Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious predator on Earth!
There is always some risk that when making one’s end of year list so close to the end of that year that it will end up being inaccurate in some ways. Either you can find that some game you put on their isn’t as good as you thought it was (see: Warrior’s & Traders) or you will happen upon a game that is so exceptional that if you had played it prior to the end of the year it would have definitely made it to your list. This is what has happened to me with Cave Evil, by Emperors of Eternal Evil. It first came to my attention when I saw it on Michael Barnes’ end of year list behind Mage Knight and Eclipse. While I do not always agree with Mr. Barnes about when he is critical about a game his enthusiasm, particularly for meatier games, is enough for me to at least consider a game, and what he had to say about Cave Evil was sufficient to push me over the edge into purchasing it.
I am both happy and upset I did. I am happy because it is a fun and unique game, and I think it is absolutely worth owning for anyone who likes tactical combat games. Before I was a board gamer I played competitive collectible miniature games and Cave Evil definitely scratched the same sort of itch, but rather than the building your squad before the game starts you have a unique and competitive resource system that lets you build your squad during the game, which adds for a fun bit of dynamism that is not present in my favorite CMGs. The fact that they are able to alter the structure of the board during the game itself adds to this. While mastering the environment of a new map was always fun in Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures the ability to create and destroy your own passages is equally, if not more fun.
On the downside, the game does feature player elimination, which can be awkward at times and may eventually kill its ability to be played with most of my group due to their distaste for this particular mechanic. I empathize with this particular distaste, but I think the game is good enough to overcome such an issue, though if they continue to disagree with me it will not matter because I will not be able to play.
Cave Evil is probably the most Ameritrash (AT) game that I have played in a while and I have actually had some of my local opponents express surprise at my interest in this game, despite the fact that it fits well with the sorts of games that originally attracted my attention to the hobby: Dungeons & Dragons, Magic, and Collectible Miniatures Games. When I first got into board gaming I largely focused on eurogames, with my enjoyment of Arkham Horror being the only real break from that general trend, probably due to a fatigue and general dissatisfaction with the sort of AT games I had played up until that point. So I see playing games like Cave Evil and Mage Knight less as a divergent change rather than a return to my roots. Of course the question is why is this happening?
One possibility is that I am just getting over my burn out in that style of games, and thus am much more willing to look at them then I once was and this has resulted in me being more open to play a game like Cave Evil then I was at previous points. Of course this willingness has not extended to an interest in games like Quarriors or Kings of Tokyo; I still retain my lack of interest in lighter games of this style.
It could also be that my natural exploration of boardgaming in general has led me back to AT games as the last big area that requires major definition of my interests. I already have a good idea of what I like in war games and euro games, what works and does not in AT board games is a bit more vague. Since a major part of my enjoyment of board games is about deep exploration, both of individual games as well as the genre in general this uncertainty and lack of definition is alluring.
Of course it is also possible that rather than it simply being about a change in my perceptions of AT releases or my desire for exploration, it could simply be about a change in the sort of designs that have been released. Mage Knight and Eclipse are both hybrid designs more than anything else and Cave Evil seems to be deeper and meatier then a lot of AT designs released in the last few years while at the same time effectively avoiding some of the pitfalls that are common in games that are highly interactive.
As it stands, I expect to continue paying attention to meatier games of all styles in the future and I expect to be paying special attention to AT designs in order to continue to investigate whether it is my preferences that are shifting, if the style of designs is changing, or if it is some combination of both.
If you have not seen it already my review of Cave Evil is here: A Deeply Rewarding Experience
So are there any deeper and meatier AT board games released over the last few years that you have particularly enjoyed? Anything I missed that I should check out?