We've been hitting the movie edits really hard and making lots of progress, yet severe burn out has crept up on us.
There's only one cure for mental exhaustion and it isn't taking a nap either. We needed to log some serious time doing what we love -- Gaming!
Fortunately our friends, Matt and Nate Cave Evil, had just sent us an invite to help them play test the new expansion set for for their Cave Evil game series. We had watched their game being played by none other than Tim Kask; when he flew him out to interview with us, and there was no way we were going to miss out on a chance to play this new mod ourselves.
Evil Nate came by to give us a ride. We weren't allowed to drive ourselves, since the exact location of their lair is a closely held secret. In fact, the necromantic laboratory that has spawned every version of Cave Evil lies roughly an hour away from us by War Cult Cart, and is at about 8000 feet above sea level. It should be noted, most evil hide-outs are in remote places and preferably nestled below a craggy peak. We were not disappointed. Did we mention that it was overcast and misty as well?
What we were thinking was: "This is going to be an awesome adventure!"
Although we had met these guys before, we hadn't actually gotten to know each other until this evening. The last time we'd seen Matt, we were too busy running a game of Fletcher Pratt's: Naval Warfare, and he was too busy commanding a German cruiser. So while we did get to hang out, our conversation was directly related to: how many salvos, at what target, at what range, with how much of a spread. We're pretty sure it was Matt who completely pasted a British cruiser severely damaging it.
Another little known secret about the mountain lairs of necromancers, is that when you get there, the first thing you do is fire up the grill. We got to know our hosts better over a hearty pre-game dinner of amazing food and drink.
Nate and Matt are long time RPG'ers. They've run long home brew D&D campaigns, but they've also played a lot of war games. To top it off, they are true aficionados of classic board war games and play them extensively; both Nate and Matt can rattle off game names, and game designer names, off the top of their heads and their collective knowledge about games is encyclopedic. All we can say is that these guys are our kind of gamers.
After about an hour of hanging out it was time to set up the game and get to business. We won't bother to do an actual game review, as we'd have to spend more time playing the game ourselves. And, they probably don't want us revealing too much info about their next game release's mechanics as that is closely guarded info for now.
What is Cave Evil?
First off, it may be the first in a new genre of dark games.
From what we can tell, it is a game that was spawned from darkness. It's truly something new in board gaming as it might be the first Black Metal inspired game of its kind. We're using the term Black Metal loosely. Pick your favorite metal band and artwork, and it's likely it had some influence in this game. If you look at the artwork and read the various character names from the game cards, it's clear that this is feeding from all things corrupted and menacing that are often evoked within the most craven Metal Music you can find.
Ok, all you pop music fans are already having doubts, but keep reading.
At the same time, the H.P. Lovecraft references seem obvious as well. Or are they, this game environment seems even more sinister than Cthulu. It seems like an insult to say this game is a regurgitation, it's not.
Oh oh, we've likely lost all of fantasy and sci fi fans too. This Alistair Crowley imagery is a bit harrowing, but keep reading!
Matt and Nate, along with the rest of their supporting cast of Evils, have created a fascinating world reality. While others might want to do the same old Fantasy game, or Sci Fi universe, Nate and Matt have drawn from their own inner darkness. Sure there are the aforementioned possible influences, but they've taken it farther, a lot farther. What is clear is that the Cave Evils have created a unique and personal head-space. Playing their game with them, you realize they know this place of malevolent darkness intimately. When they pick up a game card to examine the stats, their eyes seem to light up with loving joy; as if they are thinking "Ah there is my old friend again." When you examine the same card, all you see is a black and white rendition of something out of your own personal worst nightmares.
Did we mention darkness yet? This game is blackest black with just highlights of light and grey. We mean this literally, as all the game components are white on black, but mostly black. The effect of the game map, cards, and components is very compelling and challenging, it's that different from what you are used to.
We've seen a lot of horror games and this is by far the most disturbing world milieu we've come across. Perhaps the only other game with this heightened level of morbidity is the Whispering Vault RPG. There are no nice guys here. It isn't a loud colorful comic book world. This is a place of silence that no light ever reaches. The stillness is pervasive and one desires just a small spark of light, or familiar sound to hang onto like a life boat. Yet, what you are more likely to hear, is a distant splash of freshly excised gore, and the last thing you want is for any kind of light to reveal the panoply of psychically unbalanced organisms that populate this world.
If you don't believe this is a dark and disturbing place, here's their video:
Did the little crunchy and squishy sounds make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?
We're not doing a good job of selling this game are we? That's the thing about Cave Evil though, it's a one of a kind vision, and it's a dark vision. If you are at all squeamish, if horror movies keep you from having a good night's sleep, if you want to hang onto the idea that the world is a nice place, or if you'd rather be listening to Nickel Back -- Don't Play This Game!
Those of you who like that tingling feeling you get while watching horror films, or perhaps if you like to see how far you can push the mental limits of reality, or you like your music loud and scary -- You'll Love This Game!
We had no choice and simply embraced the Cave Evil within us as we sat down to play.
Nate set up the board, and explained how the game works to us, as Matt tuned in their own online radio channel. Ok, not only is this a creepy game, but they actually have over 12 hours of menacing background music that you are supposed to listen to while you play.
Even if you don't play Cave Evil, you can use their soundtrack to make your own games become a world of unblinking malevolence: http://www.cave-evil.com/KVVL/index.php#
You have to pull the chain to open the gate!
(Is this the first game to come with its own internet soundtrack?)
The game is actually very enjoyable. It's a lot like other games where you move your pieces around on the board, but it is also a mix of layered possibility due the variety of game mechanics and components.
Everyone starts with a a bunch of cards in hand that can immediately be played to create an army of Cave Evil creatures.
When your turn comes, you draw a card and either add it to your hand, activate it if it's an event, use it to create a cave evil, or discard it in exchange for the value of the card.
Did we mention trading cards for their value? This game is an economic game too! And it has three units of exchange: metal, gore, and flame.
The "Money" chits can be used to cast spells, or to activate and create more creatures for your evil forces.
You can move your pieces, but there are stacking limits on how many creatures can be in one space: 3 small, 1 small and 1 medium, or 1 large creature. In some cases the tunnels are too small for large creatures to enter.
There are other interesting game mechanics we won't reveal, as they are being play tested for balance, and of course, playability.
Since Nate and Matt love war games, Cave Evil is essentially a war game; where you attack each other's creatures in hand to hand combat, use ranged attacks, or cast spells to inflict carnage. And there is a lot of carnage in this game since combat is fast and furious.
Cave evil is addictive. We played for roughly 3 hours and we lost track of time. We were just having too much fun and were completely engrossed as we watched the game play out.
Finally, Matt was able to reach the cave with the altar and stole the artifact, which he carried off the board, thus being the winner in this scenario.
Our earlier disclaimer to those who may be too sensitive for Cave Evil; well now that we've played it, we suggest that you just get over yourselves and play this game. It's the perfect mid-complexity war board game and you really should try it out.
After the play test game, we ended up talking even more about wargaming and game design as we considered how the game went. When we turned to look at the game board again, Matt laid out all the maps from his copy of Robert Bradley's game: "Alesia", from 1971. All you Grognards who are reading this will know of this game. We hadn't seen a an actual copy in a decade. And again, as gamers and game designers, Nate and Matt are our kind of gamers and truly Old School; sure they love to play RPG's, but they know their classic war games like the back of their hands.
We had such a nice time gaming with the Cave Evils. We think we're going to have to go back and do it again very soon. They say they may be up for playing a historical minis battle next time too. Oh oh, time to get out the civil war minis, or the WWII lead ships!
Hanging out with the Cave Evils was exactly what we needed. Our tired brains have been rejuvenated via some awesome war gaming. We're ready to get back to work!
Since we know Matt and Nate, we figured it would be more ethical if we let someone else review the game. A little poking around on the web and we found this reviewer. Interestingly, he says just about the same things we've said here. Check out this link:
You can speak with the Cave Evils directly via FaceBook: