Catacombs is a different kind of board game. On the surface, it’s billed as a dungeon crawler. Which it technically is. The heroes, descend level after level, trying to find the big bad evil guy to slay. However, at its heart, Catacombs is a dexterity game. For those not familiar with the concept, dexterity games require some hand-eye coordination to play. In catacombs, you flick little discs across the board in order defeat your enemies. No dice, no action cards, just good disc flicking action.
In catacombs, one player takes on the role of the Overlord. He controls all the monsters and sets up the dungeons. The other player(s) take on the role of the heroes, trying to slay the main bad guy. Catacombs is versatile in that the heroes can all be played by one player or 4 different ones (and is equally fun either way).
Throughout the game, the heroes take on room after room of monsters trying to work their way down the levels to where the dungeon boss is hiding. Along the way they will even have a chance to heal up and buy upgraded items.
How to Play:
Game play is actually quite simple. First, the chose player who is the overlord, sets up the dungeon. He choses a main boss and then lays out a series of dungeon cards along the main board. Each one of those cards is a room the players will have to fight their way though at increasing difficulty. The cards are random from a stack, so the players will never know what awaits in them in each room.
Once the dungeon is setup, it’s time to take on the first room. The heroes start at one and end the monsters at the other. Going first, the heroes get to attack the monsters. To attack, the heroes must flick the disc the represents their character across the board and try and hit the monster’s disc. Hit the disc and you do a point of damage. Most monsters have 1 to 2 points of damage they can take before they die and are removed from the board. Kill all the monsters in the room, and the heroes triumph and move further into the dungeon. If a hero loses all their life (being hit too many times), they are dead and out of the game. Kill all the heroes and the overlord player wins.
There are 4 different types of heroes to choose from. They range from the barbarian that rampages around the board (only has his disc to flick) to the versatile wizard who has a hand of spell cards to choose from, each doing something different. Range attacks are handled by separate discs that are flicked starting next to your hero.
There are also rules for when something flies off the board (happens a lot) and also special attacks (stuns, critical hits, etc). All that adds up to a good amount of versatility in the game.
But that’s the basics of how to play. Very simple rules with minimal need to reference the rule book once you are in the game. There is over a dozen unique monsters in the base game to help provide a variety for each game and the item cards the heroes can by will provide much needed upgrades.
This is actually the fourth time I’ve had to play Catacombs. Every time I’ve played the bad guys and I’m happy to say my play records stands at an unblemished 4-0. This time I played vs only 1 player for the first time. I must say I was worried throughout the session. He was doing much better than I am and I was missing a lot of shots.
This was also the first time the player(s) made it to the dungeons boss’s room with all 4 heroes in relatively decent shape. In the pass, there had always been one hero either dead or very close to it.
However, in this final room my luck finally changed. The dungeon boss came out with some pretty powerful monsters. My eye-hand coordination finally kicked in and I was able to pull out a decisive win for the monsters. Better luck next time.
Catacombs is an easy game to like. The rules are nice and simple, the play time is fairly short and the dexterity action of the game is a whole lot of fun. The wooden discs are as good as one might expect, however, you have to sticker them all yourself, which is a bit of a pain. The artwork is also, just OK in my opinion. I’ve seen better in many games and sometimes it’s hard to match up the monsters with their tokens.
All that aside though, Catacombs is still a great game. If you are looking for a hard core dungeon crawler, than this is not for you. You are better off looking into Descent. However, Catacombs makes a great filler game. We usually play it early in a game night, as it’s the perfect game to get the night started. Since it’s a semi-cooperative game, players can jump in in the middle of the game if the show up late.
In general, I really enjoy dexterity games. Combine that with my enjoyment of dungeon crawlers and you have a win in my book. If you are looking for something different to fill some time in your game night, check out Catacombs.
If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, it’s about $55
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A great twist on the usual dungeon crawler. Catacombs is a quick play and a lot of fun.
• Unique gameplay
• As a dexterity game, allows a new twist on dungeon crawlers
• Semi-cooperative gameplay
• Quick play time allows it to be a great filler game
• Artwork kind of ho-hum
• Having to sticker all the pieces is not fun
• Game feels slanted against the players