2 players, Competitive, Dungeon Demon Crawler
Designer: Croc, Laurent Pouchain
Artwork: David Demaret, Gautier Giroud, Martin Lavat, Stéphane Nguyen
Release Year: 2019
Claustrophobia 1643 is a remake of the original version just titled Claustrophobia that was released in 2009. Now, I’ve never played the original version so I cannot speak accurately to the differences of the two. That being said, I was finally able to track down a copy of 1643 and have went through it a few times playing different scenarios. This was a game that has all the workings of something that I would just love, from the theme to the gameplay I was entranced by it the moment I finally discovered it. Read on to see if it lived up to these lofty expectations.
Overview of Gameplay
In Claustrophobia 1643 two players will be going head to head in an ultimate battle for survival. One player will be controlling the humans, which consist of a variety of scouts and warrior types. The other player controls hells minions which consist of Hellhounds, Troglodytes and one particular nasty demon that differs from scenario to scenario. Players will be taking turns moving their characters and attacking with the humans trying to achieve a particular scenario victory usually by opening up new location tiles and discovering what they need and then finding the escape. And the demons player is over there every step of the way trying to slow them down and destroy all the humans’ characters to stop them from achieving said victory.
A typical round sees the human player rolling a set of miniature dice and placing them in the corresponding numbered section on each human characters player board. This placement will determine that individual’s movement, attack and defense during that round. There are also “instinct” cards that can be played at this moment that can open up new abilities or even allow you to pick the number you want to play a die on if you have any cards available. Once all the dice are placed the human player will then complete each characters movement/attacks one by one. Only after the human player is completely finished does the Demon player get to take their turn.
On the demon players turn they will also roll some miniature dice and place them on their hell minion’s player boards. However, there are a few more options to choose from for the demon player. Just the Troglodyte board itself has a plethora of dice placement options which range from drawing event cards, gaining material (the resource you use to summon demons), alter the placement rules of demons and generally enhancing your Trogs. You also have a couple of Hellhound boards that a die can be placed upon that acts much like the standard human board of differing movement and attacks based on the number die that is placed. Finally the big boi demon board that has differing options for each of the many different large demons that can be brought in depending on which scenario you play.
Once the demon player has placed their dice they take the actions of said dice, completing any drawing of event cards or gaining of materia. Then the demon player can choose to spend any acquired materia to bring in more hell minions to the board. This has a few caveats as the demons can only enter onto tiles that have an opening on one side AND do not have any human miniatures. Of course there are a couple of dice placement options on the Trog board that negate those rules if the required amount of dice are spent……
Then the demon player does the typical movement/attack just like the human player and then the round starts anew with the human player taking their turn. Winning is different for each side and for each scenario. For example the very first scenario in the book is basically a tutorial that teaches you the basics of the game and the winning mechanism for the human player is to just escape. Run around the caves exploring new tiles until you find the tile with the escape door and you win. On the flip side, the demon has to wipe out your entire party. It’s a very straight forward scenario and works well to teach you the basics, even if it is a little dull.
Excellent quality components all around with just a couple of oddities. There are a plethora of miniatures from the human characters to the vast amount of demon spawn you will be utilizing during your adventure. All of these look excellent with some great detail not only to the miniature itself but to their bases. The various cardboard tokens are pretty standard and you usually only use some of them each game depending on the scenario. The plastic bits are really cool! There are these tiny little plastic red skull tokens you use to show damage and they fit perfectly in the double layer player board spots for them.
Speaking on the double layer boards, these are awesome! They are made in such a way that they open up and you just slide in whichever human or demon character you will be playing with. Everything lines up perfectly with the punched holes so you can easily place the rolled dice and damage markers and they won’t budge. However, as cool functionally these are, they really missed the mark in artistry here. For the human player all of these player boards are just a stark white color and the demon player, stark black. For all the awesome touches here and there in the game, they really dropped the ball with how these look coming across very bland.
The dice are also very, very nice! The miniature dice the human player uses are white with red etchings and just look awesome and the same goes for the black and red etched dice the demon player uses. The general pool of combat dice are also unique with a skull marking the “6” spot denoting a confirmed hit. The cards used are of standard size for the human equipment and a smaller size for the instinct cards. All of these are of a good quality and felt good in the hand.
The game board itself is composed of multiple large tiles that will be drawn and placed to form the full setting as each game progresses. The tiles are PLENTY in this game, however you won’t utilize them all during a single play through. During setup you actually create a facedown stack of tiles for that particular scenario that consists of a few required tiles (they are all numbered) and then a mishmash of a random assortment to make up the rest. The tiles have a number of different abilities associated to them such as traps or other irregularities that may or may not hinder the human and demon players. Overall, besides the missteps with the bland looking player boards, I think the components and board tiles are all excellent.
The box is huge. At least on par with other games such as Twilight Imperium and Cthulhu Wars. That said, it will fit in a standard Kallax shelf with about a half an inch overhang and the same amount of space left above. This is one of the few games that I’m not all that big a fan of the art on the outside of the box. Well, let me rephrase, I LOVE the artwork on the box but that’s all there is on the sides and front. Basically the areas you look to find the name of the game, nowhere to be found. I would prefer if the actual title of the game was at least printed on the sides so it can easily be identified on my shelf.
The inside of the box is really nice! I like the insert quite a bit with this one with it having ample storage for all the components. They have spaces for all the dice and individual plastic components and a couple of cardboard storage cases to hold all the cardboard pieces nicely. It’s also form fitted to everything so all the dashboards and player boards fit perfectly and stay put. And on top of those sits the large assortment of game tiles which holds everything in place with their weight. The lid closes perfectly flush and nothing gets all mixed up even when storing on its side.
Visual Appeal /Theme
The theme isn’t anything new, just your standard demons battling humans BUT in 1643! I do like the older style and setting with old weapons and such even though you really don’t see that age come out in the game tiles since everything is in catacombs. Would have been cool to see some above ground artwork, perhaps some older cities and narrow alleyways? The artwork done on the tiles and equipment cards is all excellent with the big standout being the tile work. I get excited every time a new tile is drawn just to see what new terror awaits! If only they would have put even an ounce of that art onto the player boards it would be perfect.
Ho boy. Don’t wanna be that broken record or anything but Monolith, PLEASE, have new players try to learn your games with your rulebooks before releasing them. Time and time again have I suffered through a Monolith rulebook with no apparent changes or fixes ever taken into account. They always read like a diagram explaining the proper way a Dam funnels water through and generates power for the neighboring city. This was however, my third Monolith rulebook and easiest to read because I have had practice…AND the iconography wasn’t as prevalent here as it was in Batman: Gotham City Chronicles. Now, that’s not to say it’s not here! There are still a number of icons that you need to learn and player aids that you will need to print out. Lots and lots of confusing rules and card text that just doesn’t make sense with the written rules which leads me to believe the rulebook was not written by a native English speaker and only translated….poorly. By far my biggest complaint of the entire game is the rulebook.
Player Interaction/Fun Factor
Being a 1v1 game you will have TONS of player interaction, the game is built upon it! Every turn you will be manipulating the board state as the demon player or attacking and trying to survive as the human player. Regardless of what actions you take during your turn, you are always acting in response to your opponent or preparing for them in some way. Because of all that the fun factor is through the roof! As the human player the way you roll your dice and can choose just how you want each of your characters to react to the given situation is super fun. And as you start to take damage your placement of dice are limited by that damage so you have to really think about how you want to proceed.
As the demon player there are lots of options on the player boards you control so weighing what to bring out and how they will move and attack is critical. All of this evolves into an extremely engaging game on both sides of the table. The ONLY thing I wish was a little more exciting would be the scenarios themselves. There are quite a few of them and granted I haven’t played them all yet, but of what I have played there just isn’t enough variety to keep the games super fresh over the long term. Yes, the demon player uses a different main demon each scenario but is always stuck with the same two hellhounds and the same old troglodytes which frankly, are super bland after the first three games. I wish there was a larger variety of minion demons to choose from. Furthermore the scenario missions are mostly the same with slight variations such as finding a particular tile in a set shuffled together and performing “something” on said tile and then escaping.
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
Two players is where it’s at here considering that’s how it’s played. I have tried playing solo controlling EVERYTHING but man that is rather overwhelming. Controlling 4 or 5 humans at the same time you are controlling the demon horde is doable, but not preferred. Replayability is decently high considering all the different scenarios and demon lords you can play as on the demon side. But again like I mentioned earlier, it starts getting rather “samey” after just a few games since you are mostly always playing as the same demons and the same humans. And even the difference in scenarios isn’t enough to prevent that sameness from becoming prevalent.
Positive Final Thoughts
I love the action selection based on the dice each side rolls and how this will affect the board state going forward. This creates a really interesting gameplay experience. The components are all excellent for the most part and the insert is done really well for ease of storage. One of my biggest positives though is the experience that drawing game tiles and exploring the catacombs creates. The tension and excitement of what may be coming next is amazing!
Negative Final Thoughts
The rulebook is far and away my biggest complaint with the arrangement, order and lack of player aids for all the iconography being another huge letdown for Monolith. The bland looking player boards feels like a missed opportunity to adds some more exciting artwork to the game and spice it up a bit. I also wish there was a larger variety of demon minions to utilize rather than just hellhounds and trogs on the regular.
The Bottom Line
Overall though I found this an extremely engaging and exciting game to play 1vs1! It’s not my all-time favorite 1v1 game, that honor goes to Star Wars: Rebellion, but it’s one that I plan on keeping in my collection as I just adore the dice action selection mechanism and the tile exploration. Once you get past the shoddy rulebook and the lack of variety with the playable minions, the rest of the game is gravy.
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