“Earl explained it to me: we plan ahead, that way, we don’t do anything right now.” – Valentine McKee (Tremors)
From the Publisher:
Terror Below is a game of government experiments gone wild in the Nevada desert.
The faster you move, the more vibrations you make, attracting the attention of the vicious W.O.R.M.s underground. Navigate the difficult terrain to collect valuable W.O.R.M. Eggs and deliver them to Locations around town to claim bounties. If you’re feeling lucky, collect items and weapons to go hunt ‘em.
The goal of Terror Below is to be the first player to score 20 Victory Points in a pickup and delivery style game. Pick up the worm eggs and deliver them across different locations on the map, or go and kill the worms before they get you. But remember, you actions (and other players actions) can attract the worms who are underground and cause them to attack you. Use your weapons and items to help you fight off the worms, or send them towards the other players.
Year Published: 2019
Number of players: 1-5
Playing Time: 45-60 minutes
Game Setup & Rules Overview
Setup is really easy and can be done in less than 5 minutes. But let me warn you, you will want a lot of table space for the game board. You see, the game board by itself is a giant egg-shaped board that measures 66cm x 48cm (26″x21″) and you will have a few piles of cardboard chits and cards around it, plus each player’s space. Once the board is setup, we can begin the initial setup. The layout of the board is broken into 3 areas. The top area (aka the Government Facility (aka Area 51)) is where you will place the bounty cards, which give you bonuses when you complete them (think of them as bonus missions for extra points). The middle area is where all the actions is; here you will be moving around, picking up worm eggs, avoiding rubble, and fighting worms as you try to make your deliveries. The bottom area is the ‘terror zone’ that holds the worms before they start attacking.
Before we start setting up the board, let us talk about the cards and what they do. We have a number of cards available, and you will want to make sure that we shuffle them all into their appropriate individual pile. Luckily they have different color backs to make them easier to distinguish. Additionally, Renegade Games knows that not everyone can see all the colors, so they have clearly put icons on the middle of each card to help differentiate between the different types of cards. We’ll start with the 37 Worm cards. You will need to take out the starter worm cards—which all have a black border around them—then shuffle the remaining cards. The next group of cards are the vehicle cards (54 of these). Give them a good shuffle, then do the same for the 16 character cards. Keep each pile separately, as we will start dealing them out, and getting the board setup. But wait, we have more cards to shuffle. Grabbing the bounty cards, give them a strong shuffle, and finally take the item cards, shuffle them up, and we’re ready to start setup.
Starting with the Bounty Cards at the top of the board, take 4 cards from the bounty pile, and place them face up on their spaces. Next we are going to be placing the starting locations onto the board. These are cardboard chits that you will place on the spaces on the board that show the longhorn skull. Once that is done, you will want to place the decks of cards next to the appropriate location (Weapon deck near the State Police, Item Deck near the General Store, Bounty Deck near the Government Facility, and the Vehicle Deck central to all players. Take the 3 target tokens (tokens that are numbered one, two and three) and place them in the terror zone in the bottom row
Setting up the middle of the board is where all the fun starts to take shape. Starting with the 4 starter worms, you will want to place items on the board. Quick note about the board, you will notice that along the side and bottom are numbers. This helps you in game play and setup by making the board into a grid that can be referenced by their coordinates. And this is where you will use them, because each worm card has coordinates that show where they will be acting upon.
A brief interruption to talk on the worm cards. Each card consists of 6 different pieces of information. The upper left corner has a color around it that shows the color of egg that would be used with that worm. That is then followed by the name of the worm (and corresponding image), then the coordinates of the worms starting location, showing near the upper-right corner. Right below that is a diagram that shows you where their egg would drop, and lighter grey areas where rubble would be placed surrounding the egg. Directly below that, you will see the health of the worm, and the limit of cards that can be placed on the worm. I will use the Screamer Worm as an example. Looking at this card, we see that his worm egg will be the purple one, and his starting location is grid coordinate 5,3. Rubble will be placed in every space to the left and right of the egg. He has 7 health, and a maximum of 3 cards can be played to attack it.
Place the eggs and rubble based on the starter worms, then pick another worm from the pile and place it on the board. The number of additional worms selected varies based on the number of players in the game, and can add up to 3 additional worms on the board. Once this is done, draw 3 additional worm cards, and place them in the terror zone. Take the target token that is above each worm, and place it in the coordinates as a warning. You will not place rubble for these worms.
All this said and done, let us get the players set up to play the game. Each player will take 1 player token of their choice and the player aid card that matches the color of their vehicle. Each player then receives 1 item card, 1 weapon card, and 3 vehicle cards. You will want to keep the item and weapon card face down and hidden from the other players, while the 3 vehicles are the players starting hand. Finally, each player draws 3 characters from the pile, and selects one of them as their leader, which will be face up on the table in front of them. The remaining characters are placed face-down in any order underneath their leader card. Note that each player card has special abilities – some happen on every one of that players turn, some happen when they come into play.
Let us talk game play. On each players turn, they will have 3 actions that they can take. The first action is playing a vehicle card from their hand onto a worm in the terror zone. This is followed by the sub actions, which is resolving the card just played. There are up to three different sub-actions that will happen, based on the card played as the first action.
The first sub-action is to distract the worm (moving in your vehicles creates…tremors…that attract the worms). On the bottom of each vehicle card are up to 3 icons that will show the movement of the worm target token across the board. Once you have completed that, you will then get to perform the next sub-actions equal to the number in the upper left corner of the card. These are as follows:
- Move 1 space orthogonal. There cannot be a player or rubble in the space you are moving into.
- Ramp (or Jump) another player. This can only happen if there is an empty space on the other side of that player token
- Clear rubble from a space next to your pawn. Place the cleared spawn onto your leader.
- Pick up all worm eggs in your space. Place them all on your leader (this will conclude your action phase regardless of how many you have remaining).
- Deliver 1 worm egg to the location you are at. If it matches a bounty, take the bounty card, place it under your lead so the value is still visible and replace the empty spot with a new card.
- Note that each location also has a bonus available if you deliver an egg there. Those are as follows (don’t you love bulleted lists 🙂 )
- General store – Draw an item card
- Motel – Gain 1 VP token
- State Police – Draw a weapon card
- Government Facility – Draw a bouncy card from the line or top of the deck and use it as a super secret bounty.
- Hospital – Resurrect one of your dead characters
- Note that each location also has a bonus available if you deliver an egg there. Those are as follows (don’t you love bulleted lists 🙂 )
Finally, our third sub-action is to resolve any special ability that is visible on the vehicle card you placed on the worm. These are pretty straight forward, but think of it as some things that can help (or hurt) you by moving worms closer, or giving you more actions to do. Once these are complete, you will refill your hand back up to 3 cards, and check for any worm attacks!
Worm attacks checks are done between each players turn, and is done by looking at the number of vehicle cards under each section in the terror zone. If the number of cards equal the number listed on the worm card, then an attack happens. to resolve this, there are 4 status/actions that we do for this phase. Those are as follows:
- Check and see if there are any face-down cards on the worm. If so, turn them over and resolve their movement (the Distraction step). How did a card get face-down on the worm, you ask? There are certain cards that allow you to discard another card face down on a worm.
- Place an egg that matches the worm color where the worm is now located.
- Similar to when we first set up the board, you will now place rubble around the egg based on the layout displayed on the worm card. You can have no more than 2 rubble in any space.
But Delton, you ask, you have mentioned resurrecting dead characters and worm attacks and nothing about how this happens. Ahh, my little graboid, let’s me tell you a story of how when that rubble is placed and that tasty meat popsicle is in that space, how you get to have a tasty snack that you just can’t let get away. When (not if, but when) rubble or an egg is in the same space as a worm, an attack happens. Resolving the attack is incredibly simple. The player that is taking the damage looks at the item and weapon cards in their hand and sees if they can kill the worm. If they can meet or exceed the health amount of the worm, they kill it and get a victory point! If, though, they are not able to, well, nom nom nom happens, and that leader is no longer. All rubble and eggs that leader was carrying is dropped into that same space. Once a worm is killed, draw a new worm from the pile, remove all used cards, and keep playing
Play continues until a player reaches 20 victory points, or if a team is killed, remaining players will take one more turn, then the game ends and whoever has the most points wins.
In it’s simplest form, this is a pick up and deliver games, where you are working to pick up the worm eggs and deliver them to locations to gather points. And it works! With the limited number of actions you can do on your turn, you won’t be spending a lot of down time waiting for the other players, and the board is constantly changing as each player is moving the worms around, which makes it difficult to plan ahead, but in a good way.
Let me also call out that the game comes with a reversible board, game play variants, and a solo mode. Think you’ve mastered the game? Let them throw the advanced rules into play, and use the canyon side of the board. See how you like them apples. Not enough? OK, how about The Queen Worm, where the entire board is taken over. Yeah, let’s throw 3 of them in the deck.
Game play is fast moving, and keeps everyone involved and watching the board while other players are moving. Knowing that between your turns you have to wait and re-play your strategy based on where the players are moving the worms keeps everyone involved and ‘helping’ other players with where they should move the worms. Additionally, you have cards that can do things to other players (steal eggs, move tokens towards other players, move other player tokens in any direction) that will always make you want to keep a few additional defensive cards in hand just in case they get you to be attacked by the worms.
At this time, there are no expansions available for the game. That being said, they can easily do card packs to add more to the game (please, Renegade, more cards)
Artwork & Component Quality
How can I say this, this is Renegade Games quality at its best. Super heavy-duty cardboard parts, solid card stock for the cards, clear artwork and light iconography on the game (just enough to distinguish what they are in case the colors of the cards are causing issues. The one quibble I have is on the card sizes. You see, we have two different size cards provided in the game – a standard(ish) size card and mini-size cards. And the text on the mini cards can be hard to read, especially when there’s lots of text on them. You see, there are some of the mini cards that are chock full of text (I’m looking at you, Worm Pheromones, Military Satellite, Lucky Hat, Worm Trap and others). And the font used on the cards could be a bit cleaner, making the cards easier to read. Artwork fits the theme, with that reddish ‘Arizona/Mad Max’ type of artwork and coloration being used on the board and cards.
Oh, the joys of moving someone who think they’re winning 3 spots closer to a worm and causing it to attack. There’s just enough of take-that in the game to make it fun, but not so much that it’s a malicious game. The random movements of the worms after each turn, and the additional rubble on the board just keeps you involved and trying to plan your actions each turn, but making you pause before you throw a card down and double-think if it’s the right action works out great. I’ve played this now over a dozen times, and had a number of other groups playing it, and it’s been nothing but laughs and deep sighs when attacks or cards hit the table by the players playing or being moved away from their plan. Kids love this, and if you have anyone who’s seen and enjoyed the Kevin Bacon movie (not that one, the other one.. no, the other other one) that has a similar theme, then this will hit the table a lot.
What Doesn’t Work
Ahh, those min-size cards and their fonts. Such a little thing, yet when you have the grandparents playing (or anyone that might have vision issues), it takes some of the joy out of the game as you need to wait for them to get their ‘reading lenses’ or a brighter light to make it out. While it’s not a game that you’d take out to a coffee shop (the board size would prohibit that alone), it’s one that you do want to take and play with groups during game nights. Additionally, we need more vehicle cards. There are 9 of each card, and 6 card types, giving you the 42 cards. That’s a lot of redundancy. Same hold with the worm cards. 5 types of worms, and while their starting location is different, their rubble spread is the same. We’ve tried the variants, and did some house rules to try and spice up the card selection, making up some vehicles and worm types to add more spice and variety to the game. It would have been nice to have a few blank cards to allow players to make up their cards. Did I mention the mini-size cards? Ever try to shuffle those to make sure they’re random? You end up just throwing them in a box and table shuffling them and still it’s not enough.
Mini-size cards aside, this was a ton of fun and I have folks asking for it to be left setup for game night (yes, setup can take some time, but once you know what you’re doing, it is a piece of cake). This is one that kids all the way from 10-100+ can enjoy, as it’s pretty easy to learn. While I wish we had more variety in cards, knowing this is a lighter-style game, I can really push for it being used on a regular basis, especially as a starting game on a game day when a chunkier game is going to be hitting the tables.