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Subject: A review by an average gamer rss

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Rick Roby
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In this game you take on the role of an Explorer descending into an unexplored catacomb where you face off against horrors while you work to be the first to complete your Narrative. Things quickly get intense as more and more rooms of the catacombs are revealed along with the horrors which seek to destroy you. Other Explorers have their own goals and will seek to distract you by sending horrors your way, but you can also strike back.

It’s a great game for 1 to 4 players. Solo play can be challenging as you face all of the horrors yourself with no other Explorers to help kill the horros off, but this certainly adds to the fun.

I am not a “professional” reviewer and am what I would consider just your average player. But I figured I’d offer my thoughts on this game on the chance that it might help others who are deciding whether to get it or not.

The Cards :
The cards have a real quality feel and the artwork is truly amazing. They should hold up to a lot of play. The play cards are broken down into five categories, Finds, Rooms, Horrors, Equipment, and Narratives (this is actually misspelled as “naratives” on the cards). The labels for these are only on the backs so if you sleeve with anything other than clear sleeves it could be difficult to keep the cards separate, especially Finds and Equipment, which could be mistaken for each other.

As I’ve said the artwork is breathtaking; fitting the theme of the game. As other reviewers have noted they really give you that feeling of dread / horror that the game is meant to portray. My only complaint is that the text on some of the cards is difficult to read. This is only a concern with the Horror, Equipment, and Finds cards.

The Room cards have all if their text in small text boxes with black backgrounds and the Narrative cards don’t have artwork behind the text. So the text on these cards is easily read. The Horror, Equipment, and Finds cards have their text printed directly over the artwork. This does have the advantage of not hiding the awesome artwork, but on some of the cards the text blends into the artwork so well it is difficult to read.

An example is the Tentacled Horror card. The text blends into the artwork so well it is difficult to read if you attempt to read it, especially with those of us with “older” eyes.

The Explorer cards are larger than the play cards which works nicely with the equipping mechanic. The text is bigger and really easy to read. The only really complaint is the icon use. The developer used a heart to represent Daring which shows how far an Explorer could move in a turn. They also use a blood drop to represent health which is a nice fit. I think having the heart icon match up to the blood drop for health would have been more intuitive. Thought fist for grit which represents where the Explorer’s health comes from does make since. This is a minor issue and one which will mean less as you play more and become more accustomed to the icon use.

Overall I think the cards are truly amazing but would recommend finding a way to fix the blending of text and artwork.

The Tokens
The game comes with a number of cardboard tokens. These are printed on heavy duty cardboard and seem like they will hold up well to use. They are broken into three types; Explorer, Horrors, and Narrative. It is easy enough to separate them as the Explorer tokens are double sided the Horror tokens artwork has a jagged type of boarder compared to the smooth board on the Narrative Tokens.

The tokens are of a “large” size when you place them on the Room card, but if they were any smaller it could be more difficult to see the artwork on the Horror tokens, which is how you match them up to the card they represent. The token to be used on the Doom Counter is too big to actually be used for this purpose so you will need to use something else there.

A couple of the Horror tokens can be difficult to match up to their respective card because the artwork on the token is basically a “head shot” picture of the horror. Not really a big deal but worth mentioning. Perhaps printing the artwork to the edges of the token and doing away with the yellowish boarder would improve this.

The Horror and Narrative tokens are single sided. Not sure how I feel about this. Having the printing on only one side does reduce costs but having two sided could “speed up” play by not needing to flip counters over to see what they are. But, having them one sided does allow them to be used for other purposes and with the game really needing more counters than are provided this could be a good thing.

The developer has said if they do a reprint they might make the tokens smaller and those related to the Narratives more general. Smaller tokens for the Narratives could be nice, but the Horror Tokens can already be difficult to match up so these shouldn’t be any smaller. The artwork on the Narrative tokens is less detailed, but still a nice touch. These certainly could be smaller with no real impact on play. Being one sided these do lend themselves to use as general tokens more so than the Horror tokens.

The Explorer tokens are the same size as the other tokens and are double sided which does really set them apart. I did have some difficulty matching the tokens to the Explorers as the artwork on the tokens is use a small “head shot” type of photo. I would have preferred more of a standee type of token that showed more of the Explorer picture, but do understand this would have increased the costs. The standee type of token would have worked better with the plastic stands provided to really help our explorer standout on the map.

A great way to increase the visuals would be to use miniatures for the Explorers. This would increase the costs of the game, but if they were done right I would certainly be willing to pay for them. Perhaps offering them as an add on could be done.

Rules Manual
This is where the true disappointment comes in. With the small format it does make it difficult to get the layout “right”, but there are ways to do it.

In other manuals all of the various card types are covered showing what information is on that card. This is typically done before any setup or play is covered. This was kind of intermingled with other sections and lead to paragraphs cutting off and then resuming several pages latter.

The developer has been compiling a FAQ to address the questions they have been getting but some of these questions could have been addressed in the manual from the beginning. Using play testers unfamiliar with the game during development could have uncovered these questions allowing the manual to be better.

While solo play was a stretch goal of the Kickstarter campaign I think more could haven been done with those rule. Many of the FAQs deal with solo play question like what to do with cards that reference opponents. With these being a late add on I’m willing to give the developer some slack on this, but would recommend for future projects either consider solo play rules earlier or if they will be an add on do more to better document them prior to release.

Game Play
I have only played solo but the experience has been great. There are times when I have had to reference the manual and FAQ only to find my question doesn’t have an answer. In these instances I’ve “made it up” as I went attempting to interpret the cards as written.

Some cards don’t lend themselves to solo play, such as the Legate of Cain Narrative. This Narrative has you defeat another Explorer in combat to complete. With only your Explorer in the game you would not be able to complete this narrative. This did come up in one of my games so I just discarded it and drew another.

There are other cards which reference other Explorers, most of which can just be ignored. The Inscriptorium room card for example has the Explorer look at another player’ hand. With only one player this can be ignored. Does this make the game “easier” for a solo player because now there is a room which really has no effect? I would say no as others have a one time impact and then become essentially “free parking” so I’m OK with this.

The game is challenging with luck really having a great deal to do with the outcome. The luck of the draw with the cards and die rolls can make the difference between winning and losing. But I think this does fit into the theme, at least for me. The random room draw gives the feeling of exploring an unknown catacomb and it certainly increases the replay as no two catacombs will be the same. Similar for the Horrors encountered and the finds. You really don’t know what you’ll find down there but it certainly adds to the excitement of exploring.

Combat seemed strange at first in that you could end combat with out actually defeating a Horror. The alternative would be to have combat last potentially several rounds meaning a single Horror could kill your Explorer in a single turn. This would certainly up the difficulty quite a bit so I’m OK with how it works.

Final thoughts
This a game with great artwork which more than meets it's theme, and really gives the player the feeling of being in that dark catacomb. Some of the game components could have been better, but that is a minor issue for me. There are some additional components needed to play which are not provided which is a little of a letdown, but these should be easy enough for people to provide from their general game supplies, however you certainly don’t expect to have to do this when purchasing a game and the added cost of a few small dice and a few more cardboard or plastic tokens shouldn’t be that much.

Overall I am very glad I backed this on Kickstarter. I would certainly back or even outright purchase an upgrade kit if provided to “fix” the tokens especially if it was coupled with Explorer standees or miniatures. I hope this does make it to retail as I think it really is a great game though I would say the rule book would have to be updated and the text issues on the cards fixed before that happens.

Edit: Just fixed some minor spelling issues.
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Owen Matthew Aurelio
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Livermore
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Excellent review, thank you so much!
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