Review – Tomb: Cryptmaster from AEG
Designer – Brent Keith
note – thanks to AEG for providing a review copy of this game
Here we go again folks! Back into yet another hack and slash, casting magic, kill the monsters and take their stuff type of game. Boy, I am fond of these games. Fantasy is simply fun and the more the game drips with fantastical theme, the happier this little camper will be. So here we have Tomb: Cryptmaster, a game for 2-6 players (best with 3) ages 13+. Originally published in 2009, this is a standalone expansion of the first Tomb game designed by John Zinser and published in 2008. In addition, a further iteration of the game, Tomb of Iuchiban, and based on AEG‘s Legend of the 5 Rings franchise, is in the works (be still my heart…).
Very simple premise, this one – Recruit a party. Kill the monsters. Take their stuff. Easy peasy.
The production quality AEG puts into their games is very much on a par with games produced by Fantasy Flight Games. The artwork, in particular, is outstanding and yep, is oozing with theme. It is a pleasure just to look at the artwork before playing the game. The list of artists involved in the game is huge so there is no way to give credit where credit is due but let it suffice to say that this game is a visual feast of eye candy par excellance.
In the box you get a double sided board with an easy Tomb to explore, and a tougher Tomb on the other side. There is also an Inn board where you recruit and equip your adventure party. Tokens are included representing Adventuring parties, Wound/Tomb markers, and Experience points. You also get 21 Tomb dice in three colours. Lastly, you get a load of cards covering everything from treasures, useful items, spells, prayers, tactics, Crypt cards which are used to populate the Tomb with monsters, traps, curses and CryptMaster cards which players can use to make things difficult for the other players’ adventurers. You also get a pile of Adventurer tiles which you place in a cloth bag which is included so that you can randomly choose your parties. No, you don’t get miniatures and you know what? It works well without them!
The basic object is to collect Experience points. Whichever party has the most, wins.
Firstly, you need to set up the Tomb so you fill it with randomly chosen Crypt cards. You also need to set up the Inn with Adventurers, Spells for Wizards, Prayers for Clerics, Tactics and Items for all and CryptMaster cards. All of these can be chosen to kit out your adventurers.
Halfway into the rules booklet (and this is a real issue…) you come upon the Turn process which consists of 3 phases –
1. Use any or all Free Actions which include, equipping adventurers, sharing give cards to different adventurers, “banking” treasures as secured experience (victory) points for the end, resting and healing wounds, and dispelling curses.
2. Turn actions where you choose one from recruiting adventurers (randomly choosing from the load of adventurer tiles placed in the cloth bag), moving your adventurer party in the Tomb, healing, picking people’s pockets, returning to the Inn, and raiding a crypt.
3. End of turn where you pay mercenaries, refill slain parties, dismiss extra members of your party which has a 5 member maximum, cleanup by discarding used cards
And when the Tomb’s crypts are all emptied, the game is over and time to tally experience points.
The process generally works well and once you get used to it the game speeds up. Having the players act as CryptMaster against the other players works very well, especially when using CryptMaster cards which can be very nasty. Also, the mix of monsters and adventurers provides a lot of variety and lots of replay value. Monsters come in many shapes and sizes and as you combat them through a straightforward dice rolling mechanic, you will find yourself both successfully plundering crypts on the one hand and getting your butt kicked on the other causing you to replenish your party. All good fun and very thematic. The cards and mechanics give you all you need.And the artwork and the stuff you get to do pulls you merrily into the fantasy world, but….
The rulebook is a bit of a mess…
Not that you can’t work it all out reasonably after a while, but you have to work at it, at least for a while. As I said earlier, you don’t get to the turn process until halfway through the rules booklet. Up until then, there is all kind of explanation of terms, description of the boards and cards, etc, all of this without the context of how to play the game. So you may very well scratch for a while. Also, there is a fair amount of ambiguity which, you can work out but to be fair, you shouldn’t have to go through the hassle.
Last point – I would say that fewer players would work better or this game will take a while to play as there are quite a number of things to do, especially in combat.
Did it work for me?
Having said what I have about the rules, I have to say that I still really like Tomb: Cryptmaster. Yes, it needs to be worked through initially, but once you get there, the whole thing is really fun and will be enjoyed by those who like their fantasy games. The theme is very strong, backed up by the simple, recruit adventurers, kill monsters and take their stuff formula. And the whole look of the game in terms artwork is just gorgeous and very thematic. Experienced fantasy gamers will enjoy this game. With well-written rules, this may have been a top-rated game. Meanwhile, I really am looking forward to the Legend of the 5 Rings version –
Boardgames in Blighty rating – 7 out of 10
Not unless your family are all fantasy geeks!
For more information about AEG, go to – http://www.alderac.com/