I saw Catacombs 3rd edition (C3E) for the first time in the kickstarter for Catacombs and Castles (CC), which offered all boxes including the already-published C3E. It can be a bit confusing but basically CC is a shorter, simpler game compared to C3E (later they kickstarted an even simpler game than CC). you can play CC as either team vs team with groups of champions, or team vs a one-person group of units. CC and C3E are both played on a map where you shoot discs representing each unit.
It sounds like it might be boring but actually there is quite a bit of variety in what type of shots and abilities you can do. Each unit is a disc, and they come in different sizes. Some units use other (temporary) discs representing arrows or fireballs. A mage can use spells for example to summon a fire elemental disc, or swap places with a teammate; a warrior might execute a chain of flicks/attacks against multiple monsters. Some champions can summon large discs to shield themselves, and much more.
I mainly play board games with my wife, so usually the way I choose whether to buy a game or not is that if I'm interested I pitch it to her. We both prefer coop games (such as Sentinels of the Multiverse and The Captain is Dead) so when she saw this was competitive, and it was dexterity based, she voted no and I missed the kickstarter.
The stars aligned though and I bought CC as a game to try with some children friends. I and my wife had fun playing it. I lucked out and got a brand-new, full kickstarter pledge on ebay with all the C3E boxes.
C3E is much more fun than CC because it takes a team of heroes (1-4 players) fighting against one game master controlling all the monsters, through a unique dungeon crawl route put together as a series of "rooms". Each room is a board with its own group of monsters the team has to defeat. The heroes earn gold they can spend in certain rooms to heal or buy items.
The final confrontation takes place in a room with monsters and the Lord of your choice. The Lord will have some special ability like stunning the heroes, or summoning more monsters.
The designers (Aaron West) did a great job at creating a varied and fun gameplay from a seemingly simple premise (flicking discs). The art (by Kwanchai Moriya) is very good, a mix of funny and serious with a tad of whimsical. I would not have bought this game with the older art.
I've played only a few games so far, without the more advanced poison rules. So far, the balance of the game is amazingly spot on. When the heroes arrive at the last room, if the balance was off they could easily be almost dead (easy loss), or in full health and with all abilities ready to roll (easy win). Instead, our games were very close, which makes them more exciting. But this reflects the amount of care the designers put into the game, and the amount of testing that balances all the moving parts.
So many times a good concept disappears amidst a sea of ignorance and idiocy. it is heartening to see, instead, the elegant simplicity of a brilliantly executed and most entertaining game.
10/10 would buy more boxes.
A note on the expansions:
I can't think of any reason why you would NOT want to buy all the expansions. I haven't even played with all of them, but the base game has 6 heroes. If less is more, imagine how much more, more is.
A note on the cost:
you can buy a few so-so games, or you can buy one great game. the amount of money is the same. there's a lot of wood pieces, boards, cards and stickers here. it is good value. btw, several of the CC components are actually compatible with C3E.