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Subject: Tight, dark and wet - The Cave review. rss

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Dr Bobaz
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Gdańsk
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Crawling through tight, dark and wet fissures doesn’t seem to sound like a theme for a board game. The first words I used in this text don’t associate with board games at all. Wet and tight in one sentence? That couldn’t be about a game at all. Yet… it is.

So, in The Cave we are speleologists – men and women, which explore caverns. They do it for various reasons, but have one in common – they love to feel the thrill of unknown. Game gives it all to us. You can really feel the excitement of discovery and spirit of adventure.

Game is contained in quite big box (Settlers of Catan size, I think) and is filled with components. More than 330 paper tokens, about 80 tiles of cavern, players boards are quite impressive. All of the components are excellent quality, they shouldn’t use up too soon. Game is complete, and there is no need for accessories, such as card sleeves (there are no cards ;) ).

Although rules seems to be quite complicated, after first play there are no doubts about them. Game is based on action points mechanics and works quite fine. Each player has 5 APs in his turn, which he or she uses to explore and collect points in the cave. You can and should do various things discover new parts of cavern, swim through underground lakes and rivers, try to not stuck in squeezes and take photos of amazing wonders in the cave. To do all that you need to pack your backpack well. To be honest, that is perhaps the most important thing to do in The Cave. You will pack only at the entrance, but you can (should, and probably have to) go back to it. You can take with you number of things, such as camera, pontoon, diving cylinders, ropes and last but not least provisions – that is some food, batteries for flashlight etc.

Each turn starts with “consuming” one unit of provisions, only after that you can spend your 5 APs on exploring. If you don’t have any provisions left, you must spend all your APs for “blind walk” one tile per round. General rule for movement in The Cave is that entering a tile cost you 1 AP plus 1-3 AP for special terrain properties, i.e. entering a squeeze level 2 cost you 1+2 APs, and entering a water tile cost depend on if you have oxygen(1+1 AP) or pontoon (1+0 AP). It is easy, when you become familiar with it, but until that it can be difficult to count you AP. All possibilities of movement are presented clearly on players board, next to his backpack.

Cavern in The Cave is represented by tiles and starting area. Starting area depends on the number of players, so is the number of tiles. Tiles are grouped in 4 “levels”. You will discover them in order, first all of tier I tiles, then tier II and tier IV near the end of game. Tiles are discovered randomly, but that is what exploring a mysterious cavern is – you never know what lies up ahead. Gameplay take about 1 hour for 5 players. Game work best with more people, but it was made to be playable for 2 to 5 players. Only limitation for more players game are components – there are only 5 sets of unique items (one per player), so I think if you make your own meeple, you can play a game of 6 people.
Game requires that players will adapt to the situation on the table, use tiles effectively and do not fear to make decisions – it can be a game of mistakes.

Each obstacle that is overcame by the player who first get to it is rewarded with a token, that scores at the end of game. Scoring table is quite complicated and as the game is in progress it is hard to tell “by the first look” who is winning at that moment. Game awards players who have the most of tokens of a kind with bonus points (majority bonus).

Adam Kałuża, author of The Cave, tried to make it authentic and real, all rules are made to mimic real speleological adventure, so there are no goblins or dynamite in the game. Even the negative interaction is limited – due to the fact, that various teams of speleologists doesn’t try to kill or trap one another “in real life”. You will be exploring some unnamed, newly discovered caverns, but there is no treasure nor the dragon at the end.

Game artist, mr. Jarek Nicoń did a really great job. Tiles and tokens are nice, well drawn and legible. A lot of tiles are unique, but I (and some of You) may consider them too dark. However, the caverns tend to be dark so…
I have a lot of fun playing The Cave and I can recommend it to all players who like games with a some level of “controlled randomness”.
Only if there was a head light in the box… That would be something 

Summary - pros and cons:
+ Replayability – random drawn tiles makes each cavern different
+ nice, appealing arts
+ interesting, innovative theme
+ well balanced scoring table, giving a lot of strategies to win
+ a lot of tokens
+ a lot of fun and a thrill of exploring

- complicated counting of APs and scoring
- may seems to be random (after few plays it is clear that it is a illusion)
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Kris Wolff
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Sounds great. I love Adam's games. Preordering as soon as I can!
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Mathue Faulkner
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Whenever I see Action Point mechanics (i.e. Tikal), I worry about potential Analysis Paralysis (we have a few players prone to AP). Is there anything about the game that helps combat any potential AP?
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H-H Boudje
France
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You said that the more the merrier, but have you already play a few 2player games?
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Steve Blackwell
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I like K2 and whilst this sounds interesting, I think I am put off by the more players the better since I mostly play 2-player games now we have a kid and if not best with 2, I suspect it's not for me. Shame.

M B
 
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Dr Bobaz
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mfaulk80 wrote:
Whenever I see Action Point mechanics (i.e. Tikal), I worry about potential Analysis Paralysis (we have a few players prone to AP). Is there anything about the game that helps combat any potential AP?


Well, to be honest, that shouldn’t be a problem. On a basic level, you use your APs to either go further into the cave, or go back to the entrance and repack. Much more challenging than counting and spending APs is deciding when to go back and what to pack for the expedition (i.e. how many supplies pack, how many ropes take, do I will need pontoon or diving equipment).
Boudje wrote:
You said that the more the merrier, but have you already play a few 2player games?

mudshark_baby wrote:
I like K2 and whilst this sounds interesting, I think I am put off by the more players the better since I mostly play 2-player games now we have a kid and if not best with 2, I suspect it's not for me. Shame.

Yes, I played few 2players games The Cave. The Cave is a game for 2 to 5 players, and the balance for number of players is achieved by limit of tiles (less when fewer players) and a starting area (different for each number of players). For 2 player variant, if I remember correctly, cavern has only 3 possible exits from the starting area. And, however I believe that there is more fun in a game with more players, The Cave is a good game even for 2 players. Game is more “hit by hit” then, mistakes are more painful and you should plan your movements more carefully, but still it is a good 8.5-9/10 for me.
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Michal Nowaczyk
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Very good review and a title!
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Maciej Teległow
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I was playing 2 player two days ago and it was great.
I lost cause of bad decision about direction of last go.
The most amazing thing about this game is that I still love to play it after many plays and play it for fun in my free time.
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H-H Boudje
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Thanks for the 2 player review. I think I should give it a try.
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Tomas Inguanzo
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Paging Doctor Freud...
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Kris Ardianto
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After playing K2 last session, I wonder, this one looks similar in theme (survival and exploration) but judging from brief preview, it does not really have high interaction between players. Compared with K2 which has good interaction between players, does The Cave add up to this?
I haven't read the rules yet but can the speleologist die in the cave (player elimination) just like K2?
Thanks.
 
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Andrew MacLeod
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And when, exactly, are we playing Churchill again?
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vardamir wrote:
After playing K2 last session, I wonder, this one looks similar in theme (survival and exploration) but judging from brief preview, it does not really have high interaction between players. Compared with K2 which has good interaction between players, does The Cave add up to this?
I haven't read the rules yet but can the speleologist die in the cave (player elimination) just like K2?
Thanks.


Nope: speleologists can only lose, not die, in the game.
 
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Chris Merrick
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Great review, my only complaint about the game is having to back track to base camp after a few rounds.shake
 
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