Home > Games > It’s a chicken wizard, obviously!

It’s a chicken wizard, obviously!

July 26, 2015

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.

Incoming fireball!

Incoming fireball! That minotaur thought the raven looked harmless!

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+.

  1. July 26, 2015 at 12:57 pm


  2. Barnetto
    July 27, 2015 at 9:50 am

    We have the original Catacombs – with a couple of the expansions – I never can resist! My boys really like it but I’m not sure that I do really…. and this from someone who played Subbuteo to death from the ages of 8 til about 14…. it isn’t the game itself really (I still like the concept), I just think (a) I’m getting too old to flick things around and (b) I admit that I do get a bit exasperated when they miss the easiest of flicks and I have to give them multiple re-flicks (even though I am already doing my best not to win!)

    Do the walls come with the new edition? That is really quite a good idea. We have to play on a toddler play table (which has a lip around it) and I have to kneel on a cushion to play it (which is part of the problem and partly why it doesn’t get played that much!)

    BTW I completely agree about the length of the game. I always use a shortened set up – but from memory I think this involves 1 starter room, 1 tier 1 room, Shop, another tier 1 room, healer, tier 2 room and then the Boss. So five rooms in all? Which is almost the same as your long set up! The standard rules in the original suggest even more than that (something like, 1 starter, 2 tier 1, shop, 2 tier 1, healer, 2 tier 2, then Boss….!) I think.

    I may have to use an even more shortened version next time without the healer as I do feel guilty when they ask to play it and I decline on the basis of my creaking knees and a preference for more cerebral gaming activities…..

    • Rob
      July 27, 2015 at 11:24 am

      Actually, I’m really looking forward to playing this with a bunch of adults. 🙂

      Yup, the walls are a thing from the new edition. IIRC they were a stretch goal, but are supplied as standard. Definitely a great touch that will stop most of the crawling around on the floor looking for missing monsters. Another addition to this edition is that the board is noticeably larger than the original (I’ve not seen the earlier version in person, but have seen comparative pictures), which means we can only just fit the game with all the necessary player boards, piles of cards and counters, and so on, onto our table.

      I feel for your knees, though. I’m glad we don’t have too many games than need to be played on the floor.

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