Full disclosure: Review copies of Terror Below and the Hidden Cache Expansion was provided by Renegade Game Studios.
Alright, powering through a long one this week with Terror Below and the Hidden Cache Expansion! I’ve been playing these on and off for last couple weeks, and 35 photos later, I’m pretty excited to talk about them! These two pieces combined make up the Terror Below Kickstarter, essentially, and I’m a pretty big fan of Renegade, so let’s see what’s going on with this particular game.
In Terror Below, the Worms have gotten loose! W.O.R.M.s is probably more accurate, as they’re Weapons Of Remote Massacre. And this almost-certainly-a-backronym doesn’t do these things justice; they’re gigantic! Thankfully, American ingenuity prevails and you figure out a way to make money; sell their eggs back to the government and kill some Worms along the way! With guns, obviously; again, America. Hop in your car or on your bike and get your crew together; it’s Worm-hunting time. Will you be able to defeat enough Worms to make a living for yourself? Or will a living end up being the death of you?
Setup can be a bit nontrivial, especially if you’re using components from the expansion. First thing to do is decide which side of the board you’re using:
If you’re using the Canyon side, the rules change a bit. Not a huge deal. You can also set up the Worm Standees, if you want:
They’re mostly for cosmetic value, but I like them. Have each player pick a car:
And take a player aid card to boot:
Each player aid belongs to the player with the matching car. Shuffle the Bounty Cards:
Place four in a row on the top part of the board. Shuffle the Weapon Cards:
Give each player one. Do the same with the Items:
Shuffle the Vehicle Cards; give each player 3:
Finally, shuffle the Character Cards:
Give each player 3, and they should organize them however they want, flipping the top one face-up to be their Leader to start the game. Now, add the Locations to the board:
They should go on the skull-marked spaces, but you can decide which one goes where, if you want. For your first game, go left-to-right, top to bottom: Government Facility, Motel, General Store, Hospital, Police Station. You can set the VP tokens aside, for now:
Set up the Worms by first using the four Starting Worm Cards:
Treat these as “attacking”. This requires Eggs:
And it requires Target Tokens:
Typically, when a worm attacks, you place an Egg on its Target Token. Since there are none during setup, just add the eggs to the spaces indicated on the cards. There are shaded spaces on the cards, as well, and that’s where you’ll add Rubble:
Rubble and Eggs cannot go on Locations. If Rubble would be placed, don’t place it; if an egg would be placed, roll the Coordinate Dice and place it elsewhere, instead:
Once you’ve got the game down, you can ignore the initial Worms and just draw 4 Worms from the Worm deck to start; up to you. Either way, you then resolve additional attacks by revealing the top card of the Worm deck:
- 3 players: Resolve 1 additional attack.
- 4 players: Resolve 2 additional attacks.
- 5 players: Resolve 3 additional attacks.
Flip three extra Worms face-up onto the empty spots in the Terror Zone and place the Target Tokens on the spaces that correspond to their starting values. Now, in reverse turn order, players place their cars on one of the locations, and you’re ready to start!
The expansion mostly adds extra tokens:
A new Worm type and a new Character:
Some items and a weapon:
And, new Radioactive Eggs! You can replace the blue eggs with them and they glow in the dark:
One thing I really appreciate is that they upgraded the Target Tokens:
The last thing they added is a TPK Mini; more on that later:
A game of Terror Below takes place over a sequence of rounds, in which each player takes a turn. On your turn you make plans to move, resolve actions, and then deal with the potential terror of a Worm attack. Let’s go through each step.
First, play a Vehicle Card on one of the three card areas in the Terror Zone. You may play on any Worm, provided it hasn’t reached its card limit (the number in the bottom-right corner).
Next, resolve the Distraction part of the card. Many Vehicle Cards have arrow icons on them; move the Target Token of the Worm you just played the Vehicle Card on in the direction of those arrows, if possible (don’t move the Target Token off the board). Don’t worry about the Vehicle Card’s ability just yet, unless it’s Boots; then resolve that one right away.
Now, look at the Vehicle Card you just played. The number in the top-left corner is how many actions you get to take on your turn. You may take the same action multiple times, but your turn ends when you run out of Action Points or you take the Pick Up All Eggs action.
- Move one space orthogonally. You can move one space up, down, left, or right on your turn, provided the space you’re entering doesn’t contain Rubble. While you can move into or through another player’s space, you cannot end your turn on the same space as another player.
- Ramp another player. If you want to pull off a really sick move, you can jump another player’s piece for one action as long as there’s an empty space adjacent to that piece. Since you’re doing a sick jump, you may change direction in mid-air.
- Clear Rubble. You may clear a piece of Rubble adjacent to your pawn. If you ever collect 3, immediately discard them to the supply and take either an Item or a Weapon.
- Deliver an Egg. If you are carrying an Egg and you are at a location, you may deliver 1 Egg for an Action Point. If there is no Bounty matching the Egg + Location combination you just delivered, take 1 VP and discard the Egg to the supply. If you have a Hidden Bounty or one of the Bounties in the line matches the combination you just delivered, take that card and score it! Note that you can only complete 1 Bounty per Egg delivered. Regardless of whether or not you get a bounty, each Location offers a bonus for delivering an egg:
- General Store: Gain an Item.
- State Police: Gain a Weapon.
- Motel: Gain 1 VP.
- Government Facility: Take any Bounty Card from the line or the top of the Bounty Deck; this is now a Hidden Bounty that only you may score.
- Hospital: Revive one of your dead Characters. Flip that card face-up and place it underneath your current Leader.
- Take All Eggs. If you are on a space with 1 or more Eggs, you may take all of them and place them on your Leader Card as an action. As soon as you do, your turn immediately ends. So that’s fun.
Resolve Vehicle Card / Worm Attacks!
So, you still need to resolve your Vehicle Card’s special ability; do so now. If any Worm has its limit of cards below it, it attacks!
- If there are any face-down Vehicle Cards on the Worm, reveal and resolve them (which may involve moving the Target Token).
- As with setup, place an egg on its space. If you’re playing with the Queen or the Tinkerbelles, follow the specific egg placement instructions on the card.
- Place one Rubble on each shaded space on the card (max. 2 Rubble per space).
- If Rubble or an egg would be placed on your space (and you’re not in a location), the Worm attacks you! If you can defeat the Worm, you take the card and 1 VP (or a Bounty, if there’s a relevant one). If not, well, you die. Remove that Leader from the game, discard your active (face-up) Items and Weapons, and drop all your Rubble and eggs onto your current space. Remove your player pawn from the board; on your next turn, you can start from any location.
- If you’re in a Location, you cannot be attacked unless the Target Token is precisely on that Location. So that’s fun!
End of Turn
To end your turn, draw back up to 3 Vehicle Cards.
In a two-player game, after your turn has ended, roll a die to choose a Worm (1/2, 3/4, 5/6) and draw one more Vehicle Card from the deck and add it to that Worm’s space. Resolve it (and a subsequent attack) as normal. Do not resolve the card’s ability.
End of Game
The game ends as soon as a player hits 20 points! That player wins!
For some variation, you can play with the Canyon! Basically, it’s a gap in the board where nothing can go or be played, but you can try to jump over it. To jump one space, discard a Vehicle Card and pick up any Rubble on the space you enter. To jump more than one space, you must discard a 6 or 7 and then roll the die. If you roll a 4 or higher, you make it! If you roll below a 4, your Leader immediately dies, and you drop everything on the space you would have landed on. So that’s fun.
Player Count Differences
Honestly, the only real thing is that at higher player counts you should use the Canyon side, I think; it’s a bit more spacious (since, Canyon) and that spread helps a bit (even if there are the same number of spaces). I tend towards liking this most at lower player counts, though, since you still need 20 points no matter how many people are playing, so it kind of increases your downtime as the player counts increase. That said, more is happening when you have more players, since more Worms can attack at any given time, so, that’s also a lot of fun if you’re looking for a high chaos game. Can’t recommend it (since I’m generally anti-chaos), but you can go for it. As for me, I’ll probably still stick with two- or three-player games of Terror Below; I’ve been liking that just fine.
- Watch the Bounties. I think this is what really directs the flow of the game, to be honest; you don’t really need to kill Worms to win; you just need to make sure that eggs that the game considers valuable end up in the right spots. Otherwise you’ll just end up doing a lot of work to gain very few points. As you’d assume, that generally doesn’t win games.
- Acquire Weapons. This one is pretty key, since you also need them to kill the Worms. You’ll most likely have to kill one or two over the course of the game (it’s a tough business, but business is good), so you’ll need a few. A Shotgun is great if you’re directly on the Worm, but a Hunting Rifle or a Semi-Auto Rifle are great ways to pick off a Worm at a safer (but still not ultimately safe) distance. Collect Rubble or hit up the State Police.
- If you don’t have many weapons, it may not be a bad idea to stay a safe distance away from the Worms. It may take you longer to get places, but better late than never because your Leader went and got themselves made into Worm food.
- Remember the bonuses for delivering to each location. This is also a way I got a lot of weapons in my games; I would try to collect bounties delivering to the State Police. This way, I earned a bunch of points and I would be able to gain a new weapon every time. The system works, kind of. The Hidden Bounties are very useful if someone’s trying to go after the Bounty you want (or if the entire Bounty Board is garbage). The Motel can be a late-game save if you just need one more point to put you over the edge, too, which is nice. They all have their uses and timings.
- I mean, if the Worms attack other people, that’s not really your problem, even if it is your fault. Now, getting the Worms to attack other people is the name of the game, which is definitely a bit more your fault. Using the Bicycle to drop Distractions that will move a Worm on top of an unsuspecting rival is clutch. Just make sure you’re not feeding them points; if they can beat the Worm easily, sic it on someone else.
- You can even use Worm attacks to try and drop Rubble, slowing access to certain locations. I haven’t tried this much, but it seems like it would work against everyone but Shep the dog; he’s an extremely good boy and he can power through Rubble.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I mean, I killed the Worm Queen with a Pointy Stick and it was the greatest moment of my gaming career. I really didn’t think that it would work, and then it did. It was incredible. So incredible that I got a picture of it, even though you’re going to think I staged it. But I know it really happened, and that’s good enough for me.
- The components are really nice. I particularly like the board; it’s got a nice finish, good coloration, and it’s a solid weight. There’s a variety of good stuff, though; the TPK mini from the expansion is excellent.
- I was pleasantly surprised by the pretty limited take-that. I thought the game would be a lot more aggressive, but the most you can really do is kind of clown someone by dunking a giant worm on them. Honestly, it’s ridiculous enough that it’s hard to be too upset. Also, you can shoot someone’s hat off with a pistol, which is very take-that but also something I’ve always wanted to do, so I’m much more amenable to it.
- Interesting spin on pick-up-and-deliver. I’ve played a bunch but, beyond Pandemic in an abstract way, I haven’t played many where the game tries to attack you between turns.
- I really like the orange-and-pink color scheme. It’s super cool! I love what they did with the expansion box as well, though it definitely gives it a bit of a like, retro-future vibe that may have been unintentional unless they’re introducing Cyborg Worms later, which I would also love.
- You can play as a dog! It’s wonderful. It’s definitely one of the reasons I liked that one TIME Stories game.
- I mean, I appreciate some of the fairly dark humor. You can basically play as the “Guess I’ll Just Die” guy who does precisely that if a Worm attacks. You still beat the Worm, but at what cost???
- Seems awfully adjacent to a “Definitely Not Tremors” theme. Makes me a smidge uncomfortable.
- I wish the standees were more useful for gameplay. I appreciate the aesthetic choice, but I would like to see the board more actually ravaged by giant Worm monsters.
- I got a bit confused by the new eggs in the expansion, but they’re just supposed to replace the blue eggs. I was like these are basically the same color why would they give me more eggs of the same color. Turns out reading the rules is helpful. Who would have imagined?
- I wouldn’t necessarily say that the expansion is essential. I’d call it less of an expansion and more of a Kickstarter Bonus Set, hence why I wrapped the review for it into this one. Expansions make me usually think that they add new gameplay modes or variants; this mostly just adds cards that I assume were stretch goals for the campaign. It’s not bad; the box art is super cool and I like the new stuff; it’s just better to know before you buy.
- Even though there will likely be more Worm attacks between your turns, I worry about playtime increasing with player count. It seems like since the point threshold isn’t decreased, this could happen pretty easily. It’s definitely been something I’ve worried about.
- I feel like if the dog is your Leader and you get him killed, you should just lose the game. I can’t bear to make Shep my Leader because I’m just super worried about that risk. A lot of players will not enjoy letting that Good Boy die via giant Worm attack. I guess you can go to the Hospital and get him back, but man, it feels bad.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, I quite enjoy Terror Below! It’s got a really fun thing going for it, honestly; it’s bright, colorful, and whimsical enough that I’m consistently amused even if I’m not doing so well. Sure, someone shot off my hat, but I hit them with a repurposed military satellite, so we’re probably even? And that’s not even taking the Worms into consideration. It’s also nice how much variety there is; you can mix up the Locations, you can try new Character combinations, you can even play on an entirely new board with just the base game. Like I said, I don’t think the expansion adds a ton of new stuff, but that’s honestly just a naming collision, in my mind. If they had called it the Hidden Cache (without expansion) or just the Hidden Cache Bonus Pack or something, I would be like “yeah it’s just extra Kickstarter stuff” and that would be that. Recalibrating my expectations to that has helped me be a bit more bullish on it, even if the TPK mini is really really really creepy. It just has so many legs, y’all. Anyways, yeah, I’m a big fan of every part of the game except the potential part of the game where the dog friend dies, which I think should be banned. The dog should just get to escape and live out its days somewhere where people aren’t sending it out into the desert to get eggs. It’s such a good dog. Anyways, my particular gripe aside, I genuinely think Terror Below is a lot of fun, and if you’re looking for a surprisingly-whimsical-given-the-theme spin on pick-up-and-deliver, I’d recommend checking it out!