Game Buzz: The Cave

After this years’s nomination of K2 for the Kennerspiel des Jahres, a lot of people have been interested to see what the designer is coming out with next.  Wait no more – it’s another exploration themed game, this time called

image by BGG user MacTele

The Cave is the latest design from K2 designer Adam Kałuża, and is being published by REBEL.pl.  It’s a 2-5 player game for ages 10+ that takes an hour to play.  The theme is that you’re leading a team of speleologists (aka cave scientists) as you descend into and explore a cave.  The game features a modular board so the cave will be different every time.

image by BGG user MacTele

In the box, you get two double-sided base boards, 80 cave tiles (divided into four groups), 16 boulder choke tiles, 5 player boards, 5 speleologist pawns, 5 camp pawns, 50 consumable tokens, 40 rope tokens, 20 oxygen tokens, 5 camera tokens, 5 raft tokens, 12 bonus point tokens, 25 water exploration tokens, 40 traverse line tokens, 30 photo exploration tokens, 27 squeeze exploration tokens, 40 depth reached tokens, and 40 depth markers.  There’s apparently also a soundtrack you can download at the REBEL.pl website.

At the start of the game, you’ll put out the base board that corresponds to the number of players, and each player puts their speleologist on that tile.  You’ll shuffle up each group of cave tiles and remove some (again, based on the number of players).  Players will choose 8 tokens to fill their backpacks (4 consumables, 1 rope, 1 oxygen, a camera and a raft are suggested for newbies).

On your turn, you first must discard a consumable before you can spend 5 action points (APs) to explore the cave.  If you can’t spend a consumable, you must spend all five APs to move to another tile.  You can’t do anything else until you reach your home base, or a camp with consumables you can pick up.

Your options for how to spend your APs:

  • Discover new cave tiles: For 1 AP, you can reveal a new cave tile.  Your pawn must be on a tile with at least one unexplored exit.  You’ll draw from the current stack of tiles, and the tile must be placed so all adjacent sides match.  If it can’t be played, it is discarded and a boulder choke is placed instead.  You can enter boulder chokes, but you can’t discover new tiles from them.  Exploration tokens are placed on the new tile according to the symbols on the tile; if it’s a descent tile, you’ll place a depth marker that shows your new depth.
  • Movement and exploration: It costs one AP to enter a new tile and collect any exploration tokens that are there.  Usually.  If you are entering a descent tile, you’ll have to place one rope per 25 meters difference (1 AP per rope) and then you can move for 1 AP.  Each rope you place gets you a traverse line exploration token, and the first time you enter a new depth, you get a depth token.  If there’s a rope already leading to the tile you’re going to, you can use it regardless of who placed it.  Water tiles may be entered using 2 AP and 1 oxygen, or by spending 1 AP and using their raft.  You can get a water exploration token by using oxygen, but not by using a raft.  Underground wonders are entered for 1 AP, and an additional AP if you want to take a picture with your camera (which gets you a photo exploration token).  Squeeze tiles cost one AP to enter, plus AP equal to the difficulty listed on the tile, which will get you a squeeze exploration token if you are the first one in.  Boulder chokes cost 2 to enter, and you can’t explore new exits.
  • Pack: At your home base, you can spend 2 AP to pack your backpack (you don’t have to spend the 2 AP at the start of the game).
  • Camp: To pack your camp, it costs 1 AP (again, not at the beginning of the game).  You fill the four equipment spaces of your camp, then cover two backpack slots with your camp pawn.  To place a camp on your current tile costs 2 AP.  You can exchange equipment between your camp and backpack once the camp is placed for free.  To repack your camp costs 1 AP, and if you ever choose to leave it at home base, you can’t use it for the rest of the game.

The endgame is triggered when the final cave tile from the fourth stack is placed (or is unplaceable).  Play continues until the player to the right of the original start player has had a turn (so everyone has had an equal number of turns), then each player gets three more turns.  If you do not return to home base before those three turns are up, you die in the cave and lose the game.  The player with the most tokens gets 8 points, and second most gets 4 (ties for first get 4 points with second place getting nothing, and ties for second just get nothing).  You get 2 VP for each traverse line, photo exploration, and level one squeeze token you have.  You get 3 VP for each water, level two squeeze, and 25 depth token you have.  You get 4 VP for each level three squeeze and 50 depth token you have.  You get 5 VP for each 75 or deeper depth token you have.  The winner is the player with the most points.

When compared to K2 (as this game doubtless will be), this game definitely features more variety thanks to the modular board.  It also seems just as vicious and unforgiving as you have a limited amount of equipment and have to dump consumables every single turn, forcing you to keep heading back to base.  Still, having a camp seems pretty nice – you can head off in one direction, drop camp, then grab what you need a little quicker than going all the way back to base.

Traditionally, I haven’t been super fond of action point games.  That’s probably because most that I’ve played have been by Wolfgang Kramer who doesn’t put a whole lot of work into his themes.  This theme seems very unique and engaging.  It’s very interesting to have a game where you’re delving into the depths of a cave without the threat of goblins jumping out at you.  And yet, the tension level seems high just because it’s man against nature.  I’d love to try this game out someday…hope it will make its way to the US.  I’m betting it will, especially after the success of K2.  Thanks for reading.

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