Star Scrappers: Cave-In from Hexy Studio blends flavors from several types of gameplay into a riveting science fiction universe. It combines the decision-making of worker placement games with the rolling development of deck-builders and good old-fashioned competition, as players scoop up cards that opponents desperately want. This brings together the best of choice-determination from Euro-style gaming with plenty of chaotic interruptions from the other players around the table.
Cave-In is set in the Star Scrappers Universe, a grungy sort of Wild West take on the classic galactic post-war setting. It’s populated by six factions, the martial and ambitious Terrons originally from Earth, the robotic Metanels, the expansive and multi-tentacles Hy’drans, the living crystalline Minegglers, the constantly evolving floral Weedlocks, and the Bioss, powerful rogue androids escaped from Terron scientists.
These play on strong tropes of the genre while offering a fresh take by putting them all together. The rich universe is shown best through the potent, almost haunting art, which shows a dark vision of the future of space.
Most sci-fi games that feature factions has players pick one to serve as their own, with a locked-in set of special powers. Cave-In throws open the gates by allowing each player to choose their benefits by recruiting mercenaries from each available faction, treating them as resources to be managed along with actions.
The game begins with the table set up around a game board: mercenaries of different strengths and skills on one side, stocks of minerals on the other, with artifact cards that give special bonuses in the middle. Players take turns playing cards to recruit mercenaries, mine crystals, collect artifact cards, use mercenaries’ skills, or raid card stockpiles that have been built up by other players.
As in many games, the goal of Cave-In is to collect the most victory points before the end, which is the titular cave-in of the mine because of too many minerals being haphazardly pulled out. While the end goal is the same, Cave-In features numerous routes to victory by collecting bonuses for oneself or sabotaging others via raids. Players may strategize economically, focusing on spending their points for artifacts that reduce costs later on. Or they may think militarily, striking out at opponents to keep them from getting ahead. The best strategy, of course, will be a combination of strategies arrived at by watching one’s opponents’ moves.
Star Scrappers: Cave-In is a tabletop game for two to four players aged 12 and up. It’s a medium-length game, lasting about an hour depending on how quickly players come to their decisions. Replayability is boosted if players play only four of the six factions at a time, allowing for multiple combinations of different factions’ powers. Likely players will develop their favorite factions and strategies, but they will have to compete with their opponents to get those powers for themselves first.