Review: Cutthroat Caverns – dirty tricks are nothing new for brave heroes

Cutthroat Caverns - packaging

Ever since we first entered the twilight caves, we knew, we can rely on each other. In every fight, you hide behind each other’s backs. Others would have put their hand in the fire for me. But they were really wrong. They should be more careful of who to trust. I certainly do not plan to share spoils with anyone. And I am sure, that there is treasure waiting for us at the end of our journey. When we finally open the last door, I will not hesitate for a moment and do everything to ensure, that gold was only and only mine.

No one can guarantee to our hero, that there will be gold. Much more important is another question – what if others are planning exactly the same thing? Exactly such decisions and dilemmas will lie in front of you in the board game from the author Curt Coverta and his small company Smirk and Dagger. A few weeks ago, we introduced game Sutakku (review) to you by the same designer. Fantasy illustration in Caverns were transferred to paper by .

The game can be found in relatively small black box corresponding mainly to its card focus. On the cover, you will find a group of heroes, who seemingly stand together against the threat. But in fact, waiting for an opportunity to trip the others, throw them in a trap and get some profit out of it just for themselves. These are the heroes of the real world and not from any fairy tale.

Cutthroat Caverns - game is ready

Under the lid, everything is topped by gray mystery booklet of rules. It will explain us, that while the game comes from , our version is a recent reprint of year 2012. Underneath is another component of twenty centimeter length – full height of the box – life counter for monsters made of hard cardboard.

Only under it, we finally come across three decks of cards. Two of them are easily merged together, because these are in both cases special action cards. Among them, however, marginally conceal six cards of initiative. Other cards can already be identified by the larger (approximately twice the normal) dimension. All 25 presents different monsters, which you may encounter in the caves. But because of the fact, you went there, you really need a hero. This is the last pile of six unusual round cards with a portrait and a name, lined with counter of lives on the side.

Action cards can be divided into three types types – red attacks, blue actions and green items. You will receive all of them, but it’s up to you, when you use them. Attack cards are dominated by the value of your hit, which may however be modified, and therefore you can see multiples and also halves of its value on its perimeter. The other two types of cards have always described their function in text.

Cutthroat Caverns - game is ready

But that’s still not all. The box hides a pile of tokens. In addition to those belonging to the monsters found in the game, you also draw round token (heads and tails) or even counter with a skull for tracking the lives of enemies. Last in line for your consideration are glass stones, that will mostly show the number of lives among the characters.

It is understandable, that at the beginning of your journey, you must choose one character. This decides, what will you look like, when you head into the ground. Each player also receives a green token to track number of lives. All the characters in the game 100 lives at start and therefore you put those stones on this number for now. In the middle of the table, you place as many initiative cards as there is players. These will help you to randomly select order in each round.

Shuffle the 94 action cards. Each of opponents get seven of those into his hands, which is also the maximum number, you can hold during the game at once. Rest of the cards is put in the center. You then shuffle enemy cards and pick nine random opponents. There form a face down deck next to action cards. You do not know, what of a surprise awaits you in each of the nine rooms.. Also a monster card for tracking lives of your enemies is needed, plus two yellow stones – one on scale of creature lives, the other on the counter of discovered enemies (turns).

Cutthroat Caverns - game is ready

Game is divided into nine rooms, which together create an adventure and you must visit all of them. One monster is hiding in each one. At the beginning of the round (if you do not have anything to fight with), you reveal a new card from the deck of enemies. Card clearly indicate opponent’s hit points, attack power, point reward for his defeat and even some special skills. The first two entries are most important characteristics (attack and lives). They are determined based on the number of heroes, which your group consisted of at the beginning of the adventure.

Before you walk into the room and into the heat of battle, you still have a chance to drink a healing potion. After encounter, you also set number of the opponent’s life on its board and secretly draw action order for the first round using initiative cards.

The fight consists simply of each player secretly choosing one attack card for himself (if he has none, he may bluff using action card), and then in order of initiative, players reveal their card and carry out its instructions. Cards must be put in a way, that its actual attack value is displayed in the upper section. There are possible four values around the card, each on one side, so rotating is the key. Why would you change the big number in the middle? Modifier may alter your attack force and thus, you must rotate the card to note that.

Cutthroat Caverns - game in progress

Sometimes, you can use special attack cards only to prepare base for the next round. Such cards are not played directly into the center, but in front of yourself, where there must wait for moment, when you can play next attack. In such moments, however, another player might be quicker and can kill monsters before you get to action again, thus collecting the reward for himself.

Very much often a monster survives your attack and gets its chance for revenge. Sometimes it might attack a specific player, sometimes luck gets its word and player is determined according to initiative number. But not those values, that you hold now. Because before dealing damage, there comes a time to determine order of battle for the new round. Only after that, you can deal and evaluate hits coming from enemy side.

At the end of the fight, when finally the monster lies in a pool of its own blood, only one player will be celebrating. Whoever knocked it down to the ground. He takes the card and is awarded points on it. Then everyone can discard any number of cards from their hand and draw back to seven. This is called preparation for the next meeting in the upcoming room. Thus, the game continues, until all the heroes perish or pass through the labyrinth. In this case, player with highest point gain for slain monsters wins.

Cutthroat Caverns - game in progress

Cutthroat Caverns is basically a simple game, where you will not find any tricky and complex rules. Yet it still has great depth especially in its thoughts. Match puts players in deciding between survival often hanging by a thread and their own victory. These two things are closely related to each other. There is enough cards for everything to be variable and avoid repetition even with frequent playing. And if that was not enough for you, market offers also an expansions, which we hopefully will also have a chance to test and share our impressions of them with you.

It’s pretty tricky, that although you can lose a player soon, you have to deal with monsters built to your full number. This is one of the motivations why players while trying to undercut each other legs, but it has to do with reason, that their efforts are not any good.There is no problem to play all ended in failure when the heroes remain lying injured on the floor of the cave.

Finding the right boundary between cooperation and betrayal is the first step, you should make in this game. Winner is determined by points for monsters, awarded only to player, who deals monster a final blow. It entails a lot of strategizing and exciting situations. But monsters in the last rounds are worth more points, so all players have a chance to grab a win until the very end.

Cutthroat Caverns - cards

Players can see this as a little injustice in gaming system, because each monster is not worth the same amount. Yet with the ongoing game, this provides better compensation for bad luck and bad cards, while at the beginning, you do not have any chance to influence, what you’re holding. The player elimination is a little issue in here. But still remains involved in all the fun as he watches everybody else trying to survive.

The problem with repeated play is the real need to thoroughly shuffle action deck. Same cards should not be together, which is often especially issue with attack cards. They are always played in groups and because it is not easy to separate them for the next game. It also includes great dependence of games on luck, because sometimes you just will be missing the right cards in your hands. Be careful though not to add more trap cards between nine encounter cards in the game, which tend to spoil the otherwise great atmosphere and pace of the game.

Cutthroat Caverns - cards

The game can provide fun in three players, but this time, you will not experience so many betrayals. In this game, this is certainly true, that the more heroes are involved in fighting, the more fun it finally is. But fighting monsters entertained us with only two comrades at our side, as there is a lot of fun always waiting in caves.

In order to maintain the simplicity of the game, heroes do not progress as much and only use disposable items, usually bottles of potions. Monsters are absolutely unique and each requires a different approach, which is great. Maybe you have to beat wolves as a group, that is spread around you (this is, why there are tokens in the game), while the blood mage will be summoning new monsters.

Processing is primarily focused on a functional point of view (for example, rotation of cards when modifying hits power). Action cards have no illustration, which could interfere with some demanding gamers.

Cutthroat Caverns - cards

Cutthroat Caverns is no peaceful game, where players cooperate with efforts to get to their goal. So it may seem at first, but once you start, you suddenly start missing the target with your sword, dodge spells and everything will happen according strange scenarios full of dirty tricks. And believe us, this is all really great fun!

DesignerCurt Covert
ArtistPaul Adam, Justin Brunetto, Curt Covert, Ian Field-Richards, Henri Härkönen, Noel Hill, Mats Holmgren, Mark Jernstrom, Bruno Krippahl, Eric R. Martin, Steve Messenger, Loïc Muzy, Morgan Rashand, Chad Savage, William Teo, Adam Vehige, Tim Wollweber
PublisherIELLO, Smirk & Dagger Games
Year Published2007
# of Players3 - 6
User Suggested # of Players Best with 6 players
Recommended with 3, 4, 5, 6 players
(47 voters)
Playing Time90
Mfg Suggested Ages12 and up
User Suggested Ages10 and up
(11 voters)
Language DependenceModerate in-game text - needs crib sheet or paste ups
(18 voters)
CategoryAdventure, Card Game, Fantasy, Fighting, Humor
MechanicHand Management, Kill Steal, Player Elimination, Semi-Cooperative Game, Simultaneous Action Selection, Take That
ExpansionCutthroat Caverns Adventures: B1 – Savage Arena / B2 – Errand of Evil, Cutthroat Caverns: Death Incarnate, Cutthroat Caverns: Deeper & Darker, Cutthroat Caverns: Fresh Meat, Cutthroat Caverns: Hex Room Promo Card, Cutthroat Caverns: Relics & Ruin, Cutthroat Caverns: Tombs & Tomes
FamilyComponents: Gems/Crystals, Game: Cutthroat Caverns
Primary NameCutthroat Caverns
Alternate NamesSang Rancune, 割喉探險隊

Infos courtesy of More Infos.

Review: Cutthroat Caverns – dirty tricks are nothing new for brave heroes
Final word
Cutthroat Caverns is a great fun for everybody, who likes to work together, but only feignedly. In reality, you will be following your own interests to gain as much as you can from the adventure. While you are in the cave, you will have to cooperate to some extent, but only hero who deals the finishing blow, gets reward for killing the monster. Its not easy to plan everything the way you want to. And still its filled with intrigue and stabbing in the back, which makes the whole package an enormous fun. Its all governed by really simple rules, which also means, you will be sometimes bound by bad luck. Game is balanced for number of heroes, who enter the cave, so you will have to watch out. If anyone dies too soon, you might be in for a lot of trouble. Several different monsters with unique abilities will stand in your way, but also traps, which can interrupt with match pace, if there is more than one in encounter deck. Cutthroat Caverns offers amazing atmosphere full of mistrust with forced cooperation, which will entertain every malicious adventurer.
Reader Rating0 Votes
players are going together into dangerous cave
different characters and creatures with different abilities
simple rules
you will betray each other
only one player gets reward for killing monster
game is build for starting number of players, so you should not let your colleagues die at start
best in more players
really fun and atmospheric
card rotation as damage modifier
luck is very important (cards)
you must watch not to have too many traps in your encounter deck
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