It should be an expedition like any other. And it all went like it should until Tom had a great idea – to use a shorter route. We have already scanned the path, but we have not really explored it yet. It turned out to be longer, than we thought. Well, when we were all right in the middle of the hatch, a part of the rock was loosened and we fell down. Ropes slowed our fall, but their strength suffered so much, that the way back up is unthinkable. Do we try to explore unknown surroundings or wait for rescue party?
Origin of this hirrific story hides in mind of designer Tim Pinder, who has cast his heroes into the dark and unknown in board game Sub Terra. And while the thought had to be born in his head, the money for the release of the game has to be gathered on the Kickstarter server (6600 fans and over £ 350,000), where a campaign was running in 2016. Final version was thanks to these fans published by Inside the Box and Esdevium Games provides distribution channels for this British company.
Just like the game environment, even whole box gets drowned in the dark with a view over an underground pond. The box does not need to be extremely large, because the main set of almost seventy square cave tiles are revealed inside under light of your flashlight (or at least after the lid is lifted). With the exception of the starting and exit tile, all the other 64 pieces are shuffled and prepared as drawing package in cardboard holder. The last five of them are shuffled together with exit to create a random ending.
Each player chooses one of his heroes and gets one cave board. Figure matching this color is then placed on the starting space. All the health boxes in the top right corner of player board are filled with tokens. After that, by common agreement, players have to choose one of three available difficulties and prepare a deck of hazard cards accordingly (their number also varies according to the number of participants). Bottom of this deck has also card „out of time“.
Players will work together in attempt to complete their retreat task. Each of the twenty rounds consists of several phases and at the beginning, all the lost men and women will first get to do some turn actions. Each of them has two action points, that can be freely spent for a variety of actions. Some are worth one, while the more difficult ones are worth two points. In the beginning, they will certainly be interested in exploring. This means uncovering a new tile from the stack, placing it adjacent to position, where the hero’s player stands and immediately move to that place. Instead, you can also just look at the neighboring place without having to go there. It depends only on the player, whether he wants to spend action more effectively, but with danger.
Of course, you can also move a figure around tiles, that have already been revealed and always to the next one for one point. Exceptions are flooded or buried places. Motion option continue with opportunities to run. This is first action, that really costs the whole turn (ie two points) and the hero is able to move three fields at once. The last common and basic activity is the chance to pull out the first aid kit and refill one health point (or cure one of his colleagues).
But the same number of basic actions (five) are the risky ones. They make it possible to overcome pitfalls and dangerous places – cracks, water, mounds or large elevations. All of them need the whole player’s turn to be dedicated to their completion. Hero can not do anything else. In addition, climbing on the rope and hiding from darkness threats also requires a dice roll. Success is only, when four or higher number is rolled.
Once all players have completed possibility of doing something under the ground, horror gets its action. In the beginning, there are no monsters in the vicinity, but as players explore their surroundings, they cause not only shocks, floods or gas leaks, but they can also come across horrors, they never ever wanted to meet. At this phase, they will move towards the closest hero, because they have perfect smell. If one of the heroes is hunted down, he loses all his points of life and falls into unconsciousness. They can only get rid of the deadly horror by all heroes being more than seven fields away from it at turn end.
Then the top hazard card is revealed. It is these cards, that cause players to experience shocks or gas leaks. All threats (including horrors) are just a consequence of cards, and they are affected by chosen difficulty. A lot of these events are pointed towards heroes themselves, either straight losing points of health or at least necessity to make a test. And only in case of failure (dice roll lower than 4), hero suffers some injury or even gets stunned.
At the end of the round, starting player role moves one position clockwise. Heroes are trying to run through the underground and find the exit tile, before their flashlights go out. This is not an immediate game over, when ending card is revealed, but for every new hazard card, players must roll a dice and, in the event of failure, they are immediately absorbed by horrors and darkness of the underground. That way, the whole team or part of it can lose. Victory is only celebrated by those, who make it to exit in time.
Sub Terra is almost a horror story about men, who are stuck in a deep pit. Do you remember the game The Cave, which was supposed to build on the success of the excellent K2 game? Its author, Adam Kaluza, did not create second hit with it. Well, Sub Terra is exactly, what The Cave could have been. It has exactly the right level of despair, that this theme should bring.
And yet this cooperative game is subject of some uncertain reactions. This is because the game is largely influenced by chance. Luck in drawing tiles with terrain and especially in rolling dice has a crucial impact on the success of individual heroes and on the overall impression of a complete team.
Game has a very unconventional co-op tune, as players are in trouble together, but each one fights for his life alone. While they collaborate in exploring or distracting horrors, they do not end their attempt to escape with first death. On the contrary, character chances are fainting and their defeat or win will only be decided, when the last flashlight goes out. And this solitary collaboration is something new.
But then there are specialties of individual characters. And thanks to this, every hero is interesting and the team will soon become indispensable. Moreover, their number together with the random placing of the pieces means, that each game is different and interesting. Special skills are also moments, when tactics and planning are definitely worthwhile. The course of the game offers a number of exciting situations to remember even after you are done playing. Sub Terra simply can tell a real story.
The box comes with three difficulty levels, that are distinct from the difficulty of cards in a heap of dangers. At at greater difficulty, there are even double tremors, that can trap hero inside. Therefore, it is important to stick together as a group. And while the lightest option is playable, middle difficulty is already pretty tought and with the highest version, you will need a good dose of luck to survive. Fortunately, you do not have to spend so much time, because the game ends in an hour, although it may take a little longer.
Game is great especially in lower numbers, when there is not so much waiting for the turn. Unfortunately, it also means, that both players have to play for two heroes, which significantly interferes with the game experience. In the case of a pitching start or a wrong dice roll, it is possible for a player to get eliminated far from the end. Before any of his colleagues gets to him and heals him, he does not participate in the game and only stays inactive. This is of course not very fun thing to do, because he can not participate in any team activities.
So, eventually, perhaps the most striking negative point of the box is its processing. The plates are very dark and graphics does not pop out. Terror tokens are just weak round cardboard with scratches on them. They certainly have the task of provoking the feeling of unseen dangers and monsters in the shadows, but for some reason, it is not enough. The box also contains a piece holder, but you must always disassemble it to pack the game back into the box. On the contrary, we praise the tokens and the stickers, that allow for the game to be played under UV light. But if you have not bought a deluxe edition, you will have to find it elsewhere.
Sub Terra results into a coincidental, but still excellent cooperative game. There is no such direction of cooperation in it and players can not win only as a team, but even for themselves. Nothing in the game is secret, so players have a clear overview of who has the chance to survive and can even sacrifice to save others! But in general, chances of survival are not too big given the dangers, that are waiting underground. Sub Terra delivers the atmosphere of dark, spooky thrillers to your table perfectly.
Sub Terra is a little different cooperative game. A horror one. Its main focus is on the atmosphere and the theme, thanks to which players cooperate only to a certain extent. At the same time, everyone thinks about his own survival, even if they have no secret tasks or black thoughts. Just as ordinary people want to escape the capture of darkness and unrecognizable horror. But, besides monsters in the shadows, players are also facing real underground threats. They all lose points of life and their chance of survival is reduced with every turn. Generally, the game is definitely not easy and in addition to the success, you need luck in dice rolls. Sub Terra creates a really tense horror-like cooperative experience.
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three difficulty levels
special skills of heroes
chance decides about success
only average processing
you have to play for two heroes each In two players