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Subject: The Cave: A Review rss

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Kristen McCarty
United States
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Since ancient times humans have explored the Earth and beyond. Our curiosity has sent us to sandy deserts, deep jungles, mountain peaks, Antarctic ice, and outside the boundaries of our planet. Now we will travel to the depths and explore deep into a newly discovered cave. What wonders await our discovery? All will be revealed as players prepare their supplies and set out into the dark depths of The Cave.

Goal of the Game

Players are leading a team exploring a recently discovered cave. All team starts at the home base. Here the get the equipment needed to survive the exploration. Players to out on various to make their discoveries. expeditions, but must return to Home Base or camp to re-equip. Who ever makes the most contributions to the discovery of the cave will win.


The Cave's artwork is beautiful and the components are good quality, however they are small. This is a game you will want to keep organized during play and in the box. There are 80 Cave tiles that are divided into four groups (I, II, III, IV). There are also 16 boulder choke point tiles. There are five types of equipment tokens: 50 consumable tokens, 40 rope tokens, 20 oxygen tokens, 5 camera tokens and 5 raft tokens. Each player will get one camera and raft. The players each receive one of the 5 player boards, 5 speleologist wooden team pawns, and 5 wooden camp pawns.

There are also five types of exploration tokens. There are 25 water exploration, 40 traverse line exploration tokens, and 30 photo exploration tokens, 27 squeeze exploration tokens and 40 depth exploration tokens. There are also 40 depth markers.

There are also two double-sided player boards.


First, based on how many are playing, choose the correct player board. The starting board has the speleologist's home base. This is where teams begin and return to when they need to re-equip.

Next, prepare the cave tiles. There are four stacks and each stack of should have the same symbol on the back. Shuffle the 20 tiles of each stack and discard the correct number of tiles (depending on the number of players.) Four two players place 11 tiles, 13 with 3, 15 with 4, and 17 with 5. Place the stacks on the table face down with the boulder choke tiles.

Set up the tokens and leave room in the center for the cave. It will grow as it is discovered.

Give each player their pieces. They should get 1 speleologist team pawn 1 camp pawn, 1 player board in the their color.

Player boards have two areas for equipment tokens.

The backpack there are 8 equipment slots. This equipment is always available to the player. In the Camp there are 4 equipment slots. Players need to place a camp to use its equipment.

Each player put their pawn onto the Home and their camp pawn next to their player board.

Now players choose equipment tokens to fill their backpacks at the same time. Players may use any equipment they like but for the first game this is the suggest list: 4 consumables, 1 rope, 1 oxygen, their camera, and their raft.

Next players should choose who should go first and the game may begin.

Game Play

Players take turns in clockwise order.

When their turn starts players must discard one consumable, unless they are at Home Base. They then may spend up to five action points (AP)

Discovering New Cave Tiles

A player can reveal a new cave tile for 1 AP. They need to be on a tiles with at least one explored edge. If they are they draws a tile from the current stack. The stack of tiles marked I is are used until they run out then II, III, and finally IV. The player chooses which edge to place the tile on. The edges must match with adjacent tiles. New tiles do not have to match with adjacent boulder chokes.

If there is no legal placement, the tile is discarded and a boulder choke point must be placed. The boulder choke point does not have to match. The player chooses the unexplored exit where the boulder choke point will go. Boulder choke tiles may be entered, but no new tiles may be discovered from them!

After placing a new tile, the player then put the correct exploration token next to / on the tile.

Water tile: place a water exploration token (3 victory points at the end of the game)

Underground Wonder tile: place a photo exploration token (2 victory points at the end of the game)

Squeeze Tile:
place a squeeze exploration token with the same number as shown on the tile. (Squeeze tile I - worth 2 victory points, squeeze tile II - worth three victory points, and squeeze tile III - worth 4 victory points at the end of the game.)

Descent Tiles:
descent tiles work a bit differently. Instead of a exploration token, they get a depth marker with a value of 25 deeper than the depth of the level from which the decent tiles was discovered. The starting board is at a depth of 0.

Depth Marker:
these are used to mark the depth of a tile. Depth markers are placed so that players easily see the tile's depth. Each descent is 25 meters deeper than the tile from which it was discovered. All non-descent tiles discovered from a descent tile are at the same level as that descent tile. It is also helpful to place depth markers on adjacent non-descent tiles that have different depths, they help players see the cave levels but don't have any other game function.

The home base and non-descent tiles discovered from it are at a depth of zero and don't need to be marked. Depth changes only by discovery of new tiles.

Movement and Exploration

Players pay AP to enter tiles. Multiple players may be on the same tile. Players collect exploration tokens during movement and should be set out so other players can see them. A player can usually move to an adjacent tile for 1 AP. Some tiles require more AP:

Descent Tiles

To enter a descent (or any other) tile at a different level (climbing up or down), there must be a rope from the current tile to the other tile. If a rope is there, the team can use it, even if another player put it there. They would move to the other tile for I AP. If there is no rope the player must place a rope from their backpack. This costs 1 AP. The rope should be placed between the tiles to connect them. They the player uses 1 AP to move. If the depth difference between the tiles is more than one level, multiple ropes are needed. This must be done on a single turn.

If tiles are already connected by rope more rope needs not be placed. Movement between tiles connected by rope always cost 1 AP. For each rope a player places they get one traverse line exploration token.

The first time a player moves to a new depth by placing a rope they also take the correct depth reached token. They may have 1 depth reached token for each depth. Depth reached token are gained only by entering the new level with the player's own just-placed rope, not from their opponent's.

Depth reached tokens are worth victory points: 25 tokens - 3 victory points, 50 token -4 victory points, 75 and deeper - 5 victory points.

Water Tiles

There are two different ways to enter water tiles:

1. Using Oxygen
- The player spends 2 AP and 1 oxygen token. Oxygen tokens are double-sided. One shows 2 full tanks and the other side shows 1 full and one empty. When using oxygen, first turn a 2-tank to the partially used side. Next time discard the token. When entering a water tile which with a water exploration token they may take it, it is worth 3 victory points.

2. Using a raft
- The team must spend 1 AP and have a raft in their backpack. Entering a water tile with a raft does not let a team take the water exploration token! The raft stays in the team's backpack and can be used again. A team may come pack later and use 1 AP and 1 oxygen to explore the tile and take the token at another time.

Underground Wonder Tiles

Entering an underground wonder costs 1 AP. If it sitll has it token and the team has a camera, they can spend 1 AP to take a photo and take the photo exploration token. The camera stays in the backpack and each photo exploration token is worth 2 victory points.

Squeeze Tiles

Entering a squeeze tile costs 1 AP plus as many AP as the difficulty level of the squeeze. Difficulty is indicated on the tile and can range from 1 to 3. The first time a squeeze tile is entered the player takes the squeeze exploration token.

Each squeeze exploration token at the end of the game is worth: difficulty 1 - 2 victory points, difficulty 2 - 3 victory points, difficulty - 4 victory points. The AP cost to enter a squeeze point must be paid in full regardless of whether the exploration token is still there or not.

Placing Equipment at the Home Base

At Home Base a player may pack their backpack for 2 AP. They can exchange resources between their backpack and the bank. If the team still has their camp in their backpack they may also exchange equipment between the camp and the bank.


Each player has one camp with 4 equipment slots. In the backpack it occupies 2 backpack slots.

A player does not need to pack their camp. When the player wants to take their camp with them, they pack the 4 slots of the camp and put it into their backpack. The first time the camp is packed into the backpack there is no additional cost. Each other time it costs 1 AP to pack.

When the camp is packed in the backpack, the player can not use the equipment packed in the 4 camp slots. On any tile, a player can unpack their camp and put it on their current tile for 2 AP. Now they may Form exchange equipment between their backpack and their camp on the tile without spending AP.

When a team returns to home base with the camp in their backpack, they can:

- Leave the camp at the home base, spending 0 AP. It is abandoned and can not be used for the rest of the game.

- Pack It - to do this, the team must place the camp for 2 AP, pack the backpack and camp for 2 AP, and then pack the camp into 2 slots of the backpack for 1 AP (not all necessarily in the same turn).

- Do Nothing - leave the backpack and camp packed as they are. The camp can be placed and packed any number of times during the game.

Any unused AP from a turn are lost.

End of Game and Scoring

The game ends when the last tile form the IV stack is placed (or, if unplayable, a boulder choke is placed).

Play continues until the player before the start player to ensure that all players get the same number of turns.

There are then 3 more rounds, continuing from the start Player. Each player will get to have three more turns.

If a player does not return to home base they automatically lose. Any exploration tokens of the eliminated team are not taken into account for allocating bonus points.

Bonus points are awarded to players for exploration tokens collected: traverse line tokens, water exploration tokens, photo exploration tokens, squeeze exploration tokens (regardless of the difficulty levels of the collected tokens). The team which collected the most tokens of each type, receives 8 bonus points. The team which collected the second largest number of tokens receives 4 bonus points.

If two players tie for first then they each are awarded the second place points (4 points) and the second place players do not get bonus points. If there are more than 2 players tied for first place, no bonus points are awarded. When there is a tie for second no bonus points are awarded to those players.

After distributing bonus points, players add up all their victory points.

- 2 Victory Points for each - traverse line token, photo exploration token, squeeze exploration token with difficulty 1

- 3 Victory Points for each - water exploration token, squeeze exploration token with difficulty 2, depth reached token with value 25

- 4 Victory Points for each - squeeze exploration token with difficulty 3, depth reached token with value 50

- 5 Victory Points for each - depth reached token with value 75 or deeper

Whomever has the most victory points wins. If there is a tie, there is no tie breaker.

My Thoughts

A game that enables a player to sit at their kitchen table and feel like they are exploring and discovering hidden wonders is rare. To have this depth of theme is even rarer for a Eurogame. The combination of tile laying, resource management, and components creates the mystery, tension, and awe speleologists must encounter as they set out to research and explore.

No two games of "The Cave" have been the same, it offers a lot of re-playability. Each game offers unique challenges and obstacles to be overcome. One game I may find many underground wonders and lakes without ever needing to use my repelling skills. Another game may be filled with tight squeeze points and long descents. Because you never know what you may encounter, smart packing and use of action points is critical.

There are a lot of tokens and they are small. When we punched them out and started to sort them out, I admit that I was a little intimidated. I wondered what they were going to be used for and how we would keep track of them. But after reading the rules and playing the first game, their purposes became clear. I would strongly suggest keeping them organized both in the box and on the game table. We have used both a Plano Box and silicon muffin cups. It keeps the tokens organized and easily accessible.

While I love the artwork on the tokens it would have been nice if the tokens had their victory point value on one side. This would make end game end scoring easier.

The components of The Cave are language independent and the iconography works nicely. It is easy to tell them apart and see where they should go on the tiles. The player board also has a nice player aide for action points. At first glance this can also seem intimidating but after a few turns it is nice as a quick reference when you need to remember how much a certain action costs. There isn't a a VP scoring aid other than in the rulebook and I wish there had been one included. I think the back of the player board would have been a good place for it.

The game plays quickly and there is minimal downtime between player turns. During your opponent's turn you need to pay attention to what they discover, the number of tiles that are left, and what tokens they have collected. The game is all about resource and action point maximization. You don't want to be stuck out in the cave without consumables, but you also don't want to finish a turn without using all your action points. The player who can best use their resources and action points is not certain of victory, however. Tile draws put an element of luck into the game. One player may draw most of the high scoring tiles while another gets stuck with boulder choke points. Some players will be turned off by this luck in an otherwise strategic game.

There is a good balance between how long an action takes, its needed resources, and its victory point value. It may take you longer to go through a difficulty 3 squeeze point but it does give you four victory points. Of course I never like going back through the squeeze point because of all the actions it takes. It also takes a lot fewer actions and a camera in your backpack to take a picture and its reward is only two victory points.

There is tension in "The Cave," as you use your resources, feed your people (consumables), and decide to pack or leave your camp. I enjoy the exploring and discovering the cave, wondering if I will find a wonder around the next corner or meet with a dead end. I don't always enjoy the game end, as we get closer to the last tile. If you don't make it back to home base you automatically lose. I don't feel like I can take any risks and the game forces you back to Home Base. I'm not sure I like that rule and I'm not opposed creating a house rule to ignore it. At the same time I feel like it makes sense as the game is a race to do the best job exploring the cave and returning to the finish line.

Overall, I really enjoyed the game. I love tile laying games because of the new world that is created each play. "The Cave's" artwork is beautiful and the game plays well. The math, tension, and end game race back to home base aren't my favorite parts, but they are needed to make the game work. I even like the luck, because if you were actually exploring a new cave you wouldn't know what is around the bend and one group may discover an amazing wonder, while others find dead ends and boulders.

Quick Stats

Designer: Adam Kałuża
Artists: Jarek Nocoń
Publisher: MYBG Co., Ltd., Pegasus Spiele,, edizioni
Number of Players: 2 - 5
Playing Time: 60 minutes
Mechanics: Set Collection, Tile Placement, Action Point Allowance System, Modular Board

Picture Credits: Maciej Teległow (MacTele), Rafal Szczepkowski (cnidius)(6), Maciej Teległow (MacTele)(4), Rafal Szczepkowski (cnidius)(3), kyul yoon (soondaeng), Rafal Szczepkowski (cnidius)

Thanks for your great pictures!

Check out more of my reviews at: A Game Built for Two (and sometimes more) Game Reviews

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Tom C.
United States
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This is a great review. Never heard of the game until I found this, read it through, loved the pictures, and now bought the game. You should request a commission!
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Russ Williams
Dolny Śląsk
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Horrid Beast wrote:
This game has actually copped a lot of flak from fans of the designer's last production, K2, as being too similar and not as interesting.

Did you really mean "too similar" or was that a typo? I have the impression that some K2 fans considered The Cave to be "too DISsimilar" to K2 (which has a known map, a known deck of cards & thus more controllable/predictable randomness, etc). They seem rather different types of games to me.
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Andy Andersen
United States
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Somehow I've missed the last few of your reviews, Kristen. This is an excellent one as are all of yours.

Keep 'em coming.
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Jason Olson
United States
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My brother got me this for Christmas. Never heard of it, but am very excited to try it out! Thanks for the review!
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