Run Away, Run Away! It’s the CAVE TROLL!
Cave Troll isn’t a very descriptive title, as the Cave Troll is more of game changing play in the game itself. Imagine if chess was called “King Me,” or Settler’s of Catan was named “Longest Road.” The game is about adventurers exploring a dungeon, and the eponymous Cave Troll is a piece that makes those adventurers very, very sad.
While Cave Troll features heroes exploring a dungeon, it’s not a crawl. The game is actually about worker placement. Each player has a set of adventurer pieces and monster pieces, so you control your own heroes and your opponents encounters. The idea is to use your heroes to claim treasure in as many rooms of the dungeon as possible, while you use your monsters to block, move, or discard your opponent’s heroes.
The pieces are well balanced, and it makes for fun strategy. Orcs can be used to kill heroes, so you need to keep a Knight around to prevent the Orcs from entering a space, and Barbarians count as two heroes when determining which player owns a space. The game has a ticking clock as you wait for the scoring rounds to appear, so there’s some epic dueling as players try to get their pieces in place before points are tallied.
I lost my first game by only a few points because of this kind of battle. Most of the simple rooms to control are worth one or two gold, but a few have five gold points. I used my thief to claim one of these rooms, but Josh used his Wraith to push her out just before scoring. I thought I could take the room back with a Knight, and I even found a treasure chest (four more gold!) when I did. But the knight ran in terror once Josh played his Cave Troll.
At this point I’m sure you’re wondering at the Cave Troll actually does. Most monsters must be spawned from one of the three pits in the dungeon, but the Cave Troll is placed in any room. Once he is played, each player must choose one piece in that room to run to an adjacent room, and the Cave Troll locks the room for the rest of the game. It’s a play that can range from irritating to dickish.
Cave Troll is a Silver Line game, so Fantasy Flight cut a few corners to keep the cost down. The board is nice, but the pieces are lackluster. The plastic seems flimsier and lighter than normal, and the colors are very bright for a dark dungeon game. They look like something from a Mattel game. That’s not meant to be an insult, I just mean to say it is an odd fit. The cards are nice though. They are the Runebound sized cards, and they have decent artwork.
Cave Troll is a great Ameritrash twist on worker placement games. I was impressed with it, and I think it makes a great two-player game. It would be fun to see it played with up to four players for a more cramped and constrained dungeon. I don’t think the game would see as much play as a tighter and grander Euro-style option, but the small box also makes it ideal for a travel game. Check it out if you want a different kind of experience in a fantasy game.