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Monday, 23 November 2015

Necromancy for Beginners

Cadaver: A Game of Lighthearted Necromancy is the latest game to be released by Triple Ace Games via Kickstarter. This follows on from Rocket Race: A Steampunk Rocket Building Card Game and Halfling Feast: a card game of competitive eating for 2-4 players. It is a card game in which the players—prospective necromancers all—compete to reanimate a series of cadavers. They must gather the right Corpses, Resources, and Diabolical Accomplices, whilst denying them to their rivals, if they are to prove themselves to be the most prestigious necromancer!

Cadaver is designed to be played by players aged thirteen plus, the number of players determining how many Cadaver decks are needed. One Cadaver deck is needed for two or three players, whilst two Cadaver decks are needed if there are four or more players. Each deck consists of fifty-four, brightly coloured, nice illustrated cards. Two of these give the rules, but the remainder come in three categories. 

The first category is Corpses. Each Corpse—James Darkwell, Priscilla Deravin, Jebidiah Whateley, or The Abomination—has certain Resources that it needs if it is to be reanimated. For example, Jebidiah Whateley needs two Spells and a Potion, whereas James Darkwell needs one Brain and two Potions. Resources are the second category and come in three types—Brains, Potions, and Spells. The third category consists of Diabolical Accomplices and enables a player to perform special actions. The Witch Doctor enables a player to gather Brains, Professor Victor Drax helps a player get Potions, and The Blind Scholar lets him gather Spells. A Coffin Lid is used to close access to a Corpse, but can be unlocked by a Coffin Key, whereas a Ghoul can be spent to steal Corpses from rival Necromancers.

At game start, a Resource Pile consisting of two cards is set up for each Resource, the deck is shuffled, and each player receives five cards. During his turn, a player can lay down or place up to two cards, then draw back to five cards, and lastly trade with the other players. Once a Corpse card has been laid down, a player can lay Resources on it. A player can lay a Coffin Lid on another player’s Corpse to prevent him from laying Resources on it and thus from successfully reanimating it. A Key card can be laid to unlock and remove a Coffin Lid from a Corpse. A Ghoul can be laid down to steal a Corpse from another player. Lastly, a Diabolical Accomplice, such as The Witch Doctor, Professor Victor Drax, and The Blind Scholar can be laid down so that a player can draw from the Resource Piles as well as the deck. For example, laying The Blind Scholar enables a player to draw Spells from the appropriate Resource Pile.

Play is simple enough in Cadaver. Each player is trying lay Corpses and then lay Resources on the Corpses in order to reanimate them. He can prevent another player from laying Resources on one of his Corpses by laying a Coffin Lid on the Corpse, but he can steal a Corpse from another player by using a Ghoul. Lastly, a player can guarantee access to certain Resources by laying down a Diabolical Accomplice.

Cadaver comes to an end once the last card has been drawn from the deck. Players are allowed one last turn before their Corpse are scored. Points are awarded for sets of Corpses—a set of three difference Corpses is worth seven points, whereas a set of the three same Corpses is worth five points. A Corpse is worth one point, whilst the Abomination is worth three points. The player with the most points is the winner.

Cadaver is a lovely looking game. The cards are beautiful, but the lack of text on them does mean that the game is initially confusing and heavy reference needs to be made to the albeit simple rules. Once the use of the different cards is mastered, then play proceeds apace. 

In comparison to earlier card games from Triple Ace Games, Cadaver: A Game of Lighthearted Necromancy is very light and does not have their depth. This is not to demean Cadaver, which is a pleasing if simple game. It does play better with more players and with more cards, so that it is a better game with two decks even if there are two or three players, but four players seems a good number.