Cave Troll Review

Cave Troll board game by Fantasy Flight Games mid play

Now it is about time for us to check out the little game of Cave Troll.

Cave Troll, at its core, is an area control game - but with the areas represented by rooms in a dungeon.  On each turn, the active player gets to take a total of four actions.  And, for those actions, they can choose any of the following (repeating them if they so choose): draw and play a card, move a hero or monster, play an artifact card, and use a hero or monster ability.  Certain cards have a picture of a sand timer on them.  When you play these cards, they remain in play as a count down to a scoring round.  When there are more than four sand timers visible, then each room scores a number of points equal to the amount of gold pieces showing on it to whoever has the most heroes in it (with bonus points if a treasure chest or dwarf is in the room).  Once a player's deck runs out of cards, there is a final scoring round, and whoever has the most points wins the game!

My first pro for Cave Troll are the Cave Troll cards.  Shouldn't this be obvious?  The game is named after them!  Basically, the Cave Trolls are nuclear bombs that you can drop on a location.  When you play them, each player can move one of his units out of the space where the Cave Troll is played, but after that, it's like the space no longer exists - treasure chests are destroyed, nobody scores points for it, and you can't even move through it.  Additionally, the Cave Troll also cannot move.  In the games that I've played, the Cave Troll generally doesn't wind up doing much damage.  But, because of the threat of someone playing him, it forces players to diversify their actions.  This helps there be less spaces on the board where players collect all of their units trying to pile up all of their different bonuses.

Cave Troll card and figure from Fantasy Flight Game
Cave Troll the destroyer
Well, honestly, the Cave Troll isn't the only special unit that I like in the game.  I guess, ultimately, I would list all of the special figures as a pro - they really add some spice to the game.  Without them, it would simply be a dry mechanical puzzle more than an enjoyable game.  There is a thief that can immediately move to anywhere on the board, a dwarf that doubles the gold value of a room, and a knight that prevents opponents from moving through his space.  Oh, and you also get monsters!  (Monsters could be considered a third pro.)  The monsters don't even count towards you controlling a space.  You use them only to harass your opponents!  For example, there is an Orc that can kill heroes, and a Wraith that can push them around.  (And, of course, there is also the Cave Troll, which is classified as a monster.)  It's also nice that they provide an alternative sets of cards for the figures - this lets you play one game with a "Knight", and the next game with a "Paladin", each with its own abilities.

However, even with the extra set of cards, my main con for Cave Troll is that I don't really view it as very replayable.  I think this is because the strategies are fairly straightforward.  Ultimately, you're simply trying to spread out and get as many rooms as you can for as minimal a cost in units as possible.  And, you want to get one high value room with your dwarf in it, and make sure that you can keep it.  That's about it.  Now go make that happen, and you'll win.

My next con for Cave Troll is that there probably need to be more special units.  I realize that grunts are important, as they represent standard pieces in area control.  And, if everything were special, then nothing would truly be special.  However, the problem lies in the fact that the deck is randomly shuffled, and you draw the top card.  Which is probably a grunt ("adventurer").  And then probably another grunt.  And another one.  And, though the Orcs and Knights and Barbarians are cool, there is a good chance that you will not draw them until the end of the game, whereas your opponents may get them immediately (or vice versa).  This can highly skew the game - especially if one of the first things drawn is a dwarf, which can enhance actual scoring.  Essentially, because of this aspect of the game, you really need to view Cave Troll as a fun little game to play instead of as a strategic challenge.

figures from Cave Troll board game
Don't stack too many special figures together
The last con that I will mention for Cave Troll is that there is quite a bit of a "pile on the leader" element, at least if you play with more than two players.  Since you score a few times in the game, it is very obvious who is winning.  And, in order to catch them, you must stop them from scoring additional points while also improving your own score.  Which makes sense and is the valid way to play most games.  However, when you have three players that are all attempting to take points away from the same player, it can be a frustrating experience for that player - especially if they wing up losing not because they played poorly, but because all of their opponents targeted them.  (Though, you could argue that they played poorly by making themselves a target.  But we won't go into that.)

Overall, I give Cave Troll a 7.5/10.  I was pleasantly surprised with the game.  Whereas I will probably wind up trading my copy, I did enjoy my time with the game and would probably be willing to play it in the future if someone else brought a copy.

If Cave Troll sounds interesting, you might also check out Babel, Defenders of the Realm, and Smash Up.

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