1-5 players, Asymmetrical Competitive Cave Crawl
Designer: Patrick Leder, David Somerville
Artwork: Kyle Ferrin
Publisher: Leder Games
Overview of Gameplay
There are five completely different characters out of the box to play as and each one could not be more different from the next. Each character has a specific goal in order for that player to win the game. The knight must kill the dragon, the goblins must kill the knight, the dragon must wake up and escape the cave, the cave must fully expand and then collapse and the thief must stash 6 treasures.
To do all this players will move their tokens around on little facedown cave tiles that the cave player will lay out dictating what they will experience. Like as the knight reveals the tiles she may encounter an event or find some treasure or even get ambushed by those pesky goblins. The goblins actually start on top of facedown tiles according to which ever symbol corresponds to the specific tribe that is being played out of 3. They can then ambush and move around as well but are not nearly as powerful as some of the other characters, in a sense. The dragon is just crawling around everywhere playing cards out of his hand trying to do a variety of things to wake up such as eating goblins or collecting treasure. The cave, arguably the most fun and unique of the bunch, basically dictates the ebb and flow of the game. That player lays out facedown cave tiles designing the overall unique-ness of the cave and trying to hamper the rest of the players so it can get all of its tiles down to win. The thief is the most straight forward of the bunch. He just needs to find treasure, bring it back to the entrance to stash it. Then it will upgrade a specific talent of the thief. He’s super straight forward but also really fun.
Win Condition /Length
I explained the win conditions for each character above as they are all completely different. The length on the box says about an hour. Do not believe that even for a second. Yeah maybe you can wiz through this game in an hour with an experience bunch of players that have played the game 6 or 7 times each and know all the characters and their abilities. Heck I doubt it could even be done honestly. I played the game with 6 (with the added Fearsome Foes expansion) and it took us 4 hours. That said, everyone except me had never played it before. And this is a game that takes a good long while to teach since it’s like teaching 5 completely different games at the same time.
This is not a game I recommend for new players……lol it’s kind of hard to recommend this to anyone that just doesn’t know how to play it going in. If you stumble upon a group that has already played it and is familiar with it then you will have a blast! Of that I have no doubt. But going in with new players…..not so much.
The base game components….well there are so many to choose from depending on what you get. The original base game stuff was all cardboard standees which are pretty meh. But then they also released some wooden tokens to replace those which are better BUT you can also splurge for the miniatures expansion which replaces all those with actual plastic miniatures. Now these are fantastic! I especially like the awakened dragon mini, that thing is awesome.
The cave tiles are nice hard cardboard and all the cards are of a decent quality. All the tokens look and feel nice as well. Honestly there really isn’t much to complain about component wise with this game, it’s pretty great. The game board is made up of those ever growing cave tiles and those look good as well. Your character boards are a nice hard cardboard as well but I have started to see a bit of bowing in them already so that’s something to be aware of. Also not double layered to hold the bits which would have been much better.
This is a pretty heavy game for setup and take down. If playing all 5 of the characters it’s best to put all the components to each one in its own little baggie. That way you can easily set one up before moving on to the next. The take down is much the same with making sure to keep the individual characters pieces together. After a full game this is daunting as the pieces are all over the place, especially for the cave.
Ugh another horrible box. The box itself is pretty nice looking and very small which is kind of nice for storage. However there is so much to this game you really need a bigger box and a proper insert to house all this stuff. It works for what it is but everything has to be bagged up and sat in the box and good luck keeping anything organized if you don’t bag it!
Visual Appeal /Theme
The visual aspects and theme of the game are amazing! I love the whole situation with everyone trying to achieve some goal like killing the dragon or stealing treasure all at the same time. It’s like a big epic fantasy story that keeps cutting to a different scene for each character. The artwork looks great although the cave tiles could have been a little more detailed for my taste, they are kind of bland.
Ho boy. This is a game where you WILL be referencing the rulebook many, many times for a long time. I don’t think the rules are poorly written per say…..although they could be better for sure. The first edition rulebook is just atrocious but they did release a revised booklet which has a few more pages with some examples and clarifications which is nice. There are a ton of paragraphs of just words…..you will probably glaze over just glancing at it. Basically if you want to learn this, set the boards up and go through the motions of playing the game. On top of the regular rules that you need to learn for the game itself….you need to learn the rules of all 5 of the different characters. Each one has its own specific rulebook basically. You will find yourself flipping around back and forth between the character sections learning how each one works off the next. Luckily the game also comes with some handy dandy 2 sided reference sheets…although these are thick with words as well.
Basically what I’m saying is this is not an easy game to just step into. You will lose many many hours trying to learn to play this game and then many many more hours trying to teach it to others so they can play.
Table Talk/Fun Factor
I will say though once you do get it learned and if you are playing with an experienced group of players that also know how to play this game will create a ton of great table talk as well as fun. It’s so cool to see how everything unfolds in the cave although I will admit that most players will probably want to play as the cave, and for good reason! The cave in my opinion is the most fun and diverse character to play as. The others are good and I also enjoy the Thief due to the way his character board works. The goblins are probably the most complex of the 5, the dragon is pretty simple and the knight is average complexity.
Optimal Player Count
So I would probably say 4. The game can play up to 5 with the base set but the game can run long especially with new players. And as much as I like the Thief, he is for sure the most disposable of the 5 if dropping one. I would prefer to drop the goblins personally but they are made up of the core group and are pretty much intertwined with the core mechanics so cannot be easily dropped. What I mean by that is their goal is to kill the knight….which balances out the knight from killing the dragon and so on. You take out that and it will unbalance the game. The Thief just collects treasure, nothing major there.
I would NOT recommend playing with more than 5 unless you have a super experienced group. The Fearsome Foes expansion introduces 3 new playable characters but these are meant for super experienced players as their boards are even more complex than the base games. Not only that but more than 5 characters will drag the game on and on.
Admittedly this was a very hard game to rate. I really enjoy it and I think it is super unique and fun, but only if played with an experienced group. Playing with a totally new group and having to teach it is horrendously difficult, it will take many many turns before each players character will start to click with them and after that they still don’t understand how each other players character works which is something everyone needs to know to properly know how to play and win as they all work in conjunction with each other.
On top of that most groups won’t want to play this a second time after the first based on long length and the extremely difficult learning curve. If playing this for the first time with a group I HIGHLY recommend to play only a 4 player game and just sit out and help others with their characters. Even then that’s not all that fun. It’s like everyone is in a classroom learning and not actually having a great time.
On the other hand if you whip this out with an experienced group that has had many plays, you will have an amazing time! Super awesome seeing what others will do and strategizing what you are going to do on your turn. It’s just getting to that point that is so difficult, which is why this is hard to rate. Because I really enjoy this game, but if I can’t play it due to its super high learning curve, then really how much fun is it?