I always have a little bit of trouble at the board game cafe. Should we play the game we all know so that we can be sure? Or should we try a new game to take advantage of this vast library? A few weeks ago I opted to go for the latter and try out The Cave, a “cooperative” game which is about exploring a cave. I have to admit that the rules were a little much to understand on the first reading, but once a person gets into it, the turns start to go faster. The concept is that you are exploring a cave and collecting tokens either by being the first to find a good photo spot, the first to descend to a lower level, the first to make a tight squeeze, etc. The game pieces are visually appealing, but the play of the game left me wanting for something.
I found that the game doesn’t really encourage “teams” (the word the game uses for each individual player) to interact with each other much at all, and that success is easiest to achieve by being lucky on the draw of unexplored tiles. At my table there were one or two occasions when one player would scoop some tokens left behind or not yet reached by another player, but for most if it we all started discovering our own tunnels. I found the only real obstacle to racking up points was getting a bad draw: even if it’s not a complete dead end, drawing a piece that makes it difficult to navigate your current tunnel can be a more subtle obstacle. Nothing in the play of the game suggests that it would be advantageous for any teams to work together, so we are just left hoping that our draws match the kind of equipment we happen to have packed.
While I think it’s a fine idea to play a cooperative game based on cave exploration, I think that it’s probably better if players have some kind of incentive to cooperate. I will probably give this game another one or two tries to give it a fair shake, but right now I am feeling like I could have insisted on Carcassonne or 7 Wonders despite the fact that it’s not a terribly novel experience and doesn’t have the same promise of being a completely cooperative game. As frustrating as it is to see a resource you need in 7 Wonders too far away to trade for, at least I know how player to player interaction will go. Or maybe I should just dispense with the pretence of being there mainly to play games and just have delicious local ice cream with some friends on a hot summer night…
August 2018 is going to be Full Steam Ahead’s “Month of Adam.” I will still be here moderating comments and generally keeping the behind-the-scenes part of the site running, and will be returning in September with some great new content. Until then, please continue to enjoy Alastair’s excellent series.