Old Buzz: Catacombs

Catacombs - image by BGG user IntvGene

Time to go back and look at another game that I missed the first time around.  This time, it’s Catacombs, the dexterity dungeon game.  Catacombs was first published in 2010 by Sands of Time Games.  This is their only game at this time, with an expansion coming soon.  Deisgners for the game were Ryan Amos, Marc Kelsey, and Aron West.  The game is for 2-5 players aged 12 and up, and takes about 30 minutes to play.  It’s your standard dungeon crawl game where you’re heading into the catacombs of some castle and try to defeat the evil overlord.  What sets the game apart from Descent or any of the thousand other titles that are similar is that heroes and monsters are all represented by wooden discs that you’ll be flicking all over the board.

The game comes with three double-sided boards that represent different rooms.  These boards all have holes in them that will be filled with discs that will form obstacles for me.  There are 72 cards, including wizards spell cards, item cards, room cards, and monster cards.  There are 40 tiny cards that represent monetary denominations of 100 and 500.  There are 62 wooden discs of different sizes.  These will be your heroes, monsters, and various weapons.  You’ll be affixing stickers to most of these (oh joy).  There are six red cubes which are used to track health.  Finally, there are 8 player mats, four for the heroes and four for the overlord.

Each player will get a character at the start of the game.  One player will be the Catacomb Overseer, and his character will be chosen by the players.  The others will be the Elf, the Barbarian, the Thief, and the Wizard.  All four characters will be in every game, so you’ll split them between the hero players.  The Elf has a ranged attack, a little yellow disc that you’ll flick from a distance.  The Barbarian has the highest HP, and can do a rage attack, allowing him to make four attacks in a turn (but at the cost of a turn).  The Thief gains gold from killing monsters, and the Wizard has spells he can cast.

The dungeon deck will be constructed by the Overseer, with a level 0 card on top, then a level 1 card, then the Merchant card, then two more level 1 cards, then the Healer card, then a level 2 card, then the Catacomb Lord card at the bottom.  Each hero gets their mat and marks their current level of health, as well as gaining any special pieces they need.

The game is played over several rounds as you work your way through the dungeon deck.  First, the Overseer will turn over the next card in the deck, then will set up the appropriate board (indicated on the card).  As I mentioned, you’ll be putting discs in the holes to create obstacles.  You’ll also be placing monsters in the start zone.  Heroes will start behind a line.

In the next phase, the battle begins.  Heroes go first, and each hero takes an action.  There’s no set order about who needs to go first.  Actions are either melee attacks (flicking the hero’s disc at the monsters), or special actions based on that hero’s ability.  If you strike a monster, they take damage.  Some monsters will be removed immediately, while others will be flipped over to indicate that they’ve taken a hit.  The Elf may also be able to flick a small yellow disc as an arrow, while the Wizard may be able to cast spells that may get other discs on the board (such as the fireball or the shield).

Once all heroes have gone, the Overseer activates each monster and does their actions.  The battle phase continues until there are no monsters left on the board, or until all heroes are dead.  Dead heroes are out, but can resurrect with the Healer if they can afford the procedure.

After all monsters are dead, players take gold based on how many monsters they have killed.  A new round then begins.

This is a campaign game, so you’ll be building up a little bit before the final boss battle.  The heroes win if they successfully destroy the Catacomb Lord in the final level.  The Overseer wins if, at any time, no hero can take an action due to incapacitation or death.

I think this game sounds like a ton of fun.  I don’t have a whole lot of dungeon crawling experience – I’ve played Descent a few times, but that’s about it.  But this seems cool if only because you’re flicking discs around, trying to hit each other.  I have a couple of component concerns.  One is about the stickers.  I know it’s a cost-saving method to get the consumer to apply their own stickers, but I’m terrified that I’ll get a wrinkle in one of them.  While it may not matter in some games, in this one, it could really affect the flicking.  The other concern is that there are no edges on the boards.  You’re flicking discs around and some of them are bound to fly off the edge.  The designers say there was no way to introduce walls and not affect gameplay, and I understand that.  However, it seems like it might be a pain to recover a disc and put it back where it flew off.  In the spur of the moment, it might not matter.

I’m really looking forward to playing the game.  It’s currently out of print, but the Sands of Time website is saying that a reprint is coming in the first quarter of this year.  They’re also planning an expansion, so I’m sure the game will be back soon.  And with that, I’ll end it for today.  Thanks for reading!

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