Gameday First Play – Cave Evil
Cave Evil is Evil in a Cave…
…and it doesn’t get more black & white than that, literally.
“The living dug out cities for their dead: necropolises deep within the earth. They filled the caverns with bodies and locked them away from the upper air. Eventually the dead forgot the living–if any remain.
But in death, a new life began. The breath of evil from the darkness of complete shadow stirred corrupted flesh. In their middens and pits, the dead awakened, swarming through slime-fluxing tunnels, seeking chthonic power, warring with demons and denizens of the deep. Animated by the black flame, necro-ecologies rose and collapsed in the crypt-universe. Now, cloistered undead lich-wizards have discovered the primordial opening to the shadow source, the doleful horror-hole where the Eternal Evil Emperor watches and waits….
The necromancers have dug their Lairs deep into the ground. They must gather precious resources and body parts to assemble an army of minions, while defending their own lairs from the excavations and intrusions of others. In the end, the only route is into the demon path…
Then depletion of your essence leads to spending another eternity in foul sepulchral darkness awaiting the next Awakening of Death.”
A dungeon crawl, exploration combat game which lasts 3 hours and has player elimination is not a selling point for me. Fortunately, I didn’t know this going into it so I was happy to play this one.
Firstly you notice the style. It’s dark, evil, black and white and covers the table in cards, tiles and tokens. There is very little actual colour except a hint of yellow, red and purple to highlight 3 of the 4 players.(I was White, NOT PURPLE!!! 🙁 )
You win by defeating the other Necromancers (Either by killing them or killing the Chthonic Crystal in their Lair) or by completing the main objective.
Turns are… interesting. Not easy but not complex, just tricky. Before I go into turns you need to know how to sort your creatures into Squads. You can have 6 squads, you Necromancer squad and 5 others. These are represented by cards in front of you with each creature in that squad on the card and a standee with the matching symbol on the board (Typically Roman numerals.)
Your turns starts with forced combat. If one of your Squads is next to a wandering monster or an opposing squad you have to fight.
Combat is fairly simple and done in a pretty cool way. Each creature has a circle of 6 stats around its card art and the attacker picks one of those, adds up all the numbers for that stat for each creature in that squad and adds a D12 roll. The defender does the same, highest wins that round. But then the defender picks a stat either side of that and the process is repeated. If a Squad at this point is is 2-0 they win, if not they fight compared to the stat the other side of the initial one. Squads are wiped out when defeated so combat is pretty important.
This whole thing of picking a stat and having the combat go over 2 or 3 rounds based on different stats is quite unique and a lot of fun. If you attack you can control the initial stat used for combat which helps you control the other two rounds. It means your big smashy monster who has good strength but nothing else doesn’t just ‘win’ all the time. Check out this guy to get a better idea of the stat wheel (and the awesome art).
After this forced combat is conjuration, and your first interesting choice. There are 3 piles of cards to pick from, you draw and can either keep it in your hand or discard it to get a resource that is printed on the card.
Some of these cards are Events that trigger at the end of your turn. If you draw an Event you put it aside and draw again meaning you can have several events ready to screw you over once your turn is done.
Then you take your actions. Movement, using abilities, pick up and passing items is all free but each Squad only has one action point.
Your Necromancer can pay to summon and every squad to pay to equip items and spells.
If your Necromancer does nothing else he can Meditate to draw a card (Surprisingly useful)
You can pay to cast spells.
You can excavate or collapse a tunnel by using someone who can dig and digging over a number of turns. This lets you put a tile on the board to dig around the board, connecting you up to other areas.
You can fight, or if you prefer, pay to hire the creature on to your team. Handy if they’re bigger than you.
The awkwardness comes from splitting up creatures in your squad and merging them into other squads. A squad can only move equal to the slowest in the group and if someone joins that group the movement points they spent to join are counted as used by that squad. Also, if they performed an action in a squad and move into another squad that hasn’t taken an action they count as having taken an action now… See what I mean? Not easy, not hard, just tricky.
Add to that the fact that creatures have sizes and squads can only have so many of a certain size and you can’t move through people if that space will be over capacity etc etc I found myself stuck in a corridor due to this with not enough time or actions to move everything around to get it right.
The game was odd in a way as all this combat and everything counted for very little as the goal was to walk onto the space in the middle of the board to win. That’s it.
You can’t walk through a space next to an opposing unit so we had one player control the centre room and we all had no way to get through. It seemed that 3 hours of game turned into basically 3 turns of Blood Bowl style board manipulation.
Also, the amount of downtime was insane. With so much to consider player turns were quite slow with 10+ minute wait between turns possible.
All in all its a pretty decent game. I think there are similar games that are better but this one is still pretty good.