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The Cave - Board Game Box Shot

The Cave

| Published: 2012
21 15 1

In The Cave, a board game from K2 author Adam Kałuża, players take on the role of a speleologist team tasked with exploring a newly discovered cave. Players start from a base and explore a cave, tunnel after tunnel, effectively building the board (the cave). They have to overcome steep descents, underground lakes, and tight squeezes. They will be given a chance to admire the wonders of the underground, like halls full of stalactites. To make it all possible they must take the right supplies with them, like ropes, oxygen and batteries.

The Cave game in play
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Each turn players have five action points to use for moving, discovering new cave tiles, exploring them, and packing their backpacks when they go back to the starting base. They need ropes for descents, oxygen to explore underwater parts, and a camera to photograph underground wonders. Planning what to take with them is one of the most important things in the game. Each turn that their pawn is not in the starting base, players must use (i.e., throw out) one basic supply from their backpack; these costs, along with the expenditure of other supplies during exploration, forces them to return to the starting base a few times during the game. To keep them from having to carry everything, though, players can raise a camp somewhere in the tunnels where they can store some of the equipment.

The Cave differs every game, so players have to be prepared for everything or they will lose time. Players earn points for exploring different tiles: underwater, wondrous, descents, and so on – but to win they'll need to acquire bonus prizes for exploring the most tiles of each type. This make decision-making during trips very difficult.

When the cave is fully explored, the player who made the biggest effort in the most spectacular way wins the game.

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22 of 23 gamers found this helpful
“The definitive tabletop speleologist experience”

You clamber down the rope until your feet hit the cavern floor — its surface worn smooth, drip by drip, over millenia. Before you stand two passageways, one climbing gradually back up, the other plunging still deeper into the earth. Your flashlight beam splits the primordial night of the downward passage. There could be anything down there … goblins … balrogs … or even more exciting: giant selenite crystal formations!

In The Cave, you step into the shoes of a speleologist and explore undiscovered cave systems. Although the gameplay does not change much from one play through to the next, if the experience wins you over once, you will find plenty of excuses to bring this game to the table.

Exploration and gear management anchor The Cave’s gameplay. On your turn you have 5 action points to spend moving, discovering new tiles, packing/unpacking gear, and collecting exploration tokens worth victory points.

From the starting base camp tile you can branch out and discover new tiles in any direction with a lead (an unexplored passage with no tile next to it). To discover a tile, move to a lead and spend 1 AP to draw a random tile from the stack and add it to the edge you explored. New tiles add cave features tied to exploration VP tokens, many of which require special gear to collect.

Whenever you are at base camp you can outfit yourself with new gear, but since you have limited space in your pack, you must choose what to carry with you. Each turn you must burn a “consumables” token, so you want to bring lots of consumables tokens to avoid needing to resupply at camp too frequently. You will fill the rest of your pack with other items — e.g., a camera for shooting photos of crystal formations and picking up camera VP tokens or rope for rappelling deeper into the cave and picking up rope and descent VP tokens.

To win, you want the most victory points, most of which you earn throughout the game for shooting photographs, laying rope, etc. At game-end, bonus points are awarded to players who collected the most or second-most tokens of different types — e.g. gain 8 bonus VP for laying the most rope or 4 VP for laying the second most rope. Specializing in collecting one or two token types will go a long way toward winning those bonus VP and the game.

You spend an entire turn squeezing through a narrow gap only to realize you have exhausted your supply of consumables — food, water, and flashlight batteries. Now you have to feel your way back to camp ever-so slowly and carefully (spending an entire turn to move 1 tile at a time) in the pitch dark.

All of The Cave’s mechanics serve the theme effectively, while the threat of stranding yourself in a deep tunnel (although easily avoidable with planning) adds just a bit of tension to the game.

Thick cardboard tiles, player boards, and tokens feature spelunking-themed artwork. Wooden speleologist meeples and camps stand out so they are easy to find amidst all the tokens on the board.

+ Descending to new, cavernous depths to grab up descent tokens satisfies a person’s inner speleologist in a way no other board game can.
+ Strong theme, light complexity, and short game length make the game friendly to new players and non-gamers.
+ Choosing gear, planning actions, and grabbing opportune VP tokens can still engage gamers who prefer deeper games.

– Random tile draws ensure each cave you explore has a unique layout, but different layouts do not much change the strategy or the experience as a whole.
– Not one balrog … not even a little one.


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