Game Review: Cutthroat Caverns

CutthroatCavernsCutthroat Caverns
Smirk & Dagger, 2007

Got a few friends who would like to go on a Dungeon Delve, but no one wants to GM? Pick up a copy of Cutthroat Caverns.  Cutthroat Caverns gives you the experience of a good old fashioned dungeon crawl.

The theme of the game is: Without teamwork… you will never survive. Without betrayal… you will never win. You and your friends are a team of adventurers, heading into a dungeon filled with monsters, in order to retrieve an artifact of untold power. Along the way, you will face 9 (or more) encounters. These encounters may be horrible beasts, secret traps, or other nasty foes. These foes will have a number of hit points and an attack. But only the player who strikes the killing blow will get the prestige points that are needed to win the artifact at the end of the game.

You work cooperatively, using a deck of cards which include attacks, tactical maneuvers, actions and items.  Everyone is dealt an initiative card, then secretly selects one of their cards to play that round. Will you play an attack in an attempt to kill the monster? Will you use a tactical maneuver in order to make your next attack more effective? By initiative each player will reveal their card, and see if they have defeated the encounter. If they have not, play proceeds to the next player. At then end of the round, if the encounter has not been defeated, then you re-deal initiative, and the encounter will have it’s attack. You must be alive at the end of the game to win, so keep those healing potions handy! Play proceeds until the encounter is defeated. The player who struck the killing blow receives the card, and the prestige points. After the final encounter, prestige is tallied up, and the player with the most prestige wins the game and receives the artifact of untold power, going on to fame and glory in their career.

The unique mix of cooperative and competitive makes this game fun and interesting to play. If no one attacks, then the creature will continue on its rampage, doing damage to you and others, so it is in your best interest to kill it, but you must play strategically in order to be the one who kills it. The game has some little quirks. Initiative is handed out after the players attack, but before the monster attacks, so you have very little chance to avoid the damage that it deals. This is good because it gives you more reason to want to hurt the creature, because it may be you that it attacks, but bad, because you cannot plan for a way to escape that damage. Very much like it would be in “reality”, if 5 people are attacking a creature, how do you know who will get the attack of the creature? Will you sit out the round, hoping that others will wear it down while you strategize where to make the killing blow?

Every card you play will have an impact, and every person playing will make a difference. It is a board game that really feels like a dungeon crawl.

Highly recommended.