Cadaver : engage in some competitive necromancy

It’s once again time for a small card game that found its way to me via Kickstarter. While the previous one had us kill animals with an assortment of vehicles, it is now time to raise the (human) dead! In the newly released Cadaver you take the roles of rival necromancers competing during one fateful night, to become the most powerful necromancer of them all. Bring your spare brains and potions, call upon your shifty accomplices, and lets reanimate some corpses!


The Cards

The aim in this game is simple: raise as many dead bodies as possible (well, almost). The gameplay itself is also simple. A turn consists of three basic actions: play (or lay as they say in the rules), draw, and trade. What you lay where, and what you decide to draw obviously depends on the cards. So let’s have a look at them…

cadaver-resources

There are three different kinds of resources, of seven cards each. These are used to raise the corpses you’ll meet later. From left to right in the picture above you can see a potion, a brain, and a scroll. Just look at that great art!

cadaver-corpses

Then there are the four different corpses. You have your three basic corpses, four cards each, and one single Abomination. They all require a different set of resources to reanimate. To the far left in the picture above we have the newly dead James Darkwell, who requires two potions and one brain to come back to life. Then there’s clever but quite decomposed Priscilla Deravin, whom you can raise with one scroll and two brains. Poor Jebidiah Wateley is fully skeletonised and will require two scrolls and a potion to resurrect. Finally there is The Abomination, with horns and everything. To get him on your side you will need one of each of the three resources.

cadaver-accomplices

To help you get the right resources and decrease your reliance on luck, you can call upon some accomplices. First we have the Witch Doctor who lets you take a brain card from the resource piles on the table. If you turn to good ol Professor Victor Drax he will grant you a potion. And of course, if you want to be sure to get your hands on a scroll, you need to speak with the Blind Scholar. You place these infront of you together with the corpses. During the drawing phase you can then take the corresponding resource directly from that resource pile. The rules do not elaborate, but I am assuming that if you have for example two Witch Doctors, you can take two brains.

cadaver-specials

Finally there are four special card types: ghouls, coffin lids, keys, and amulets. There are five ghouls that will let you steal a corpse (resources and coffin lids included) or an accomplice from another player. The four coffin lids can be placed on another player’s corpse or a resource pile, effectively locking that pile so it can’t be used until a key is played on top of it. In that case both lid and key are discarded. There are however only three keys so it’s not good to get stuck with that last coffin lid! Then there are two amulets hiding in the deck. An amulet can be used instead of a basic resource, and is then placed on the corpse – basically it works as a joker. But, an amulet can also be played when it’s not your turn if another player is trying to send a ghoul to steal one of your corpses or accomplices! If that happens, both amulet and ghoul are placed in the discard pile.


Gameplay

At setup two of each resource is put on the table in three separate piles. The rest of the cards are shuffled together and the necromancers (that’s you – the players!) get five cards each. Then the player closest to death (yes, the rules do say this, and it’s up to you how to interpret) will start. Remember: play, draw, trade.

You may play up to two cards during your turn. The accomplices and corpses go in front of you and the resources on top of the corpses. If you play a coffin lid, that is put on top of another player’s corpse (or on one of the resource piles), and when a key is played the coffin lid and key go in the discard pile. The ghoul is placed in the discard pile once it has filled its function, and if the amulet has been used to repel a ghoul, it too is put in the discard pile. You may also discard cards from your hand, but this counts as playing. So if you want to discard a card (to make room for better cards during your draw), you can only play one more. If you want to discard two cards that’s all you can do during your turn. If you have applied the three necessary resources to a corpse that corpse is raised. Put the corpse in your scoring pile and the resources in their respective piles in the middle of the table.

When you have played your two (or less if you want) cards, you draw up to your full hand of five cards. Then you may trade. There is no hand limit, so you may trade in whichever way you want. If you are desperate for a key to unlock a coffin lid, you opponent might want  several cards for it. Then it’s the next player’s turn.

Once the final card has been drawn from the deck the sun starts to rise. Necromancy is an endeavour of the night, so once dawn breaks you necromancers have to leave the burial ground. But there is still time for each player to take one more turn where they can play all cards possible from their hand (not just two), and then survey the night’s work. While you may play dirty, once all is said and done necromancers adhere to a strict scoring code to crown the winner:

  • A set of three different kinds of corpses will grant you 5 points.
  • A set of three of the same kind of corpse gives you 3 points.
  • A single corpse gives you a single point.
  • The Abomination however, is worth three points all on his own.

So who did the best raising of the dead?

cadaver-play
The game after a few rounds, with the resource line and one of the players. The player’s line currently consists of one corpse almost ready to rise, one having been locked away, the Witch Doctor to help procure some brains, and one new corpse without any resources.

 


This is a very simple and light game, with a lot hinging on the luck of the draw. The theme is one I really enjoy, and the art by Augustinas Raginskis is fabulous. So while the gameplay itself isn’t that exciting, the theme and art does make it an alright filler game for me. The coffin lids do add a nice “take that!” mechanic to the game which I appreciate. I have yet to play it with three people, which I do think would make it a bit more exciting. However, a game that is made for 2-3 players should play well with only two in my opinion and this one might be a bit lacking. One key element is trading, but with such a small game (and especially with only two players) it feels kinda wrong to trade cause you know how much it will help your opponent right away.

cadaver-boxI don’t like the box whatsoever. While the artwork on it is obviously good, it’s a tuck box that’s way too big for the deck, and has one of those retail hanging things at the top which isn’t glued down or anything, so it’s difficult to get the cards out properly. I think I will actually have to make some custom box for this game if I find myself playing it a lot. The cards however are of great quality and feel really nice in your hand.

Overall it’s an okay game with great art. If you’re looking for an affordable small set collecting game, Cadaver should hit the mark nicely. It won’t challenge you that much I think, but it will be an interesting filler to bring to game night and play while you’re waiting for others to arrive. If nothing else people seeing it should definitely be intrigued by the artwork and want to give it a go.

So do you think Cadaver might be a good game for you? Then you’ll want to pay attention, because the first person who shows interest in it will receive a coupon for 15% off their own copy of Cadaver from Triple Ace Game’s webshop! I got such a coupon to give away to a friend and thought that should be one of you guys. So just leave a comment down below!

THE SPECS

  • Title: Cadaver
  • Designer: Kedric Winks
  • Publisher: Triple Ace Games
  • Players: 2-3 (two decks can be merged to play 6)
  • Time: 20-30 min 
  • Type: cards, set collecting
  • Size: small
  • Release year: 2016

BGG link

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