sickness.
The most important one to keep track of is Time Passes, which consumes one Fund every minute and spits out a new Season that keeps things interesting. When Time finishes Passing, pause the game and check what new hell has been dealt to you so you can try to take it on. Once you are familiar with the Seasons, you can preview the one on deck by opening the action, giving you a chance to plan ahead.
Your first priority is to acquire the Funds that are necessary to feed the Time Passes timer. For this task of course the Work action is what you need. Each of your basic resources, Passion, Reason, and Health, can feed Work. Using Health will spit out a single Fund for menial labor, plus a Vitality. Passion lets you try painting, which is unreliable in terms of Funds and generates Mystique that may be used against you but is good for your mental health. The most reliable is using Reason to get an office job. This generates a steady stream of Funds, but the job card will decay, so you have to show up to work constantly. This will continuously occupy the Work action, preventing you from using it for anything else. It’s hard to be a cult leader when you have a day job.
After going destitute the next easiest way to prematurely end your life as a master of secrets is by going mad. There are a few cards you’ll want to keep track of here. Dread is one you’ll pick up frequently, and if the Despair action appears on the table it will draw Dread into it—three Dread will end the game. Contentment is what you need to counteract that, and the easiest way to obtain it is to use a Fund on Sleep to buy opium. Painting also generates Contentment on occasion, and painting can consume the Restlessness cards before they decay into Dread too. Fascination is the opposite of Dread and accumulating three of those can also doom you to madness. Luckily you can actually use Dread to consume Fascination through Sleep. Dream is also the action you’ll use to care for your mundane health, helping you clear any Afflictions with Funds (medicine) or Vitality.
One of your first projects can be upgrading your Abilities. All three basic Abilities have an Advancement that you can Study two of to give said Ability a boost. Two Vitality gets you more Health, a pair of Eruditions gain Reason and a couple Glimmerings net Passion. Studying any of your basic Abilities will get you the Advancement cards, but there are plenty of other ways too, so keep your eyes peeled. Each further level will take more and better Advancement cards.
Baby’s first cult
Eventually you’ll pick up your first piece of Lore, probably from reading a book you really shouldn’t have. These are the color-coded cards with inscrutable descriptions that are your first step to the deeper mysteries. One of the first things you can do with Lore that you might not have thought of is put it on the Talk action. This sends you out proselytizing to the streets and will probably get you a new Acquaintance that can easily become your first cult member.
That should be enough to keep you playing for your first hour without dying in a gutter. After that you’re on your own. I fear I have written too much of the deeper mysteries already. Remember: “The Wood grows around the walls of the Mansus. As any student of Histories knows, the Mansus has no walls.”
Do you have any tips or tricks for getting through the early stages of Cultist Simulator? Let us know in the comments!