Having heard lots of good things about it, early last year I decided to back the Kickstarter campaign for a new edition of Catacombs, which looked really cool with new, cartoony art. The game soon built up quite a collection of stretch goals, providing new monsters and stuff, plus some great expansions and add-ons, including “Chicks in a Catacomb”, which was awesome in that it took a game that already had a decent proportion of female heroes to play, and added a bunch more. I ended up getting suckered in and bought everything they were offering, which amounted to a fine pile of loot. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the project was delayed significantly and instead of its planned delivery date of autumn last year, it finally arrived a couple of weeks ago.
But wow, what a treasure chest!
I’ll back-up a little and let you know what this game is all about. Basically it is a dungeon crawl game, where one player controls all the monsters and acts as an opposition for up to four other players, who play heroes fighting their way through a series of rooms until they confront the big boss, the catacomb lord. So far so standard. The genius of this game, however, is that it is actually a dexterity game. In order to attack a monster you flick the wooden disc representing your hero and if you hit the monster you hurt it (and possibly kill it). Wizards can summon things like fireballs that are other discs that you can flick in order to attack at range, and there are other ranged attacks like arrows and the awesome ice blast. Monsters work similarly. The rulebook looks intimidating at first, but if the player being the “overseer” (the opponent controlling the monsters) knows the rules he can bring other players up to speed very quickly, largely as easily understood physics controls most of the game. You flick to move or attack. Simple.
Catacombs is a stunning looking, heavy and enormous pile of awesomeness. I’ll forgive it that the rules are arranged in a rather awkward way (sometimes there needs to be some flicking to find the rules for some special monster or room), as the game as a whole just wants to be played with. It’s a toy as much as a game.
We’ve played Catacombs a couple of times so far, with me as the overseer both times. The first time we used the recommended set up, which involves five rooms/levels of increasing difficulty, with a shop and a healer mixed in between them, followed by the final encounter in the catacomb lord’s lair. This took over two hours, and we had a food break half way through. It turned out to be pretty exhausting for both of us, so the next time we played, we just had two rooms (followed by the shop) before the final battle, and this took around an hour and was a lot more enjoyable.
We haven’t yet played this with more players than just the two of us, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity, as I think having several hero players to make plans together will make for a much more fun experience overall. Until we get that organised, I think we’ll be having some great fun playing occasional rooms against each other or mini-adventures like our second play through.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 8½): “I give it 99.9999…%. I like flicking games in general and Catacombs is a really good one. I did get a bit upset when the raven died because it’s really useful if you’ve got a wizard because you can fire the spells from where the raven is if it is in a better position than the wizard. Sometimes the catacomb lord isn’t the hardest level with the one I’m facing at the moment because you can get ones like poison levels with lots of tiny monsters and poison. It’s hard to avoid poison some of the time, so I think the skeleton explorer is really useful for facing the poison monsters.”
The game: Catacombs (Elzra Corp), 2 to 5 players aged 14+.
After the awesome gaming in May, June was still good, with 34 plays of 19 different games. That sounds like a lot more multiple plays than usual (and, to be fair, it was better than many months in that respect) but the figures were rather skewed by the fact that 9 of the plays were of the little tin of dice that is “6”. Apart from that we had 3 plays of Dobble, taking us up to our scheduled 10 for the year (I’m sure there will be more!), and 2 each for Backgammon, Dino Hunt Dice, EcoFluxx, Loopin’ Louie, and a prototype of a game I threw together for a contest on BoardGameGeek.
EcoFluxx’s plays were both in a coffee shop while we were out and about, as it happened to be the game that I had thrown in the bag, “just in case” (I usually have a game or two with me).
We had a few games too thanks to a visit from one of Miss B’s school friends, who went on to rule the roost at Loopin’ Louie, which is always good for a laugh.
Oh, and Miss B has been reading her Chess book a bit lately, so we got a chess set out for a play. We settled on me having a 2 rook handicap, which wasn’t enough to make it too difficult for me, but she’s definitely getting a lot better at spotting threats and possible attacks on her own, so I’m looking forward to that handicap getting reduced very soon.
So, for the year to date, Yardmaster Express still maintains its position at the front with 13 plays, despite not coming out during June. But the chasing group is getting close, with Dobble and newcomer “6” coming up fast on 10 plays, and Backgammon only just behind on 9. Loopin’ Louie is now alongside Timeline on 7, with Apples to Apples, Gubs and Rhino Hero on 6 plays. We should get a few more games to at least 10 plays thanks to the 10×10 challenge, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if either Yardmaster Express or “6” took the crown despite not being on the list due to their fast, multiple-play appeal.
And thinking of the 10×10 challenge, we fell behind a bit in June, with only four of the games played during the month, but being half way through the year we have got through more than half of the necessary plays, so there is definitely hope. Our current status is:
|Game||Plays so far|
|Apples to Apples||6|
|Piece o’ Cake||3|
|Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck||5|
It’s nice to have one of the games complete and another really close. We just need to bring up some of those laggards…