The thief stepped gingerly over a moldering skeleton, gripping her knives tightly. She’d heard rumors of a treasure chest in this chamber, overflowing with arcane jewels, gilded weapons, and enough gold to buy her way out of her dangerous life. This was the room – but it was empty save for inch-deep dust and a yawning pit, rimmed with crumbling stone blocks. The thief stumbled back as a wraith manifested above the pit with a ghastly screech, its translucent robes billowing in a wind she could not feel and its decaying hands already reaching for her…

An ancient dungeon has been discovered, filled with treasure for anyone to claim. Unfortunately, this information is no secret. Others have heard of the same dungeon, and even now, they race to seize the gold before you. Your time is limited: gather your forces and enter the dungeon!

Cave Troll invites you to command noble heroes and deadly monsters in a game of strategic positioning and adventure. In every game, you and your opponents enter a twisted dungeon in search of gold at any cost. Rather than controlling a single hero, however, you command both heroes and monsters. By strategically positioning your heroes throughout the dungeon, you can claim gold from certain rooms, but you must always be on your guard. Each player can use monsters to disrupt his opponents’ plans and destroy enemy heroes. In your hour of need, an unearthed artifact may tilt the odds in your favor, but at the end of the game, the player who has gathered the most gold from the dungeon is victorious.

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In Search of Gold

To claim victory in a game of Cave Troll, you'll need to grab as much gold as possible. Fortunately, you can draw on the abilities of both heroes and monsters to accomplish your goals. Each turn, you have four actions to command your assortment of heroes and monsters. You can use an action to draw a card and play a card from your hand, bringing a new hero or monster into the dungeon. You can use an action to move a hero or a monster to an adjacent room in the dungeon. Finally, you can spend an action to use a figure’s special ability or to play an artifact – both of these options are explained in more detail later. Deciding how best to spend your actions so that your figures are in the right place at the right time is the crux of the decisions you’ll make every turn.

Every game of Cave Troll begins with no figures in the dungeon. To claim the gold scattered in every room, you must first bring your heroes and monsters into the maze.Your heroes allow you to seize gold from a room, while your monsters destroy your opponents' figures and hamper their plans. New heroes and monsters enter the maze when you spend an action to draw a card and play a card from your hand. For example, by playing an Adventurer card from your hand, you can place an Adventurer on any of the dungeon’s staircases. The more figures you can bring into the dungeon, the more area you’ll be able to control and the more gold you’ll receive when the board is scored.

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You can also use an action to move a figure to an adjacent room, laying claim to more territory and the gold within these rooms. Moving your figures to control rooms throughout the the maze is crucial to success: the board is scored several times during the game, and whenever scoring occurs, the player with the most heroes in a room claims the gold within. By moving your heroes through the dungeon and into new rooms, you can control more rooms and, if all goes according to plan, bring more gold into your coffers!

You can’t just grab the gold as soon as your heroes arrive in a room, however. You need to be in the right place at the right time. Gold is collected when the board is scored at specific points throughout the game. Some of the cards in your deck have one or more scoring icons at the bottom of the card. As an example, the Adventurer card shown to the right has one scoring icon. When enough cards with scoring icons have been played, every room on the board is scored. If you have the most heroes in a room, you earn an amount of gold equal to the gold coins printed on the room. Of course, you want the board to be scored when it’s most advantageous for you. By playing the cards in your hand wisely, you can delay scoring when you’re at a disadvantage and push toward scoring when your heroes are in position.

Heroes and Monsters

In your endless pursuit of treasure, Cave Troll invites each player to command a team of heroes, offering unique abilities. You may use your Dwarf's knowledge of treasure to double the gold value of a room, making it much more profitable for whoever manages to control it. Alternatively, you can spend an action to move your Thief to any room in the dungeon, which allows you to bypass possible dangers and suddenly gain a presence in another room. These heroes are your instruments for claiming gold from the dungeon, and the more heroes you have in play, the more gold coins you can collect.

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You’re not just a hero searching for treasure in Cave Troll, though. Your ultimate goal is to claim more gold than your opponents, and you’ll enlist terrifying monsters to fight your opponents. Your Orc can slay an enemy hero by using an action, quickly reducing your opponent’s presence in key chambers. You may even call upon your mighty Cave Troll to destroy enemy figures and keep any player from entering its room for the remainder of the game. Monsters are your tool for disrupting your opponent’s plans, and you’ll need to balance pursuing your own benefit with heroes against battling your opponents with monsters.

Like earlier editions, Cave Troll includes two versions of both heroes and monsters. You can play with the classic abilities from the first edition of the game, or change the face of your game with an assortment of variant abilities introduced in the game’s second edition.

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Treasures for the Taking

Gold coins are not the only valuable item you can find in the depths of the dungeon. You and your opponents also recover artifacts hidden within the maze, and by spending an action to use an artifact, you may be able to tilt the balance of the contest in your favor. For example, the Chalice of Life restores one of your defeated heroes to life. Alternatively, the Helm of Mind Control allows you to move one of your opponent’s figures, potentially opening an avenue for you to seize an important room.

Every artifact offers a powerful ability that can make the difference between victory and defeat, but you can also choose to keep your priceless artifact unused. If you haven’t used your artifact by the end of the game, it contributes bonus gold toward your victory. You’ll need to carefully consider whether you should use your artifacts to gain an advantage in the game or save them for points at the end of the game.

Enter the Cave Troll’s Lair

The dungeon lies open for any to enter and the legendary treasures found within are enough to tempt anyone. Many are prepared to risk their lives… but will you be among those who return wealthy? Or will your corpse be left to rot underground? Gather your heroes and monsters and enter the labyrinth in Cave Troll!

User Reviews (1)

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“Look elsewhere for a deeper fantasy theme”

While at a board game cafe a few days ago, my wife and I found the first Fantasy Flight Games edition of Cave Troll.

Similar to the spruced up current edition, Cave Troll v.1.0 (2002) is quite simple with respect to artwork, components, and the board’s design.

The board features four entrances where one places heroes and a Pit in the centre where one spawns bad guys.

Players randomly flip over a token and place it at an entrance if it’s a hero, in the Pit if a monster, or resolve if an event. Events include treasure, artifacts, or immediately score the room.

When scoring the room happens, players count up the gold coin icons in the rooms occupied by a majority of their hero tokens and then move their respective counters on the point track.

Each of the heroes and monsters have abilities (okay, except the adventurer, she simply contributes toward you claiming a room) that you must use wisely. I did not use them wisely. And I lost. Badly. Then again, my wife is vastly better than I am at spatial conceptualization.

Players have 20 tokens and when the last token is flipped and placed or resolved, the game ends and everyone counts their gold as described above. Any unused artifact items are worth points, depending on the item.

There are a few more bits and pieces to the rules, but this is basically how one plays the game. And the 2002 game play isn’t all that different from FFG’s second edition.

Pros:

Trolls?! Dwarves?! ‘Nuff said.
A simple game to teach and play. The complexity and strategy are found in the decisions you make with respect to placement of heroes and monsters and how you maximise your treasure.
A decent family game that demands planning ahead. Teaching children with fantasy-themed tools is always a good thing.

Cons:

The 2002 version was not aesthetically stunning. But this was from FFG’s early days before they became a company known for gorgeous artwork and high-quality components.
If one of the players is light years ahead of others, it can quickly become apparent who will win the game. Blech.
At times, I felt it mechanical and dry; that I was merely pushing tokens around a board.

Verdict:

Not my favourite game and lacks the promise of a fantasy theme (hence the mediocre grade I’ve given it), but it’s simple enough in design and execution to give it life as a family boardgame.

 

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