Wednesday 10 January 2018

Review - Sub Terra

Sub Terra
Designed by Tim Pinder
Published by Inside the Box Board Games

When I was a kid, there used to be a TV show called 999, where John Craven would present dramatised versions of true stories involving the emergency services. I can only really remember one story clearly, which revolved around a group of Scouts or Venture Scouts who’d gone pot-holing. They’d come across a short underwater passage that needed to be crossed, which involved ducking underwater for about three feet, and then coming up the other side in a large cave, which was presumably very interesting to people who are into pot-holing. Anyway, one of the lads involved accidentally took a wrong turn, and came up in a wholly separate cave, completely cut off from all his friends. No-one else found the opening he did, and he was all alone, cut off and completely unable to hear anyone. None of the rest of the group found the passage he did, and couldn’t work out where he had gotten to.

Sub Terra is a bit like that. Players are exploring an underground cave system for scientific research (or just shits and giggles, depending on your group), and have to deal with all the things that can go wrong down there: cave-ins, gas build up, dodgy flooring, you know the deal. Imagine a 21st century dungeon crawl and you’re along the right lines. The board spans out using a stack of tiles, very much like the dungeon crawl games made popular by Wizards of the Coast (Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, etc). This makes for a completely different layout each time, creating theoretically endless replay value.

Of course, in the darkness, there are more than just natural hazards waiting to trap the party. Something creepy lurks down there, calling to mind the classic horror movie The Descent. As the game goes on, the tension increases further and further, often ending in a very close game as the party rushes for the exit.

Each member of the party has a special skill set (medic, engineer, etc.), and this - much like Flash Point - helps keeps things different from turn to turn and game to game.

The components are all exceptionally high quality, especially considering the price point. The tiles are all thick and heavy card, tying in with the dark artwork to add to the claustrophobia of the subject matter.

The only real criticisms lie in that the dark artwork may be a little too dark at times, and players with vision or colour-blindness issues may need a little help at times. Also, players who are put off by luck in a game may find it a little too random at times. However, for those of us who like card-drowning, chit-pulling and dice-rolling, this won’t be a problem at all.

Also, while I like monsters as much as the next man (probably more, unless the next man is Rick Baker), they really feel unnecessary in this game. Flash Point doesn’t have the firefighters dealing with pyromancers, Police Precinct doesn’t involve zombies or demons. We can have games that exist outside of the fantasy/sci-fi/horror sphere, and personally I feel that Sub Terra just didn’t need the added gimmick.

If you’re into dungeon crawls and want one with a twist, or if you really enjoy off the wall co-operative games, then Sub Terra is well worth checking out. If you’re put off by randomness, then give it a miss.

Oh, and cave rescue found that dude in the end.  People rarely got fucked up on 999.

One of the founding members of E14, Brad Harmer-Barnes boasts an impressive track record in the entertainment industry. A comedian since the age of 12, Harmer created the comedy club Rock N' Rant which entertained the people of Chatham for over five years.

A recurring guest on the Crazy Train podcast, Brad published his first novel, North Sea Hunters, in 2017, and you can now find all of his books from Severed Press via Amazon using the links below!

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