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Cutthroat Caverns - Board Game Box Shot

Cutthroat Caverns

An artifact of untold power lies in your hands. To claim it, you must escape the caverns alive. No less than nine horrific beasts stand in your way – that, and the greed of the other players.

In this game of kill-stealing, you decide whether to swing for a whopping 50 points of damage – or hold back, awaiting a more opportune time to strike. Only the final blow matters if you are to score the kill. Hold back or sabotage other’s plans too much – and the entire party will die, without a winner.

User Reviews (3)

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I play purple
Baron / Baroness
147 of 160 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“A romp through a dungeon of doom!”

This is a game that tells the tale about the adventurers that eventually wind up at the Red Dragon Inn. A rag tag team of dungeon dwellers that stumble through hazard after hazard trying to beat the monster…but the guy who does that actual death blow is the only one who gets the prestige points!

So what happens is that your characters will play down attack cards in order of ever changing initiative. As those attacks are played out against the baddies, you’ll find your fellow delvers tripping you, causing critical misses and reducing your attacks by half. All because they want to get that ever popular prestige via the kill shot.

BUT…this is very much a cooperative game as well! Because if one or more of the players get killed, then the rest of the group will have it that much harder when they meet the next monster that crosses their path. So when those really tough enemies show up or one of the players gets low on hit points, it will suddenly go from pulling the rug out from the thief as he plans his next backstab to assisting him so the creature is defeated in 2 rounds or less to avoid them growing even tougher.

A very nice balance between cooperation and competition. There are lots of enemy cards so the replay value is higher than one might expect. About the only thing that I can criticize is that it does not matter which character you choose – they all have the same starting hit points and there are no class based powers. Perhaps this is/will be changed in any expansions, but honestly the game is very solid as it stands.

I easily give it 8/10 stars. And I still say that this needs to show up at a Convention and the same set of players need to go from this directly into Red Dragon Inn!

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Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
Plaid Hat Games fan
Platinum Supporter
123 of 134 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 5
“Don't Split the Party! ...................... just their agendas ”

(A sneaky whispery mini font-size would have been a deuce-zed natural up there.)

Let’s Get This Party Started: Pub Crawl

Ok, well, there’s no tavern in Cutthroat Caverns but it is where all good adventures start and makes for a nifty introductory turn of phrase.

However, Cutthroat Caverns is a good fermented beverage and twisted gluten addition to game night.

AND it is ‘Dungeon Crawling Distilled’ through card play. Unless you’re that guy who enjoys poking through every barrel for a matching pair of copper pieces – what is the best part of dungeon delving?

Survey says…


And that’s what Cutthroat Caverns is all about – Killing Big Bads and Gaining Prestige.

There’s just one teensy-weensy old school catch: only the person who actually lands the killing blow gets all the tasty fame and glory.

The rest are left holding the Bag of Holding.

Party On: Critical Hits and Backstabbing Twists

Game play is pretty straightforward and easy to pick up after a practice encounter.

You build an Encounter Deck of nine cards – this is what stands between you and the exit. You must work together to defeat all the encounters – failure to do so (read: Party Death) results in the warm fuzzy feeling of a nice cooperative loss.

Players start the game with 100 Life Points and start an Encounter with a random Initiative Turn Order number and a hand of seven cards from the Party Deck. This is a thickly satisfying deck filled with variety and three major card types:

Attack Cards: The bulk of the deck and the bulk of this set are simple numbered cards: 20, 40, 50, Critical Hit 100. These are cards that will damage monsters. The number on the card is the damage you do. Some have a character picture on them and if your face is smiling back at you, you can double your damage and make it uncounterable. Some cards do no damage and yes – that can come in very handy. Some cards add a little mechanic spice like Crowd which does a little damage for you and halves the damage of people behind you or Double Strike which allows you to play two attack cards for a combat round.

Item Cards: A small slice of rarities that if they pop up are placed in front of you in an inventory for later use. Things like Potion of Iron Skin, Alchemists Fire, or a Potion of Healing might give you a crucial advantage in a later round or save your skin.

Action Cards:This is Cutthroat Caverns after all and these are some dirty tricks to play directly out of hand to make sure you jockey for that killing blow. Some daggers up your sleeve include: Edge Out which allows you to cancel another player’s attack, My Hero which redirects unwanted monster attacks, and Counter Strike which gives you a chance to take an extra slice or two out of the Big Bad if he takes a slice out of you.

So with all that in place, the top card of the Encounter Deck is revealed (bringing some hot tears and a variable rule for the encounter this battle – more on that later – cause you know, heart of the game and all that) and Monster Hit Points are scaled to the number of players.

A Combat Round begins – and the Cutthroatery commences.

Players turn their random draw Initiative Cards face up establishing player order for the round. You know where everyone stands as you draw your swords.

Players play an Attack Card face down and player’s take turns in Initiative Order, flipping attacks over and lining them up next to Ye Olde Donjon Beastie. Damage is subtracted from the Encounter’s health in card order.

If the Foulness is Felled – the Killing Blow gets the Encounter and the Prestige Value.

If the Monster lives to see another round – he dishes out some hurt, either as listed on the Encounter for doing something specific (Player who does the most damage/least/etc) or to a player who draws a certain Initiative next round (Player 2).

Between rounds players draw a fresh up card from the Player Deck and redraw Initiative to determine round order.

Between Encounters players can discard down and redraw to a brand spanking new seven before seeing what’s next behind Door Number Tomb.

Piece of cake.

Well sure – if in working together everyone wasn’t working for themselves.

He who lives with the most prestige wins.

And he who dies – well that might be more or less to worry about depending.

It’s My Party and You’ll Cry If I Want You To (and Die If I Want You To): Group Dynamics

Cutthroat Caverns is simple enough to play but there’s quite a bit to the overall picture that makes dungeon delving rather deep.

First off there’s the in rulebook motto to keep in mind:

Without teamwork, you will never survive.
Without betrayal, you’ll never win.

Words to not-die by.

While Cutthroat Caverns is a backstabber – it isn’t an elimination game. You need the other players around to do damage; they just can’t land the kill stroke. The Monsters can bring some serious pain if left to malinger so they have to go down within a round or two. Everybody only has 100 Life Points and they are hard to get back. This makes for interesting round dynamics. The First Round is about coming in strong because that monster needs to drop, but swinging too hard might just leave an easy opening for whoever comes up next or first the next go. As the Monster shuffles off the majority of coil mortal, the backstabbing begins because a dead creature can’t hit you. Just make sure as you try to jockey for the kill, at least someone gets the spoils or the group is going to start limping.

Knowing where you stand in order each round and where you might hope to be the next, leads to a lot of consideration of what other players might be doing and how that affects your own round decision. There’s plenty of ‘He might do this so I should play this, but if she does this I can counter that with this and then this will come in handy next time.”

Dungeon Delving just became a poker match of reading players, bluffing, guessing and second guessing.

And the best laid plans of shadow strategy can fall apart at any time leaving you a final five short of the prestige kill and the next adventurer stepping up to bat.

To add to dungeon depth, each Encounter plays differently because each warps the rules. To me Cutthroat Caverns is Reverse Cosmic Encounter. (And you might know how I feel about that one.) The VPP of Cosmic E allows you to approach the game differently each time. In Cutthroat Caverns everybody’s on a level playing field aside from the cards they hold. It’s the Encounter Variable Powers, or EVP, that keeps the game the same but the approach of each Encounter different.

Let’s get up close and personal with a few game changers from the Cutthroat Bestiary.

Iron Skin Gargoyle who cannot be damaged by attacks less than 20.

The Clockwork Golem who if you fail to score the kill in a given round turns all attack cards to the next lowest number.

Spite who attacks the player who did the most damage and then cannot be hit by that attack number in subsequent rounds.

Medusa who might petrify you, preventing your attack in the next round.

And these Beastly Beauties

The Arc Mages who must be attacked with cards that continue to increase in damage value. Break the chain and feel the pain.

Blood Mage who if survives a round summons another encounter to the Encounter Stack. It’s going to be a long night and one you probably won’t survive.

Each Encounter last about 2-3 rounds and 5-10 minutes so there’s always something new around the corner. By the time you reach the final few, tension mounts as Prestige rises while you are more the worse for wear.

You won’t just be counting Monster Life Points, but your own as well.

We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 34.95
(23.49 at Cool Stuff Inc)

Not for:
The Cozy Co-op: No holding hands and fighting viruses, just Gasbags.

The Munchkin: Literally. If someone drops in Encounter Four because somebody else is sporting the +1 Hat of Jerk Playing, no one is going to make it. Balance the Jerkification, Young Grasshopper.

The Angry Gamer: But I never said anything about causing someone to snuff it during the final Encounter or two. Especially someone with a big lead and low health. That’s their problem. And you know what they get? Nothing! They Lose! Good Day Sir! You on the other hand might get a flipped table.

Cutthroat Caverns encompasses the ‘Best of’ Dungeon Crawl experience in it’s Slay and (Dirty) Play mechanics. You’ll be trying to play and outplay your fellow adventures, vying for that kill stroke and avoiding the meat shield. Jockeying for what you think might be the glory can turn into a trip up at any moment. There will be curses. Victory taunts. The slap of cards on table and a flourish with cries of ‘Not on My Watch!’

(Trust me)

Oh and there will be Boogens – lots and lots of Boogens.

Let’s just say – this is a SHOUTY game.


Player Avatar
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
Military Service
85 of 133 gamers found this helpful
“Kill Friends and Take All the Loot”

Cutthroat Caverns is the aptly titled take that card game that takes Munchkin and turns the volume up to 11. In the game you are all adventurers trying to get out of a dungeon with a powerful artifact. To escape you must face no less than 9 monsters and survive direct and indirect attacks from fellow party members because no one wants to share. The final objective is to be the last man standing, but you don’t want to kill off your friends too soon.

I would play this with an established group that doesn’t mind take that game play.


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