Cutthroat Caverns is a game of co-operative back-stabbing set in a fantasy world. Players familiar with Munchkin will find the feel of the game similar, though the mechanics and game-play are different. A fun, fast-moving game of backstabbing, this is a definite game for those who are looking for something different.
Appearance: Cutthroat Caverns is a card game and comes in a small, easily transportable card board box. Cards within are made up of thick stock, with specific character cards and monster cards being made of thicker stock card board. The only real art in the game comes on the monster cards and the character cards, all who are well drawn in the cartoon-style chosen. Overall, the artwork works, but is rather sparse.
Rules / Ease of Learning: Rules in Cutthroat Caverns are easy to learn, though the rules could have been better laid out. It certainly took us longer to read the rulebook than to understand how the game plays. Players start by choosing a character (doesn’t make a difference, characters have no special powers in the base game). They are then dealt a hand of cards, playing any items dealt into their hands straight away.
Each turn, the heroes face a monster. There are ten of these monsters, ranging in power and special abilities. Each monster deals damage in a specific manner and often have a special ability.
To fight the monster, players are dealt an ‘initiative’ card. Players then place an attack card down face down in front of them. Attack cards are then flipped over, dealing the stated amount of damage to the monster in order of initiative. This is the meat of the game, as players also have specific interrupt cards that can be played to harm other players or to adjust their initiative or to stop a player from dealing as much damage as he needs to.
The aim of Cutthroat Caverns is to be the player who survives the adventure and gathers the most prestige points – gained from landing a killing blow on an enemy monster. Of course, since monsters do damage, players can optionally ‘kill’ all the other players, but must be careful to do so late enough in the game to survive the encounter.
Actual Gameplay: Cutthroat Caverns plays pretty fast, with each round in combat taking only a few minutes. While the rules were long, a number of questions and errata came-up during initial play (e.g.how many times do we use a potion, when could you use it) but were easily resolved by house rules.
With the majority of the deck consisting of damage cards, it seemed easy enough to kill the monsters, but difficult to actually ‘harm’ other players. Also, while the bluffing element of the game did work to some extent, it did not expand to the level that we had expected.
On the other hand, the game certainly played a lot like Munchkin in the back-stabbing aspect. There was a lot of player-on-player confrontation, especially in the last round. However, again, the lack of actual action cards made this a more difficult proposition than Munchkin does.
Conclusion: Overall, Cutthroat Caverns was certainly fun to play but not necessarily a game that will hit the table often. It had a big advantage over its closest competitor – Munchkin– in that a game finished within an hour. However, the lack of sufficient action cards did make the game slightly more frustrating, especially with the amount of luck involved in the drawing of cards.
Edit: Many of these issues have been resolved in the expansions to the game – Deeper & Darker adds even more monsters and special powers for each character; Relics & Ruins adds a new event deck and special relics to the game and Tombs & Tomes adds an adventure module to the game and expands on the previous expansions even further.