CUTTHROAT CAVERNS™ Reviews
Reviews, Nominations and Awards. We couldn't be prouder.
REVIEW: TOM VASEL - THE DICE TOWER
Posted Wed Oct 17,2007 07:45 am.... I've talked in the past about games that have surprised me; because after reading the rules, I thought the game would be boring - only to find out later just how good the game actually was. Cutthroat Caverns (Smirk and Dagger Games, 2007 - Curt Covert) was different; because as soon as I read the concept and started going over the rules, I was sure that I was going to love this game. The idea of backstabbing fellow adventurers in a dungeon isn't anything new - especially those who play with "munchkin" players in roleplaying games, but this card game actually encourages folks to annoy one another.
REVIEW: LAWRENCE SPODE - BOOKSHELF GAMES
21 minute v ideo review - here's the link: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/263421.
REVIEW: TROLL - DIVERSIONS ONLINE
November 5, 2007 - 22:47... The setting – a series of caverns, from which your party has retrieved the Sacred Item of Unimaginable Marvel. The premise – survive the horrors of the caverns and escape with the treasure before the worst of the monsters in the caverns get you. And the worst monsters you’ll encounter? – your own dirty rotten greedy backstabbing party members. While this may sound like a standard fun role playing evening, the truth of the matter is – this is a non-collectible card game from the fine, twisted minds of Smirk And Dagger. Bringing together the best of cooperative and competitive play, Curt Covert is bringing us another game of good, old fashioned, backstabbing fun. Welcome to Cuththroat Caverns – where the dagger that’s helping you now, may be cutting your throats in the next few minutes.
Mechanics: Each player chooses a character card and a glass life bead. Each player will set their life total at a mere 100 life points, and hope they can hold on to their dwindling number. The twenty five card encounter deck is shuffled an a pile of nine is dealt face down. These will be the nine base encounters that will need to be defeated to escape the caverns. All other encounter cards are set aside as they are initially unused in the game. After placing the glass beads that will track the encounter number and the encounter’s life total on the monster board – the game may begin.
The game is played in a series of encounters. These represent the evils, monsters, and traps lurking in the caverns. To start an encounter, first each player draws up to seven cards from the action deck. There are three sorts of cards in the deck – attack cards, item cards, and action cards. Attack cards will be used to beat the snot out of the various encounters. Some attack cards are basic, having just a base attack value on them. Some attacks are special. These attacks allow you to enhance your later attacks, lay down mighty beating, or best of all – muck with your “friend’s” attacks. And a few attacks have character portraits on them. If used by the appropriate character, they may double the base attack on the cards and have the attack rendered immune to special effect, though use of this ability is not mandatory. Item cards, heralded by a green jewel on the top of the card, must be played when drawn. These cards represent amulets, potions, salves, and elixirs found in the cavern to aid the intrepid adventurers. With only a few exceptions, these cards must be used at the beginning of an encounter or remain unused – it’s hard to rub on soothing aloe when you are swinging a great sword. And then the action cards, designated by blue ovals, are there to aid you in your endeavors. Heck, let’s call a spade a spade, they are there to generally screw with your opponents. Make them critically miss, switch out their attacks, and have them heroically step in the way of a monster for you – it’s all in the action cards.
After the cards have been doled out, you must set the life points of your encounter (if necessary). This is as easy as checking the life/attack matrix at the bottom of the encounter. This matrix shows not only what the life total will be, but who the encounter will hit each round and how hard it will be. Why a matrix? Because Mr. Covert made the game scalable. The more people who play the game, the tougher the encounters. So the Bugaboo who is a measly 100 life points for 3 players beefs all the way up to 220 for six players. No wimpy monsters for a full party, nosirreebob. One thing to keep in mind, life points for an encounter are always determined by the number of players who started the game, not the number playing. Therefore, these encounters get no easier as people die – they just get more foreboding.
Then players may begin combat with the encounter. Each combat round consists of six phases:
Initiative – Each player draws a random initiative card from the initiative stack containing a number of cards equal to the players playing. This will be the order that cards resolve in this combat round.
Resolve Last Round’s Monster Attacks (if applicable) – If a monster attacks a specific player, say player #2, it attacks upon the drawing of the new initiative, not the previous one. This is where the whumpings happen.
Set Your Attack – Place your attack face down in front of you. Cards may be switched until all attacks are locked in. Keep in mind, attacks resolve in initiative order and only the killing blow gets prestige points. If for some odd reason you find yourself without an attack card, you may place an action card face down as a bluff but it will fail to resolve.
Take Turns In Initiative Order – Flip your attack card starting in numeric order. Assess the damage to the creature or otherwise carry out the instructions on the attack card in front of you. Place the cards in a line so that all of the damage done this round can be read. Check to see if the encounter has been bested. If so, begrudgingly slap the good adventurer on the back for a job well done (and to check for soft spots for dagger strikes later on.) That player collects the encounter card and the prestige points attacked to it. Encounters 7 and 8 are worth an additional 3 prestige points and the ninth encounter is worth an additional 5 prestige points. If not, the next initiative plays. Continue through all players until they have all completed their turn or the encounter has been vanquished. After all players have finished their turn this round, assess the damage to the life points of the monster, remove the attack cards to the discard pile (if applicable) and prepare to have the encounter do its job.
Creature Attacks – If the attack is not randomly based, this is where it will happen. These attacks will include “player who dealt the most damage” and “player who dealt the least damage”. Check the matrix out for details and hand out some pain.
Draw A Card – Feeble adventures! Draw another card from your bag of tricks and prepare to battle anew! Note – you do NOT draw back to seven, you only draw one card. We’d feel bad for you if you weren’t trying to jack some poor monster’s treasure.
Then the initiative cards are collect, reshuffled, and redistributed. These combat rounds continue until the encounter has been bested or the party is a pile of corpses.
When the encounter is over, the party may camp and lick their wounds. At this time, players may discard any unwanted cards from their hands and decide whether that healing salve the just “Stab & Grab”bed from his “friend” might come in useful. Then, if that wasn’t the last encounter. Refill your hand to seven (usually) and continue along – there’s a lot more cavern to come.
When the last encounter in the encounter deck has been defeated. The player with the highest prestige point total wins. Oh, and he has to be alive as well. Famous corpses are still corpses after all – the dead can’t brag. In case of a tie, draw a new encounter from the pile of unused encounters and continue until the tie is broken or there are nothing but smoldering bodies. And yes, if you don’t show some sort of party solidarity, it is possible for the caverns to claim another victory over squabbling adventures.
Presentation – Another beautifully presented game. The two piece box comes chock full of parts – You get the 94 card action deck, 25 oversized encounter cards for the encounter deck, a token sheet full of good, thick stout cardboard tokens, 6 initiative cards, the monster tracker cards, the 6 oversized character cards, 8 glass beads (in two colors), and the rules sheet. The cards are printed a good thick cardstock and read excellently. They are very well laid out, easy to read, and in fact have numbers around the edge which make it easy to figure out double and half strength attacks. Simply rotate the card the appropriate direction. Simple and easy. The cards are void of artwork but that’s a good thing. Not only because artwork on the cards would have cluttered the design, but the very best artwork was saved for all the oversized cards. The oversized cards feature a variety of artwork styles from a variety of artists – and all of them are jaw dropping. From the slightly more cartoonish stylings of Boogens and Spite to the more “realistic” feel of Iron Skin Gargoyle and Shift, the artists definitely give you reasons to put the “fan” back into fantasy. And what’s more – and I feel is a very nice touch by Curt Cover – he gives a full artist breakdown in the rules and contact info for those artists. Not only great exposure for these talented individuals, but a great way for the fans of the art to see more of what these artists have to offer. This is something I wish more games would find a way to do that use artwork like this. The tokens also feature this great artwork, where applicable, and are printed not on some flimsy stock, but on a good thick laminated stock that will last. Add to this a great plastic insert that stores all the pieces, the great tracking board, and a great rules booklet full of pictures and examples, and you have one fine presentation of a game. One note – and it’s the one a make for most non-collectible card game like this. Look to sleeve the cards. Not due to bad cardstock – but because the constant play this game is sure to see and the multiple shufflings will be sure to wear these cards down. Sleeves are a cheap, efficient way to add life to any card game.
Replayability: What can I say? The game is scalable – meaning the challenge doesn’t weaken with multiple players, an aspect I find highly admirable. The game starts with a twenty five card encounter deck of which you’ll only see nine at any time, and you’ll see them all in different orders. This makes in the base game for a myriad of encounter options. The action deck has just the right balance of normal cards, items, screw thy neighbor cards, and counter cards. A few thoughts on the game:
-Curt Covert must be the dean of Bitter Choad university, because this game will make you spiteful and resentful of your fellow players (and you’ll love it.) Temper the bitterness early in the game, however. There are nine encounters in the deck and trust me, you’re current object of ire will make a great meat shield for cards like “My Hero” and “Human Shield” later. Besides, “Edge Out” and “Trip” are good for wiping the smile off of his pompous face later in the game when at encounters seven and eight Captain Glory becomes expendable
-The item card “Alchemist’s Fire” is just THAT good. Usable any time during the encounter, the thirty points of damage this card deals to the encounter allows you to sneak it for a quick prestige grab. The bonus ten damage to all other players is an extra bit of icing as it allows you to burn an annoying, self serving, and most importantly winning player from your path.
-“Rally” and “Tougher Than He Looks/Not So Tough” can have multiple uses – especially if you’re sneaky. Remember, some monsters attack based on how much damage is done. Assist a fellow player with some extra “Rally” damage, especially when it won’t kill an encounter, and let them take the blow instead. Use “Tougher Than He Looks” to rotate an attack down and an opponent’s temper up as they not only not kill a monster, but will have to take damage too.
Overall: Curt Covert has teased us with this game for a good two years. Whispers, teases, flashes of an ankle entering a hansom cab. However, it was an incubation period well worth it. Smooth game play, fantastic visual presentation, and an easy to learn yet novel game concept make this game a must own. Cooperative games a hard nut to crack. Those games that turn competitive towards the ends – doubly so. But the master of the “screw thy neighbor” game has brought us a game with a good balance across the board. Easy yet strategic. Fun but a bit frantic. And often making you not sure whether you want to thank your opponent for his last move or slap him silly because it just ruined your plan. And not to be content sitting on his laurels, Smirk And Dagger already has released an expansion to this game called Deeper And Darker adding another fifteen encounters and one shot character abilities to the stack. Did I mention the free PDF encounter cards he has been regularly posting to the Smirk And Dagger website? And what about his new encounter contest he is currently running in his website? But we now come to the dreaded encounter in my review – the “there’s got to be something wrong” portion. Some players (those of a lawyerish bent) may find some holes or ambiguities in the rules. These are easily closed with a quick trip to the Smirk And Dagger website for the Cutthroat Caverns FAQ. And if my players have had any beef with this game, it’s that for a non-collectible card game – it plays a bit long. Yes, that’s it. And it hasn’t stopped any of them from playing multiple games of Cutthroat Caverns in an evening. Whether you are a role playing fan looking for something to spice up you pre or post game time, a game enthusiast looking for a great new product that won’t break you wallet or back (Yes, Eurogame companies, I am poking at you!), or just need to have the next big thing from the devious mind of one Curt Covert – this game will not send you wrong. Enter these caverns knowing you are leaving with a winner. The only problem I have now is that Smirk And Dagger games are a lot like Chinese Food – three hours after playing, I want to know what he’s working on next….
Final Score: 9 out of 10.
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