This will be no surprise to regular readers when I say that I am a huge, HUGE fan of Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale series by Thunderworks Games. It was my most played game of 2021 and rightly so. It’s a game that really rode the roll and write (flip and fill) wave, helped no doubt by the existing Roll Player universe.
The replayability of the game is almost infinite on its own but a new life was breathed into it when Thunderworks produced a follow-up – Cartographers Heroes last year. Along with that bundle of new explore cards, edicts, heroes and monsters, it brought with it three new map packs. Nebblis the plane of fire; Affril the plane of magic and The Undercity, where we find ourselves today.
The Queen has bid her royal cartographers to once again map out some of her realm, but this time, she would know her own domain better. You are charged with heading below the city and finding what resides there. So, grab your quill and parchment and let us explore the Undercity.
Gameplay is exactly the same as the base game, so if you want to see how that works, check out the Zatu review here! However, there are two specific rules you must be aware of when playing with the Undercity Map. Firstly, do you see the line running through the map? That divides the city and the undercity into the above and below. (Not to be confused between Above and Below.)
When you draw a shape, it must be fully above or below. The second is much more thematic. When you explore and add a new shape to the map, it must make a continuous path back to the gate square in the Above part of the board.
This square is set in the UC01 map side and can be placed anywhere in the UC02 map. In addition to the 75 double-sided maps, you get three new scoring cards which are unique to this map pack. These can be used instead of one of the usual sets and can be mixed in however you like.
Of the three expansion map packs, Nebblis, Affril and The Undercity (which you can read my reviews of in the links), this is probably my least favourite. I still enjoy it, but the huge spike in complexity that Affril brings makes it stand out and the danger of the destructive volcano in Nebblis is bumps up the tension. In the Undercity, having a continuous path that connects somehow to the gate is actually a lot more restrictive. Particularly with the monster placements.
The short rulebook doesn’t clarify if the monsters can be placed anywhere or must traceback. I interpreted that they were, but that means that they’re already less threatening. You could go the other way, but it’s potentially much harder to close them out and get that monster dealt with.
I do like the extra restriction that a shape must be fully above or below the line. That’s an interesting challenge and gives a real significance to the placement. You can really snooker yourself if you don’t place things well. Happily, if you’re unable to place anything, you can still just play a single square of anything you like.
That being said, it was a nice change-up from the standard maps and it was fun to give a go. I’m looking forward to trying out the other edict cards and seeing how they combine for scoring. Also, and I’m going to whisper this because I haven’t seen it announced anywhere – there are three new expansion packs coming out soon!
If you love Cartographers as much as I do, I think it’s worth checking them out. They are called: The Frozen Expanse; Kethra’s Steppe and Hornheim, each poised to deliver yet more depth into the world of Cartographers.