Type: Dungeon crawl
Suggested Ages: 12+
Play Time: 90-120 mins
Play Style: Secret enemy placement, party recruitment, dice combat
Learning Curve: Moderate
Links: Board Game Geek
My Rating: 4 out of 5
Recruit a party. Kill the monsters. Take their stuff! Each player recruits a classic fantasy adventuring party and sends them into the Tomb. Parties raid crypts throughout the Tomb, trying to kill the most monsters and gain the most treasure to win.
How to Play
The game begins with each player drawing a number of Crypt cards – monsters, treasure or traps, and taking turns placing a card face-down into one of many Crypts on the game board. Once the Crypts are full, each player picks a starting hero and places them on the adjacent Inn board. From the Inn, players can recruit a new party member or draw helpful cards for their heroes to use, such as Spells, Prayers, Items or Tactics (the former two require a wizard or cleric to cast, respectively). When a player feels ready, they may enter the Tomb.
The Tomb board is made up of corridors and Crypts. Throughout the Tomb are doors to the Crypts, helpful icons for resting, gaining cards, or moving instantly to new areas. The two-sided Tomb board has a basic and advanced game, with the advanced version using more Crypts and adding traps to the corridors. The real action begins when a party enters a Crypt.
Each Crypt has an “L” or “R” indicating which player – left or right – acts as the Cryptmaster, playing the Crypt cards in the Crypt. Adventurers have several stats: Attack, Skill, Magic and Holiness, as well as a special ability. Each shows how many of each colored ten-sided die to use. Green dice have three successful faces, blue have five, and red have seven. Traps are dealt with first, and usually indicate how many heroes can help and which skill must be used. Monsters can be Attacked, or heroes can use cards drawn from the Inn for other actions. The player claims defeated monsters and traps for points, and treasure can either be equipped or “banked” for more points.
The game ends when all the Crypts are empty. The player with the highest “banked” score wins.
My D&D group broke this out one night when we couldn’t play our usual game. The rules were admittedly a bit confusing at first, but once we got it we all had a blast. You aren’t so much the party as you are their patron. Heroes die, and frequently toward the end. TPKs (total party kills) aren’t unheard of, but also aren’t a significant setback. You just start back at the Inn and recruit a new crew, really only losing a few helpful cards and some time.
And that’s the real thrust of the game. It’s a race with the other players. You have to carefully balance acquiring enough resources versus getting into the action quickly. Because it’s a longer game (our first try with a full table of all new players took around four hours), you can weather a few mistakes and setbacks. Plus, several cards allow you to hinder other parties. Plus, playing Cryptmaster against the competition is extremely satisfying.
My only gripes were on a few unbalanced Crypt cards, and several places where the rules weren’t clear enough. Several monsters can draw Spell or Prayer cards, but the card wording often speaks of heroes and monsters rather than friends and enemies. Do you just reverse the meaning? Do you stick to a straight reading and discard it? The rules weren’t clear, so we made a consensus decision and kept going. Ironically, while this would be annoying in most board games it actually reminded me fondly roleplaying games, where house ruled interpretations come up constantly.
Even with a few glitches, we played this twice and loved it. It is most definitely a long-form game, not something to be played casually. Recruiting a party in the Inn, as simple as the mechanics were, was very satisfying. This is among my definitive dungeon crawl experiences now.