“Somewhere nearby is Colossal Cave, where it is rumored that others have found fortunes in treasure and gold. Magic, too, is said to work in the cave. But beware! Some who enter are never seen again.”
Humans are always on the lookout for adventure. Back in the years between 1972 and 1977, two people set out to create an adventure for others to enjoy in an exciting way. These people were Willie Crowther and Don Woods, and their adventure was a text-based computer game known as Colossal Cave Adventure. The game has since been imitated, expanded upon, and reskinned hundreds of times since its appearance. That game has finally made its way to the tabletop thanks to Arthur O’Dwyer, who adapted and designed Colossal Cave, the board game. Some of the best adventures gamers have ever had have been shared across the table and this is yet another one that includes magic, treasure, and even death!
- 1 Game Board
- 72 Cards
- 1 Light Disc
- 4 Wooden Player Tokens
The game board is quite sturdy, and the artwork is colorful. Looking at the board, the artwork is laid out so that you do get the feeling that you’re exploring a cave. The wooden meeples are solid yet lightweight, and they’re shaped just like explorers holding lanterns – so they’re not your run-of-the-mill meeples. As for the cards, they are your standard game cards. Shuffling them a bit too rough will eventually see them bend, but if taken care of they’ll last. They’re color-coded, which comes to a head while playing the game.
Going Spelunking – How to Play
In Colossal Cave your goal is simple: be the first to collect three treasures from within the cave and deposit them into Well House to win the game. In order to locate these treasures you’ll need to dive down into the cave and brave its many mysterious rooms. You won’t be alone, however, as other explorers will be accompanying you into the darkened cavern. These explorers will be looking for treasure as well, and they’ll have plenty of tricks up their sleeve to ensure they are the ones making it out of the cave instead.
To setup, each player is dealt three cards which will serve as a starting hand. The rest of the deck is placed next to the game board as a draw pile. Everyone takes an explorer meeple and places it in Well House. This will be the location where players will need to return to in order to drop off treasures collected during their romps in the cave. With meeples set, hands in place, and the will to explore set deep in your hearts, the game can begin!
During the game players will each take turns moving about the cave. On your turn you will perform actions in this order:
- Draw a card
- Move one space on the board
- Play a card (You may choose to play an action or item, draw another card, move another space, or deposit a treasure)
- Discard down to seven cards
The cards play an important role in Colossal Cave, and you’ll be using them to perform a multitude of tasks. All together there are four different item types: Item (green), Treasure (yellow), Action (red), and Reaction (pink/magenta). Let’s take a closer look at how each type of card works in the game:
Item – Item cards represent items you’ve collected while exploring the cave. To play items you must be in the location associated with that item. Once you meet the requirement, you place the item in front of you and are considered to be carrying the item. Some items allow you to perform different actions, defend against cards played by others, or even stop you from acquiring certain other cards.
Treasure – Treasure cards are just like item cards, and by definition are also items. Just like item cards, treasure cards also have a location restriction, meaning they can only be played in certain locations in the cave.
Action – Action cards represent special things you can do on your turn. When playing an Action card you simply have to reveal the card, do what it says, and then discard it. Action cards will allow you to do things like take items from other players, stop other players from moving, and more.
Players will take turns performing actions and exploring the cave. As you draw cards you’ll pick up treasure that can be played as long as you’re in the right location in the cave. Once you pick up treasures you’ll need to make your way back to Well House to deposit them. The first player to make it back to Well House and deposit three items will be the winner. Beware, however, as there are many situations in which you could find yourself losing treasure right before reaching Well House!
Is this a Treasure to Deposit?
Colossal Cave is a great adaptation of an early computer adventure game. It’s got everything you can ask for: exploration, loot, mystery, and adversaries. With simple mechanics, the game is quite easy to pick up, but it will take some time to master. The cards are random enough that you never know what you’ll end up with, and the search for treasure is enhanced by the race to get out first.
The Action cards add plenty of cutthroat to the game and make player interaction necessary. There will be many times when you will need to stop a player from moving in the cave or force them to discard their items in order to make it easier for you to advance. What’s the most fun is when you play an Action card to acquire treasure from your opponents when they need it the most. With so many possibilities of getting thwarted, the game makes for very little downtime in between turns.
There are several mechanics to the game that add replayability that help make it something new each time. Sure, you’ll still be getting treasure to take back to Well House, but your starting hand will be different each time and the player interaction will ensure you won’t have the same run each game in the cave. With a total of six explorers running around in the cave you can never tell what’s going to happen each game.
Colossal Cave is a great in between game, running short even with 4-6 players. The only drawback with playing in a large group is that the treasure spread will be a bit thin. There are only 15 Treasure cards in the game, so with 5-6 players most of the easy treasures will get snatched up before you can blink. Still, I’d say the game is best with 4 players as it’s plenty of fun, yet stays on a time budget.
If you’re looking for a great exploration game that plays quickly, has plenty of player interaction, and offers the possibility of finding sweet loot, then look no further than Colossal Cave. Just make sure not to expect too much out of the game. It’s most certainly light, but it can easily find a space on your game shelf.
Thanks to Game Salute for providing a review copy of Colossal Cave for review!
- Easy setup
- High replayability
- Quick to learn
- Player interaction makes for interesting gameplay
- Definitely a light game, not something for hardcore players
- Player interaction could make the game feel a bit too cutthroat for some