08th Feb2023

‘Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

Sometimes when a game is conceived via Kickstarter, it can be mired in controversy that’s linked more to the publisher than the designer or the game itself. Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge is one such game, with the issue here coming from the fact that Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge actually made it to retail long before backers began to receive their Kickstarter versions – and in fact, most still haven’t. Without getting into rumours and conjecture, there’s a consensus of opinion that Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge might only be printed during this initial run, so if you find yourself curious as a result of this review, you’ll probably want to invest rather quickly.

Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge is, as you might expect, the sequel to Sub Terra, which we reviewed back in 2020. Like the original game, Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge is a cooperative game where the players must work together to explore a modular board which builds as the game goes on, then find something (there are variants in the original) and then return to safety. Where the first game took place in a subterranean cave system and had a mild horror theme, Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge is themed around the interior of a volcano filled with traps and native guardians who will stop at nothing to prevent the players from taking their sacred treasure. Think more Indiana Jones than The Descent and you won’t be far off.

Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge supports from one to six players technically, but it feels like it suits three or four in practice. At two, each player can control two characters each, whilst at three or more you’ll likely just control one character each, and when playing solo, you will need to consider the movement of at least three characters realistically. Scaling in Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge works at all these counts because whenever a character acts (using up their two actions) they will then roll a dice that activates guardians, traps and other features of the volcano. There is also a bit of a clock to the game, since if the players don’t act fast enough and the volcano track fills, the volcano will erupt and the players will lose.

Should the players successfully explore all of the temple spaces (which they must always do) and then find and collect all three keys (which again, is mandatory) they will then be able to place the final chamber. All keys must then be deposited here (in person) before the artifact can be claimed, at which point the volcano will erupt anyway. When this happens, tiles will be flipped to their lava side beginning with the final chamber and moving outwards from there. This basically means that even if you have the artifact in hand you can, and very probably will, still die. Let me put it this way – there are several difficulty levels to Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge and you’ll probably be playing on the easiest for at least five or six games before you win.

There are several things that make Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge, although if I am being completely honest, it is still quite similar to the first game in a lot of ways, and therefore hard to recommend that players own both unless they are hardcore fans. The first thing that really works in cooperative games like this (harking back even to the original Pandemic) is the fun of mixing different character combinations and using their unique abilities. In Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge, for example, the priest can easily revive fallen comrades with extra health, whilst the sapper has powerful abilities that either blow up enemies or quickly clear fallen rubble. The rogue can evade traps, and any character sharing a space with her will also share that benefit – and there are a handful of others as well.

I also enjoy both the difficulty level and structure of Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge, which which is certainly tough as I’ve said, yet somehow always rewarding. You may lose a character early in the game (limiting them to one single move action per turn until revived) and things could seem desperately close to failure, yet if you find two keys in quick succession and get that player back in the game, you’ll feel a palpable sense of momentum swinging in your favour. Equally, a series of bad or risky draws (players can choose to move cautiously or rush onto unexplored spaces, which is dangerous) can take a healthy team that has made good progress to the brink of defeat very quickly – and whilst not positive in itself, this evokes genuine excitement among the players.

Like all cooperative games, the concept of quarterbacking (where a dominant player tries to instruct others on what to do with their turns) is a possibility, but in some ways the decisions in Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge are pretty straightforward and with the exception of deliberate sabotage, the benefit between one choice or another is broadly equivalent. For example, a player may be faced with moving and killing a threatening guardian, moving and rescuing a companion, moving and grabbing a key or moving and using their ability (or some other combination of those things) and frankly none are bad. That companion probably needs rescuing, that guardian needs defeating, and you must get that key… Yes, there’s a better order and a worse order, but its straightforward to process and immediately rewarding in each example.

On another note, I think I prefer the theme in Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge to the first game. In the original, the blue and black colour palette was just a bit boring, and whilst there was a sense of horror in the instruction manual and a few other non-game components, the theme itself didn’t leap off the board. In Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge the “temple run” style theme is clear in everything you’ll see and do. From the temple paths on the one side to the lava flow on the other, the narrative is clear – and the slightly more cartoonish player characters (themed somewhat around the 1920’s Age of Exploration) really fit both the look and feel here. The climax of the game – grabbing the artifact and running for it as the lava begins to flow – is a moment you’ll remember, and you’ll know exactly which moment from George Lucas’ back catalogue you are experiencing.

In closing, I have to go back to where I started this review from – which is that no matter what I say, I am not sure if or for how long you’ll be able to get Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge. This is a really fun, low-complexity game that lends itself well to either the lighter side of a proper games night or the heavier side of a night with a few beers and some snacks among friends. It looks good and it plays very smoothly and never takes itself too seriously except to keep the focus on being very tough for the players. You’ll lose often and you’ll often lose badly, but if you’re playing Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge as you should be, you’ll always enjoy it. One to look out for if you have the chance, for sure.

**** 4/5

A copy of Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge was provided for review by Asmodee UK


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