"Colossal Cave: The Board Game" on Kickstarter!

Hello all! For those who missed it in the “introduce ourselves” thread, I’m Arthur O’Dwyer, and my ulterior motive for finally signing up on intfiction.org is that I want to make you aware of my current Kickstarter project.

It’s Colossal Cave: The Board Game, which is just what it sounds like: a multiplayer board-and-card game based on “Adventure” (ADVENT, Colossal Cave, whatever you want to call it). It takes the 140 rooms of Colossal Cave and distills them down to a 14-room game board. Items, treasures, puzzles, and so on are represented by the 72-card deck. The gameplay mechanics are similar to Looney Labs games such as Fluxx or Chrononauts: draw one, play one. The puzzles of Adventure are “simulated” by action or reaction cards. For example, if you try to move, another player may inform you that your way is blocked by a little dwarf with a big knife (“Angry Dwarf”), causing you to lose the rest of your turn. Or, on your turn, you might play an action card to cause something nasty to happen to another player (“Drop Vase”, “Bottomless Pit”), which can only be blocked by appropriate means (having a “Velvet Pillow” in your inventory, being in a lighted area). When you’ve got no other way to stop your opponent, invoke a parser error (“I Don’t Know How to Do That”). The goal of the game is to be the first player to deposit three treasures safely in the Well House.

Anyway, if you have fond memories of Adventure and want to bet that this won’t ruin them forever, please go check it out and spread the word to your friends: http://kck.st/colossal-cave.

The biggest draw that CC:TBG will exert on this audience, I’m sure, is that it feeds nostalgia. But I foresee a secondary draw, which is that I’m having a ton of fun coming up with promo cards, and if you have an idea for an old-school (or even new-school) IF trope that needs to make a cameo, I’m all ears! (“Cloak of Darkness” is already a shoo-in; I just haven’t figured out the exact wording for its card yet.)

Questions? Comments? Post here or ask on Kickstarter. (Or the BGG page… or the reddit thread… I try to keep up.) :slight_smile:

I took a look at this when it popped up on BGG. (Link with some card photos: boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/1217 … board-game)

My reaction, just from looking at those cards, is that the mechanics look pretty “stiff” – any given thing you might do has several requirements, and without them, that card is deadweight. E.g. “Item: Iron Keys (playable in Well House) Defends against ‘The Grate Is Locked’.” That would not be a card I would expect to make use of in any given game. There are also a lot of “you can’t do that” cards that might be in other people’s hands, which contributes to the same effect.

I don’t know how your game plays out, but that’s what I’d be thinking about in playtesting.

Obviously Fluxx is built on a mechanic of Goal cards with multiple requirements. But the point there is that a Fluxx goal is hard to fulfil – it happens just once per game. The general idea is that any card is playable at any time, because (a) doing things is fun and (b) you have some tactical choice of what to do next (or what order to do things in) – which adds some depth even to an extremely silly game like Fluxx.

This is true, but in practice I’ve found it’s not much of a problem. Some of the perceived stiffness is no doubt due to the singly-linked-ness of some of the effect text (as opposed to doubly-linked: so sometimes you don’t know the usefulness of one card until you’ve become familiar with its parent). To take your example of the Iron Keys, let me just list all its properties first, then discuss them:

  • playable in the Well House
  • acquireable via “Stock Up!” (Action: “Choose one of , then acquire it. In the Well House, choose and acquire a second item from that list as well.”)
  • defends against “The Grate is Locked!” (Reaction: stops movement between the Well House and Cobble Crawl)
  • At the Volcano View, the Golden Chain is not playable unless you are carrying the Iron Keys already. When you play the Golden Chain, you may immediately acquire the Friendly Bear, which has several awesome effects.
  • Like any item, you may discard the Keys to counteract “Lost in Maze” (Reaction: “Play out of turn when a player tries to move out of the Maze of Twisty Passages (All Alike). Their turn immediately ends, unless they discard an item they are carrying. Put this reaction card back in your hand”). Admittedly the only reasons you’d go into the Maze in the first place are to play the Treasure Chest, or to use “Pirate Booty” to acquire a treasure from the discard pile.
  • Like any item, the Keys may be stolen by either of the two “Steal a Keeper” cards.
  • Like any item, the Keys do not go away when you Die (unless “Out of Orange Smoke” has been played against you).

The fact that played items don’t go away when you Die, but your hand of unplayed cards does, means that there’s an incentive to get them out. Of course there’s also the psychological incentive of getting to be a total munchkin with ten items in front of you – I’ve seen it happen! :wink: The Iron Keys isn’t as useful as the Lantern or the Friendly Bear, but by the same token, it means it’s less of a target for “Steal a Keeper”, so it’s more likely to keep providing its small benefit for a long time. It’s playable in the Well House, too, in which you spend enough time that it’s pretty easy to play the Keys.

The Keys’ primary puzzle-purpose is to counter “The Grate is Locked!”, which isn’t a very nasty card: it just makes you lose a single turn. But saving that one turn could make a big difference, if you’re standing in the Cobble Crawl with your third treasure and no "I Don’t Know How to Do That"s to defend against bearded pirates or angry dwarves.

There are a few cards with a “useless” problem. Some of them I’ve already tweaked over the history of the game to pull them up to a more satisfying level: the Wicker Cage/Little Bird/Huge Snake interaction, the Shell Room/Trident/Pearl interaction, all three Bottles but particularly the Empty Bottle (which went from being a useless item to being arguably one of the most powerful items in the game). Some cards still nag at me to spice them up, mostly the western treasures: the Emerald, the Pyramid (which people constantly misread and try to play in the dark; I need to do something about the text), the myriad of nondescript treasures in the front room. IMHO the Vase/Pillow/DROP VASE interaction doesn’t need fixing, but I agree it’s likely that DROP VASE won’t get played in the average game. I think it’s very unfortunate that the Huge Snake never gets played either, but I don’t know how to fix that right now.

Speaking of the mess of treasures in the Hall of the Mountain King: you could dismiss the whole issue as “hey, it’s thematic” – which it is, basically. The original Adventure started you off with “how do I get the bird? none of these items help (except the lamp, of course; and the keys, but I know everything they do already :wink:)”, then rapidly dumped a bunch of fantastic but essentially one-dimensional treasures on you for free, then got into the meat of the game after that. Some of the puzzles were really clever and involved; some of the puzzles were trivial or just annoying. I did set out to capture the feeling of Adventure (well, my feeling) and be faithful to the interactions in the original game, so it’s hardly surprising that CC:TBG has the same unevenness. But I’m definitely not using that as a catch-all excuse; that’s my excuse of last resort. :slight_smile:

I’m putting “Know Your Items tutorial series/strategy guide” on my list of things to do. So much to do, so little time…

Thanks for the details.

The first few entries in the “Know Your Items” series (Black Rod, Brass Lantern, Dwarvish Magazines, Egg-Sized Emerald) are now posted on my BGG Designer Diary.


I played Adventure back in the 1970’s when it first started making the rounds at universities, and have always had a soft spot for the game. However, in the context of a board game, I’d be a little concerned about the number of unique items (cards), each of which has, it seems, a rather intricate and very specific set of properties. The consequence is that, effectively, the rules of the game become incredibly complex, and could easily become unmanageable.

I remember a board game called “Magic Realm” which was published, I believe, by Avalon-Hill. A few decades ago, a few friends and I made a couple of attempts to play it. Finally, I made the observation that the rules of the game were just too complicated for me to understand – and I earn my living by interpreting the Internal Revenue Code! Bottom line is that if the rules of a board game are more complicated than the tax Code, it’s probably not going to be a lot of fun to play.

Please don’t take this the wrong way – I have not played your version of Adventure, and it might be great. However, based upon what I’m seeing, you might want to consider bringing down the overall level of complexity.

Robert Rothman

This is not an unusually complex card game. It follows a common model: everything you need to know to play a card is printed on the card, plus a (very small) set of starting rules. You never have to think about the total set of rules.

Robert – have you looked at the 3rd edition rules for Magic Realm? I have a copy from back in the day with the first edition rules, and they’re pretty confusing, but the 3rd edition rules help a lot.

I absolutely love that game and would happily talk it and rules with you if you like.

Well, I’m not sure I’m taking it the right way, but I’m certainly not offended. I’m not even terribly puzzled, given that you probably just read the “Know Your Items” posts as your introduction to the game. :slight_smile:

The rules of the game are actually quite simple; the rulebook on BGG is nine pages of smaller-than-A5 paper, in 12-point text. Admittedly there’s a lot of added “complexity” in the card text, but not more than in, say, “Back to the Future” or “San Juan”.

So on the one hand I have zarf saying “These cards seem too limited: Keys beats Grate, Axe beats Dwarf, that’s the whole game?”, and then when I go “oh no no no, check out this exhaustive list of every interaction in the game,” I get you saying “These cards seem way too complex: just to explain Keys alone takes a whole page!” (I’ve shifted both your positions slightly to improve the symmetry of my argument. :wink:) So here’s what I should have started out with: the rulebook! boardgamegeek.com/filepage/76923/rules

During my playtest at Don Woods’, I got some good advice re tightening up the language in the rulebook: no gameplay changes, just terser and hopefully clearer language. I won’t squeeze it to 8 pages anytime soon, but I may have more room for art. I should get to those changes this week sometime.

As always, zarf says in three sentences what would take me a page. :slight_smile: To be fair, though, zarf: thinking about the total set of rules is not necessary but it will improve your chances of winning. :wink:

Quuxplusone: You are quite right that my impression of complexity was formed on the basis of the “Know Your Items” posts. Since it sounds like that may have been a misleading impression, my suggestion may be misplaced. Good luck with the game; when it comes out commercially, I might buy a copy. Perhaps I can transport myself back, if only for a little while, to an age when the world was a simpler place and I was but a lad who thought he could kill dragons with his bare hands..

Matt: I played MR in (I think) the early 80’s, so it probably was the first edition. I’m glad to hear that they’ve simplified the rules (probably because I’m not the only one who found the original rules too complicated). Alas, since then the Internal Revenue Code has only gotten more complicated – I guess Congress is less sensitive to the needs and complaints of its “customers” than Avalon-Hill is! :frowning:

Robert Rothman

Seems like intfiction.org has been getting hit pretty heavily by spambots in the last couple of days. I keep getting notifications about threads I’m watching… :stuck_out_tongue:

Well, just in case anyone else is also watching this thread, let me give an informative update: CC:TBG has reached its Kickstarter goal with 15 days left in the campaign! This means it will definitely be getting produced — and in fact we’ve been picked up by Game Salute, an indie-type board game publisher based in New Hampshire, which means I don’t even have to worry a whole lot about the business and manufacturing end of things anymore.

If you’re interested in Colossal Cave: The Board Game, you still have 15 days left to get in on the Kickstarter deal. I’ve come up with some “stretch goals” too, so if we hit $9K, $10K, $15K… there will be more goodies included in the package.

Looking at this again after the bump, I think the third edition of the rules happened after Avalon Hill abandoned the game – it was done by some fans in consultation with the designer. It’s definitely the fans that have kept Magic Realm alive. So, maybe not so different from the IRS – except the fans never get to rewrite the tax code!

I don’t think the Internal Revenue Code actually has any fans.

Robert Rothman

For some reason now I want to cite Rule 34.

That or David Foster Wallace.

That article does mention “masturbation to snippets of the 1985 Illinois tax code.”

(Yes, after rereading it several times I decided that wasn’t how it was supposed to be parsed. I like my version better.)

What, you mean you don’t discuss that with your coworkers?

“Colossal Cave: The Board Game” is coming down to its last 3 days on Kickstarter — the campaign closes this Saturday night, Pacific time.

Yesterday and today I’ve posted updates with a lot of new art content from Game Salute; the look of the game is rapidly evolving from “not quite as polished as Fluxx” to “super overproduced”. I have mixed feelings about these aesthetic changes, but they’ve gotten a ton of positive comments from the backers, so I guess they must be a good thing. :slight_smile:

If you’ve been vaguely intrigued by the idea of a Colossal Cave board game but didn’t think the components were really worth $20, I invite you to visit the project again and check out Update #10.

If anyone can tell me how to size that image smaller, I’d be grateful. should work but doesn’t.

I knew a guy who did that. Quite profitable while it lasted, but in the end they got him, of course…