Friday, October 28, 2011


Claustrophobia is a simple dungeon crawler for 2 players designed by Croc and published by Asmodee, and if you had read my reviews before you will know by now that I like games that are easy to pick up, play, and put back into box. So what does Claustrophobia feature that cought my attention? Find out by clicking link below.

The year of Our Lord 1634. A strange complex of catacombs just beneath Jerusalem has been discovered. The council has decided that it should be explored, so an expedition to find a true nature of the dungeon has been sent, but nobody ever returns... The word reached brother Redeemer, a priest of many talents and knowledge. He suspects something... without hesitation he commands the council to prepare another expedition that he will lead. Fear filled townfolks hearts, they say an evil lurks in the deep and nobody wants to get down there to find out for themselves, so the council had an idea to recruit convicts, murderers  and thieves, they have nothing to loose but gain freedom. To keep them from fleeing only brother Redeemer carry light.
They soon find out that they went straight into hell, filled with troglodytes and a powerfull demons.
May God have mercy on brother Redeemer. He's like an lantern in the darkness and our last hope.

So lets start with the components because they just looks beautifull. The box is quite big, not as big as FFG's coffin box but bigger than the usual ones. It is well designed, everything fits in its place, and nothing is loose inside, you can even hold it upside down and nothing will mix. First thing you will notice is the quality of the tiles, they are thick and beautifully ilustrated, you'll find 36 of them featuring rooms and tunels. I found that you need a fairly large table to play this game... its massive !!! On a picture below I used 11 tiles, and It was set up just for picture purpose, in real game the board is often made by chance so it's shape don't have to be symetrical. Then you'll find the miniatures... Redeemer and convicts he calls his flock. Two brutes and two rogues to fight their way thru hell, eleven small monsters (troglodytes) and a demon (sadly there is only 1 figure to represent all different demons that came with the box), all nicely painted in a great poses... I was breathless when I opened the box. Also there is 24 page rulebook, fairly easy to understand, rules takes about 10 pages with loads of examples and pictures, and lets you read and play the game in max 15 minutes, bunch of tokens, some dice and cards for equipment, spells, events, deamons, character boards and trays, they are used in a quite interesting way, I'll explain in a minute.

The game is asymmetrical and plays differently for human and for demon player and in my oppinion neither of side is more powerfull. Both have simple mechanic so the gameplay flows smoothly, box says game last for about 45 minutes and that's about right, can be even quicker when you know the rules well.

The round is devided into 4 stages: human initiative phase, human action phase, threat phase and demon action phase

The human player gets character boards that he puts into specially designed trays, those help him keep track of the stats for his warriors. In his initiative phase he simply rolls a number of dice same as the number of his characters (sometimes altered by spells or cards) and assign them to all of his character boards, but what happens is when his guys get hurt, you have to cancel a line of action for a die, so the next round gets tricky because if you use a canceled line your warrior becomes stunned and essentially is a sitting duck. There are pegs that you put into holes to mark canceled action lines. Redeemer also has some spells that you can use when you put a die matching the one on a spell card. Characters (and some demons) also have specific talents, equipment, and advantage cards to help them in a quest, I think its a neat mechanic and its innovative in how the boards are used.

In the action phase humans can move, explore new tiles, fight or just do nothing. Human player also can use some cards to his advantage (the cards specify when can be used so some can be used during demon turn)

The demon player's mechanic is different.
In Threat phase he rolls 3 dice (also can be altered by some tiles, or events) and assign them to his demon board to determine stats for his minions, gather some threat tokens that he can later spend to summon more monsters, or buy event cards that he can play during his turn (sometimes humans turn). Each spot says what combination of dice is required to trigger an effect. Also in this phase he can spawn new monsters keeping in mind the rules for spawning monsters, he cannot put his minions where humans are and where is no unexplored opening, but he can brake this rule with help of his demon board. Only 11 troglodytes and 1 demon can be in play at the same time, and the type of a demon you can summon is determined by a scenario.

In demons action phase he can move his minions and fight but he cannot explore new tiles.

Combat is even simplier, you look at the stats of you warrior in this turn and roll as many dice as combat value on his selected line of action, then you compare it to the defence of a target and if it matches or exceed the number a hit is scored. If the human player get hurt he must then cancel one of his action lines on targeted hero, for a demon player, hit most of the time mean a troglodyte will die and you can target all troglodytes at the same tile (unless they have different stats) so they are not the best fighters. Demons are more resilient and can sustain more damage.

Also exploring is well thought of. When you explore a new tile its the demon player that chooses orientation, unless you use some magic or card that will break this rule, so the demon can realy spoil your plans.
Some tiles have different efects, some might trigger a trap, on some you might find a treasure, or you can find yourself in a flooded cavern that will slow you down. Most of them can be occupied by maximun of 3 figures a side, few tiles lets you put 5 figures, and some tight passages force you to place only 1 figure. In order to leave a tile, there must be an equal number of fighters from both sides, otherwise blocking rule applies and unless your figure have an ability to evade he cannot leave a tile.

The book comes with 6 scenarios which determines the layout of dungeon, some might be already laid down, in some you will have to follow a draft of fresh air to find an exit (10 sided dice is placed on a unexplored end and every time you explore an tile where the dice is it is incremented by 1 untill it reaches 10, then exit tile is played), or there is an exit tile shuffled into stack of tiles, so every time dungeon is different. There is also couple of scenarios online, and what I found is that designer is realy helpfull in explaining the rules and is supporting the game actively.

Final thoughts. For 40 quid, I think its a bargain for the quality of components you get, mine tiles came just slightly different size, but that has no effect when playing. Its beautifull, the theme is strong, you don't even have to read the background (which is only a page long anyway) to get a feeling you are fighting to survive. The setup and tear down is quick, game itself is fast as well, balanced and simple. For some might be too simple, for me is just right... so I dont have to bother explaining rules all evening, and will probably be played more offten than some more complicated games I own.

Ps. There is an expansion just published recently and it cost about 25 quid it adds 2 more characters 2 hell hounds and some tiles and few more things. Hopefully the game will be supported in the future. All in all a fun game I have enjoyed.

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