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All the Catacombs, and Elzra, too

We’ve been talking about Elzra’s Catacombs for a while now (like for 7 years now) (here a link to YouTube from when the videos started getting ported over), and it’s gone through several evolutions.

Not only the beautiful reboot, but Catacombs and Castles, the expansions (Wyverns, anybody?), and the current slick wet-suit neoprene mats that sort-of combine almost all of the rules (they nerfed some characters and buffed others. Example: Roosan used to be a force to be reckoned with in the hands of a skilled and strategic player, but now he can be one badass Chicken Champion if you want to dial it up).

Elzra is not resting.

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I like Cat&Cast, but I can’t get it to the table.

I can’t tell if it’s how handily I won on a smaller field or if the other players really wanted to play a 2-8 hour game (not including set-up time, which can take an additional hour depending on who’s playing the Overseer and how organized they want to be. There are a LOT of bits to sort before you can start).

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I have yet to run a game of Catacombs blind. I always prep ahead (probably just the GM in me) and tailor the dungeon for the expected length. As a rule, that means using fewer rooms than the manual suggests. It’s a tough game to keep under 90 minutes.

I ADORE just how much you can build and tweak a given session of this game, which is why I’ve been so eager to buff up my Catacombs collection. I’ve barely touched even a third of what’s on offer.

A favourite trick: I had my nephews clear a suspiciously easy room deep in the catacombs, but this pesky bat kept floating around and there was no monster card to refer to. Eventually they’re curious and smack the bat. --POOF-- YOU GOT VAMPIRE TROUBLES, KIDDOS!

I bought C&Castles for my nephew’s birthday so they’ve got their own rough approximation, but they still ask when we can break out the granddaddy all the time.


Why I think the idea of full Catacombs is great, I don’t think I could ever handle a dex game that long.

In my experience most of the time is spent with the heroes coordinating their approaches. Which I find hysterical given how utterly unnecessary that is in most cases. As a pure dex game it’d be over in an hour, but the heroes inevitably co-op the thing to death, buying time as I get deeper into my beer. :wink: [Beer not present when entertaining the kids]


To be fair, I would also primarily play at 2 with my son, so Castles appeals more on that level as well.

I love the idea of the boss fight mode as well (if I understand what I’ve read correctly).


Castles is an awesome game, absolutely no need for the big guy if it doesn’t work for your playstyle. I love the game modes in that one.


Victor you are in the Vancouver area yes? I’d love to play a game of catacombs with you sometime. I also just got my playmat pledge. Not sure I’m going to go to the trouble of re-stickering all the disks from all the expansions though, that’s a lot of work…


Let me tell you, fella, it WAS a lot of work. My fingers were still sore by this morning (I rub 'em in there real good). Big difference between stickering and re-stickering for sure. It’s all superfluous anyway, I just wanted to have it all look consistent with the new disc-matching backgrounds from Wyldlands. They’re a nice visual boost and make it easier to pick out the family a disc is from. Not all of the monsters benefit visually from the change either, I’ve found.

One thing I did and would recommend is double sticker any single-sided discs that have no real visual change, like the heroes. It’s easier to pick out discs when you don’t have to worry about flipping them.

Anyway yeah, I’m in Vancouver, and I’m always game to play (though my life is in a bit of turmoil through to January). I was at Core games last night and a guy was there playing something, had what appeared to be the retail 3rd printing with him and I was like “Dude. Yes. I gotta go but you find me, we’ll play”. Probably should have offered him my name or something.

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Has anyone done the big grid layout of room cards?

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Not sure what you mean.

It’s like a choose-your-own adventure version. You lay out a grid of the room cards and use some sort of exploration method to work your way through a set number of them. There’s more to it than that but that’s the basic idea.


Oh, nice. I’ve done a variation on that, using the standard layout but including a few branching paths that tie back in. It’s fun but you really gotta be committed to a good afternoon of drinks and food to get the most out of it. Thankfully that’s the best way to enjoy it.

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The larger grid layouts are more of a multi-day commitment.

If @Drazini is out there, I’d like to hear from you, seeing as you’re the only one I know IRL that has as much Catacomby-goodness as I do.

I really want to play a grid layout game, it would be really fun - but I don’t know if i can find enough ppl for the commitment.
I’d give catacombs an 11/10 personally


It’s not about the ppl, it’s about the time investment. The regs game takes a few hours as-is, doing a grid could take several sessions.

Maybe a weekly or semi-weekly thing could work (like the days that begin with “T,” or a Friday or Sunday tacked on to the Saturday game-night session, or something), doing a few rooms each time, writing everything down/taking photos of the layout so we could set it up proper next session. The Overseer would have to have a secret “map,” of course, but maybe we could house-rule a level-up system like the DM-less D&D tile games.

It’s an unofficial layout, Elzra hasn’t made a whole ruleset, so there’s some flexibility. We can just invent one, and break it until it works.

yeah, id love to be the catacomb lord of something like that, it would be really cool, ive already got an idea of a way that I can lay it out

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I’m of the opinion that we have that flexibility even with a formal variant. I’ve broken this thing completely and still managed a great time out of it. Skill barriers can really be exploited to great effect.

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Yeah, I know I’m quoting myself.

YES. Details, please!

We are board gamers, we feed on rules. House rules and variations are spice on this food.

I will also share whatever it is that we come up with, too (may take a little time. It’s December and things get bonkers. Example: Tomorrow is D&D night, my mom has a messed up knee and I need to help her, my cat (fill in the blanks, here), all the bills have collided with my debit card… but I think we can still get this to the table soon-ish).

I’ve got a few examples off the top of my head. The aforementioned Surprise Vampire using the “mystery bat” is always fun (good once per group I guess). I like rigging the item deck too, which is super simple to do.

While I haven’t done a grid or campaign, I’ve run a few sessions with branching paths, with the straight route providing fairly standard escalation and the branches usually containing a mini-boss followed by a special room or boon before tying back into the main route.

I’ve allowed “modded” heroes before as well. My younger nephew, for example, really likes using the Paladin from Soloth, but he tends to turtle rather than tank, so we let him start with a throwing axe to give him a bit of incentive to get in there and eat some thwacks. The base characters now have formalized variants, including a tank-ier Xoric, so I’ll be curious to see if he opts for him next time instead.

Another thing I’ve done (and which now has a formalized ruleset, albeit in a different way) is allowing enemies to start on top of pillars for ambushes. The new Ice Box stretch goals include Boulder traps which operate in a similar fashion (Overseer may topple them onto heroes at any time), but I had generally used skellies or zombies perched precariously atop the barriers (a good hard smack could potentially knock them off). Fun times with that.

I’m sure I’m missing a bunch of stuff (I like to introduce Antients and Wyverns in unusual ways), but I’m always looking for new ways to surprise my players, especially when they’re kicking butt.

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