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Subject: A journey into the depths…The Cave initial review rss

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Sean Brulet
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As we drove to the entrance of the cave my stomach dropped, I had prepped myself for this trip; purchasing top of the line equipment, packing protein bars galore, and even learning the word ‘speleologist’, but I couldn’t anticipate my nervousness as I was about to delve in to my first real cave alone.

The Cave, by Adam Kałuża, is a game of exploring the darkest nooks of a cavern that may not have been touched by man in many years. It is a game with some random elements, a lot of preplanning, and managing limited supplies.

Theme:

At first the theme was not a big pull for me, "What? A cave exploration game with no monsters or treasure?", but when you realize that the theme is the magic of delving in to the unknown and exploring this cavern, it becomes a pleasant trip in the shoes of a professional speleologist.

Part of this theme that is essential may be the part of the game that will turn off some players - the randomness of the tile drawing.

While it does lend itself to some dead ends in the cave (noted by boulder choke tiles), the risk in drawing tiles is low. My group did not have many instances of a tile not having a valid placement, which led us to quite an expansive set of caverns at end game.

Components:

The components in this game are very good quality and sturdy, but there sure are a lot of them!

2 starting base boards (sides differ depending on the amount of players)
80 cave tiles (divided in to four ‘levels’)
16 boulder choke tiles
50 consumable tokens
40 rope tokens
20 oxygen tokens
5 camera tokens
5 raft tokens
12 bonus point tokens
5 player boards (including backpack and camp slots for items)
5 wooden speleologist team pawns
5 wooden camp pawns
25 water exploration tokens
40 traverse line exploration tokens
30 photo exploration tokens
27 squeeze exploration tokens
40 depth reached tokens
40 depth markers

Whew!

The different exploration tokens all have a graphic on the front and a symbol on the back which matches the symbols on the cave tiles, so finding these tokens to place is very easy. My only complaint with the tokens is that because the symbol you use in play is on the back, you normally don’t get to see the beautiful art on the other side. After repeated plays I’m sure you could come to recognize the art and not have to rely on the symbols, but on a first play it’s easier to go by the back of the tokens.

Set-Up:

Due to the amount of tokens in this game, set up is easiest when shared by all players. One player was in charge of stacking the cave tiles, one player in charge of splitting up the various consumables, one player in charge of splitting up the various exploration tokens, and one player to give everyone player boards and pawns.

Gameplay:

On the first turn every pawn begins in the home base. While here they may pack their backpack slots and camp slots for free. (This costs action points in subsequent turns)

Once packed, the teams are ready to go.

At the start of your turn, if you are not in the base camp, you must expend one consumable. (Speleology works up an appetite!)

On each turn you have 5 action points (AP) to spend. The player boards do a fantastic job of explaining how many AP each action takes on the quick reference chart, but I will recap here as well to showcase the versatility in the game.

1 AP - Discover a new cave tile
- This is done by drawing the top tile of the lowest ‘level’ of tiles (I, II, III, or IV)
- Find a valid placement based on the pictures on the tile to continue the cave’s path. If no valid placement exists, the cave tile is discarded and a boulder choke tile is put in its place.
- Once the valid tile is placed, you look at the symbols noted on the tile and place the corresponding exploration token onto the tile to be explored.

1 AP - Move your pawn on to a space with no exploration tokens

2 AP - Move your pawn on to a choked boulder space

1 + X AP - Move your pawn on to a tile with an unexplored squeeze token.
- The X depends on the level of the squeeze (+1 AP per squeeze level)

1 AP - Move your pawn onto a water exploration tile, if you have a raft in your backpack (Note: this does not provide you ownership of the token for end game points)

2 AP - Move your pawn onto a water exploration tile, if you have oxygen in your backpack (Note: this allows you to take the exploration tile for end game points)

1 AP - Move your pawn onto a tile with a picture token and claim the picture token for points if you have a camera in your backpack.

1 AP - Move your pawn on to a tile with a picture token without a camera for no points

1 AP - Move your pawn on to a descent tile that is already connected with rope(s)

1 + X AP - Move your pawn on to a tile with an unexplored descent token.
- The X depends on the depth of the descent (+1 AP for every 25 feet down/up)

As you begin to run low on supplies or consumables, you must make your way back to base camp to resupply. Once there you can spend 2 AP to restock your backpack. (Note: If also restocking your camp, you need to spend 2 AP to set up your camp and another 1 AP to take it down and put it in your backpack)

If you run out of consumables to expend at the beginning of your turn, you must spend all 5 of your AP to move one tile. This penalty is where the main strategy of the game comes in to play.

Strategy:

In my opinion item maintenance is the largest strategy in the game, if you load up your backpack with non-consumables, you can’t get too deep without having to come back to home base to replenish. On the other hand, if you do load up on consumables, your chances of coming across a tile you can’t explore because you don’t have the required equipment goes up.

This balance of consumables vs. items is the root of the fun, but can lend itself to minor analysis paralysis as you determine the most efficient items for the path you want to take.

One of the strategies that began to take shape as I played was to spend the majority of my APs revealing cave tiles and then heading back to camp to stock up on the items needed to explore those tiles.

The risk with this though, is that the other players could already have the items needed and follow in your footsteps to steal your precious exploration tokens.

Thankfully the group I played with was interested in going separate ways, so this wasn’t a concern, but it can be a viable strategy to follow behind others and explore where they aren’t prepared.

Another player took a middle of the road approach and balanced his consumables and items so he could take shorter trips in to the caverns, but was prepared for most exploring.

Opinions:

Concerns

- Due to the limited space in your backpack/camp, you can not get very far down a path without having to turn around just to make sure you don’t run out of food. This leads to the tiles needing to be kept close to home base instead of expanding outward too far.

- The massive amount of tokens in the game could definitely turn off a lot of novice players.

- While the theme is present, it could be considered bland and a turn off by those with different tastes. While trying to sell this game to my group, they were concerned they wouldn’t have fun "just exploring a cave".

Pros

- Item management is a challenge, but is fun. The risks involved with planning correctly makes for some intense moments. (I ended up running out of food while going after a precious III level squeeze)

- While the theme is hard to swallow for some, once you do realize it’s there, the game mechanics suit it very well. From the equipment needed to the randomness of what you find around the next turn, you can imagine yourself actually exploring the cave instead of just moving through tiles.

- Because of the randomness that exists in the tile drawing, the replayability is very high. Also the art in the game is a big plus, from the structure of the cave to the details in the picture tiles.

Overall I loved this game because it is different to me. It is a theme that I never thought I would enjoy and seemed to tap a font of interest I didn’t think I had. Now I want to go out and buy K2!
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Alexander Montgomery
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Chicken_Fryed_Rice wrote:
..... Now I want to go out and buy K2!


Never played the cave. Sounds interesting and worth a play. Tried K2 for the first time last week. Thought it was easy an was doing well until I couldn't get back down the mountain and both pawns died zombie... oops.
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Lines J. Hutter
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Chicken_Fryed_Rice wrote:
The massive amount of tokens in the game could definitely turn off a lot of novice players.

This is how I keep order with all those tokens
It helps a lot and I can just recommend it

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Sean Brulet
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Lines42 wrote:
Chicken_Fryed_Rice wrote:
The massive amount of tokens in the game could definitely turn off a lot of novice players.

This is how I keep order with all those tokens
It helps a lot and I can just recommend it


Aha! I made a mental note to include something about a plano box and completely forgot! That does keep them organized which should help the setup, but it could still be daunting.

Thanks!
 
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meepleonboard
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Tried K2 for the first time last week and liked it a lot, and am gradually accumulating opinions on this one as well, so thanks for the review.
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Richard Pardoe
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Lines42 wrote:

I use a counter tray to keep the tokens organized. The only difference from the above is that I have small baggies for each player with their pawn, their camp, their camera, their raft, and their assortment of depth VP tokens.
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WRS WRS
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RPardoe wrote:
I have small baggies for each player with their pawn, their camp, their camera, their raft, and their assortment of depth VP tokens.

I also add there 10 food tokens, 4 oxygen tiles, 8 ropes. It's almost enough for all game. Sometimes we get extra tokens from common supply.

It's very strange to me, that depth VP tokens are not in players colors.
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Sean Brulet
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I went ahead and purchased a plano box to store the pieces the other day. Perfect size because it still fits in the original box. Was just a hair too small for the player boards, but everything else fits nicely.

Plano 3650N if anyone is interested.


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