Review: Sub Terra

Game Name: Sub Terra Published Year: 2017
Game Publisher: Inside the Box Board Games LLP (ITB) Player Scale: 1-6
Game Designer: Tim Pinder Run Time: 45-90 min

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What seems to be a small cave expedition with your group of friends for a nice Sunday activity turns out a bit different from what you expected. You find yourselves cut off from the entry point and you need to find another exit before your torches run out of power. But that is not your only problem, you find, quite soon, that something else lives deep inside this cave and is not very friendly…

Welcome to Sub Terra, in this survival horror co-op game, you’ll be exploring a cave system laying out tiles and trying to survive a multitude of dangers while you all try to make it alive to the exit.

How it plays

Gameplay is quite simple, starting from the player with the first player token, all cavers will take actions, then if any horror is in play it will move towards the closest caver. Next, you draw a card from the hazard deck and resolve it and finally you pass the first player token to the next player. You’ll play a certain number of rounds like this until either you’re all unconscious or you escape the cave.

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Game setup

While setting up the game you will place the exit tile between the last six tiles in the exploration stack, so you have a bit of control on where and when is going to be placed at the end. The tiles are beautifully illustrated and the iconography is easy to identify while playing. The first time a tile is drawn, some of them will represent a potential threat, but it won’t trigger until a matching hazard card gets drawn.

 

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Character mats and meeples

 

All players have 2 action points they can use in any combination they want from the action list. Some of the actions need to use both points some only use one. You can always try to exert yourself for a third action point, but you will roll for a skill check, if you fail you’ll get a wound. Appart from the common actions, all characters have a special ability/action each, there are 8 different characters in the game, each useful in its own way and making for different combinations.

 

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Hazard cards

 

The hazard deck is what is going to make your adventure a horror story and acts as your timer for the game. Depending on the number of players or difficulty chosen you’ll form the deck with a different amount of cards. There are 5 different kind of hazards: tremors that might hurt you anywhere you are, deadly gas that will stay active in all gas tiles until the next hazard card gets drawn, cave-ins and floods that are very dangerous if you are in one of the tiles where it happens and will make more difficult to move around the cave system. And last but not least the horrors, that will hunt your group down. If you run out of cards, not everything is lost you still have a small chance to make it out running in the darkness, every caver still inside the cave will have to do a skill check if you succeed then you have an extra turn but if you fail, you’re dead.

There are different winning thresholds. Gold if everybody makes it out, silver if one caver is left behind or bronze if two cavers are left to the horrors. If 3 or more cavers didn’t make it in time then the game is lost for the whole group. And believe me, you’ll need to cooperate and organize quite well to make it out alive.

Opinion

The game is easy to play and is taught in a few minutes. It plays quite fast too, with 6 cavers we are playing in around 45-60 min per game now and it’s got that addictive factor of one more game because the game is hard and really fun to play, it invites you to keep trying. It took us a few games until only 4/6 cavers made it out, though we had pretty good attempts that almost made it.

Even though the box says Sub Terra plays from 1 to 6 players, you’ll need to play with a minimum of 4 cavers, but is not a difficult task as is very easy to keep track of their abilities and their life points. It plays very well solo and in any number of players, though after numerous games in my group we believe the game shines with 6 cavers in play, you have more abilities to deal with the cave, but at least 4 have to make it to the exit.

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Production quality is excellent, sturdy cardboard, gorgeous art, and very easy iconography.  Tiles are easily identifiable and once activated the hazard on them the tokens will mark it and differentiate over the ones not active yet. Replayability is very high, as the cave tiles are randomized and the order and number of different hazards are different in every game. There are also a couple of expansions on the way if you still feel like you need more game.

The game also comes with a few extra perks, like a tile holder and the tiles have spots that light up with UV light, same as the die. It makes as a great experience to play it in the dark with a cave soundtrack in the background.

The good: The game plays fast and is hard, a victory will feel like one. Production quality. Simple mechanics makes for a light game that is really fun to play.

The bad: If a player gets stranded and get knocked unconscious early in the game it might be left behind, and makes for a boring game for that person if nobody comes rescue you. with 4 cavers we’ve found out for this to happen more often as only half of the group has to make it out.

You might also like: Burgle Bros, Pandemic

That’s it for Sub Terra review folks!

If you feel adventurous enough I highly recommend it and watch out for the horrors hidden in the darkness…

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