Are you one of those people who fear the darkness? The deep dark where anything could be lurking? Where any noise could be the last sound you hear or any touch be the last sensation you experience?
If so, you’re in luck! You get to experience all those fears with up to 6 friends in the bleak, cave-filled, boardgame world of Sub Terra.
If you don’t have this inherent fear need not worry you too can also take part.
The game concerns up to 6 cavers who happen to be stranded in a labyrinth of a cave system. With fading flashlights and unknown terrors around every corner can they escape? Or will they vanish into the darkness to never be seen again?
Each player selects a caver from the selection provided, all of which have different survival abilities such as being able to automatically lay down rope without rolling a wide or being able to heal teammates. This selection can make a massive difference when playing as you never know what kind of layout the cave will be. After selection, players put their corresponding meeple (player piece) on the starting tile and choose who begins.
On each turn, players can perform two basic actions or an advanced action which costs both action points. Some caver abilities allow you to do extra actions but the ones open to everyone are pretty self-explanatory: move, run, look, look and move, heal. With the goal being to escape from the cave, players will want to move onward through the cave system revealing the tiles as they go. Of course, it’s not as easy as just going for a stroll though. Certain tiles have dangers lurking. There are cave-ins, floods, poisonous gas, narrow passageways and horrors. The aforementioned horrors spawn and hunt down the players, killing all who get too close (you kind of want to stay away from them).
Some of the cavers have ways of dealing with some of these dangers but most just have to hope that luck is on their side. It’s this aspect of luck which brings the tension. As you enter a new room you have to way up the risks of a cave in or a poisonous gas leak. The problem is that if you hang around too long you risk the torch lights going out and having to face your fears in the dark. All of this adds a great randomness to the game and makes replayability great.
As the new room tiles are revealed and laid done, it is entirely possible to create a cave system which has no exit. You may think that this would be frustrating and give the whole ‘Well that was a waste of time’ feeling, but it doesn’t. For me and the group I play with, this only adds to the fun. Other times you find the exit but have to decide whether to go back in to save your injured companions. After each player has taken their turn a card is revealed, unleashing some dire consequence. Some spawn horrors, others cause cave-ins and floods. It’s at these moments you really don’t want to be on any square that could hurt you. In a single turn, it is entirely possible for everyone to die. Again this isn’t frustrating, it just adds to the game.
For what, on paper, may seem like a pretty basic game, it’s amazing the atmosphere and depth that is created by the theme and the visual style of the game.
Sub Terra is one of my favourite games at the moment. It’s fun, full of atmosphere and has a feel all of its own