1st Impression, 2 Players, 3rd Edition Catacombs

Hi all,

Thought it would be a very appropriate start to this week's challenge to talk about my first impressions of the game I recently won right here on BGA: Catacombs! 

I wrote previously on why I ended up getting Catacombs (it surprised even me) so I won't get into that here. I had been intending to write a proper review once I had had the chance to play it a couple more times but this is the perfect opportunity to give my first impressions after playing it once with my partner: so here we go!

(I only remembered to take a photo right towards the end of our game: the last two remaining heroes valiantly about to go down fighting against the overwhelming forces of the dungeon lord)

First off, it takes a while to prepare this game out of the box, there are must be somewhere in the region of a hundred small wooden disks (I should have counted) that each have one or two stickers to be stuck on. Fortunately I had a lazy evening to spare and happily spent a couple of hours sticking them all on sat in front of the TV: it was actually pretty fun as it made you look at and appreciate each individual piece of artwork in a way you might not if just presented with 100 pre-stickered discs. I was constantly pausing to look up what a Minotaur could do, or how the gelatinous cube (an amazing addition to the game) worked. Really built the excitement to play the game.

However, once that is done, when it came to actually setting up the game it was pretty swift even the first time: you pick your heroes and take there starting abilities/items (mostly just 2-3 cards except the wizard where you have to pick a whole heap of spells from a deck). The overseer (Dungeon master type player) chooses a bunch of scenarios and shops for the players to explore and who the big-bad will be (They could even just choose the first scenario and do the rest while the first game was playing out if you wanted to be efficient). Then you pick a board, put discs on and away you go. We played with the recommended beginner set of dungeons which seemed to give a good variety.

Each 'room' in the dungeon has the same objective: kill everything, so the variety really comes from the match up of heroes and monsters, and there are a bunch of both. 6 heroes (of which you chose 4) and dozens of monsters (usually 3-4 types in a given room), each with intuitive but different styles of play. The flicking makes every shot tense, there are very few givens (you'd be surprised how easy it is to mess up a seemingly easy shot) but also a nice variety of 'success' to be had: you generally do damage when you collide with an enemy disc, but you can also use these shot to try to reposition yourself and your enemies/allies ready for the next shot: it seems like there is a skill curve to be had but still plenty of fun if you are completely awful as the basics are pretty achievable (discs are big enough to hit and the map is small enough that you don't have to flick too far.

The arc of the game is pretty interesting, the heroes are unlikely to 'lose' any of the early missions, you're health does not automatically replenish between rooms (there are way to heal) so it is about killing the monsters as efficiently as possible so you go into the harder levels more prepared. While each hero has individual health allowing for theoretical player elimination, it is unlikely you will go from full health to zero in one or two rounds so you can easily go and hide if you feel at risk and play more cautiously until you get the chance to heal up. Similarly, it would be easy for an eliminated player to just join the overseers' team, especially before the final battle, without disrupting play, and I'm sure would create a lot of laughs. In our game, all four heroes made it to the final room with limited but okay health left (they spent a lot of gold on healing throughout). 

Also, when players encounter safe rooms they get to either heal or acquire new items and abilities with the gold they have earned from monster slaying: these weapons and abilities are generally one use per room but very powerful and stop the game feeling repetitive. Suddenly you go from being a thief, to being a thief with a poisonous knife or an armadillo friend, which allowed some really fun narratives and jokes to come out (my partner could not understand the point of the elf's familiar and so would hilariously just flick it randomly, leading to the narrative that the familiar was just following the elf around without permission and the elf was sick of it!). I can imagine that this would become even more the case when each player was controlling a single character so would embody them even more so.

The game felt a little slanted in favour of me as the overseer, so I can imagine taking on a slightly more DM type role, trying to make the game engaging rather than trying to 'win'. But that could well be because my partner was very timid with her flicking and made a few fatal errors, it remains to be seen with future plays.

Overall though the flicking is great fun, it creates hilarious events when things go very wrong or surprisingly right (a single fireball 'accidentally' wiping out all my beautiful trolls before they had a chance to do anything). In a way that wouldn't happen in a more 'normal' board game. While, it turns out dexterity games are not my partner's cup of tea, she still enjoyed the game as a whole, and I cannot wait to get it to a table with a group of friends.

 



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Owner4 months ago

Thanks for sharing! I couldn't help but read through everything with a grin on my face :)

Seems like such a silly game that pulls you in for a fun time. I'm on the lookout for a dexterity game to play with my family, so maybe this could be the one? There's this, #Flip Ships, #Men At Work, and #Flick Em Up! that I'm considering. I'm strongly leaning toward #Flip Ships so far.

4 months ago

I've not heard of Flip ships before, what is it that puts it top of the pile?

Owner4 months ago

I've been interested in flicking games since my dad and I used to play those types of games a lot when I was a kid. I like that it's harmless fun that will get us easily excited and laughing as we eliminate the ships or fail miserably!

4 months ago

Just had a peek at it, looks hilarious as things will just go wrong so often but presumably the game exects that and balances accordingly!

4 months ago

Great review! This sounds like a ton of fun, especially with a group!

And I agree with you about the stickering - I haven't had a game with a ton of stickers, but I feel like that when sleeving cards. You can look at every card, and it's just kind of relaxing to do.

4 months ago

Yeah, I was initally a little dismayed at the sheets and sheets of stickers. Plus, I was concerned about messing up and forever ruining the game, but them all being circles, you have a little leyway with precision and my amateur self was able to get them all on no problem so it was a quite medative process.

4 months ago

Haha, I generally don't like the idea of stickering either. That was always my least favorite part of Lego sets.

4 months ago

As a kid I was often too worried about the sticker peeling off to be willing to stick them on, I would just save them for some magical time in the future...I was a strange kid

4 months ago

Haha I'll occasionally get a new Lego set even now, and most of the time I don't even bother with the stickers. I just trash them, haha.

4 months ago

Ha, good to know it isn't just me

4 months ago

I love dexterity games, and I've looked at this one only a little bit. I will have to look more at this one. I think the concept/theme is really fun. Thanks for your thoughtts on this!

4 months ago

I have only played this and #Flick Em Up! as dexterity games go. I think so far at least I much prefer #Catacombs 3rd Edition as a more thrilling and exciting system to play within. And it seems to have a greater amount of variety.

4 months ago

Honestly the more you talk about this game and the more I think about it, I am more intriguiged by it. I love the characters and the different abilities and especially the progression through the campaign. I am not sure it would fit in my game group, but I think it would fit with my wife and even my family. It seems very approachable!

4 months ago

I think it is absolutely accessible for a family, especially if you as the 'overseer' adopt a more Dungeon master-y type role, whereby you play for the excitement and fun of the group rather than as a hardened tacticion. You can also scale the difficulty quite easily with which rooms you choose for them to encounter so you wouldn't even have to 'go easy' on anyone.

4 months ago

Maybe a little further down the line it will be in my future. I have my sights set on some meatier games at the moment but this is on my wishlist now. 

4 months ago

What are you eyeing up?

4 months ago

Currently #Too Many Bones and #Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion, I recently learned my wife likes RPG games with progression so these are the two next steps!

4 months ago

Very interesting game!  Thanks for the review.  I would not have considered this before but will have to ponder getting a copy now :)

4 months ago

Will wait until I've had a chance to play it with more players before giving it my full-throated recommendation, but I think it delievers on what it sets out to be: a relatively light (but heavier than most dex games), fun, tactical dexterity dungeon crawler so if that appeals to you then probably worth a serious ponder. The only thing, like with any dexteritiy game, is if your group is going to resent their 'plan' not working out due to bad flicks then I can imagine it souring the mood. However, if you have folks who are happy to improvise and just enjoy the game unfolding I think you will have a blast! that's not to say there isn't scope for planning or strategy, and you can pull off some fun maneouvers: just not every time.

Linked Games
Catacombs (Third Edition)
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