Example set of Caverns rules

Read about the Caverns board game.

See also:
cards | tiles | pieces | rules

This page presents an example set of rules for a Caverns set. It’s not necessarily a complete game, because — as you’ll know if you’ve read about the game — you might need to add or change anything and everything here to suit your own needs.

These rules have been play-tested with the example cards provided on this site, and work pretty well... apart from maybe the magic, which has never been a big part of the game. That probably needs more attention, if it’s an aspect of the game that appeals to you and your players.

The example rules that follow are also available in PDF format.

One Way to Play CAVERNS

an example set of rules

Go down into the unexplored caverns to find your quest and bring it back to the surface.

Setting Up

Place the entrance tile in the middle of the play area. Put the second entrance tile to one side (you might need it later), and carefully shuffle the remaining tiles and put them face down ready for the game. Shuffle all the cards. Deal one Character card to each player and show them face up. Deal one Quest card to each player and keep it secret. If a player has the Dragon Slayer card, they can choose now to reject it and be dealt another Quest card instead. Put the remaining Character and Quest cards away because you don‘t need them for the rest of the game. Each player takes the figure for their character and places it on the Entrance tile.

If you are playing Caverns with Passage Encounters, place the 6 × 6 board somewhere handy and count the number of Passage cards. For each one, roll two dice and place a counter on the corresponding square (you may get more than one counter on a single square). Shuffle the passage cards and place them face down.

The End of the Game & Winning

The winner is the first player to return a flight of the stairs with their Quest. As soon as you get to the stairs, show your Quest card and the game is over! If all tiles have been explored, and all players agree that they cannot achieve their quests, then the game ends with no winner.

Order of Play

Use dice to decide who goes first (high beats low score, re-roll tied scores). Play then passes clockwise around the play area. In a turn, a player can perform activity (such as fighting or casting a spell) before and/or after moving.


Normal movement

To make a normal move through the explored caverns and passages, move to an adjacent, connected tile. You can‘t move through a narrow passage or over deep water unless your card says you can, or magic is helping you. You can only move more than one tile along passages if you cast a Flying Spell or use Seven League Boots.

Using Stairs

If you start your turn at a flight of stairs, you can run up them (onto the surface of the world) and back down to any other flight of stairs in the explored passages. You cannot combine using stairs and any other movement in the same turn, even if you use magic.

Exploring the Unknown

To explore the unknown, step off the edge of a tile and take the next unused tile. Place it any way you like provided that the arrangement allows you to move onto the tile, following the passages. You cannot combine exploring a single tile with any other movement in the same turn, even if you use magic.

If you are playing Caverns with Passage Encounters, each time you move onto a tile which does not contain a cavern, check the 6 × 6 board to see if there are any counters on the number for this tile. Take one Passage card for each one (and remove the counters). If you find a useful item, keep it for yourself without showing the other players; if you find something else, declare it. You may need to place a marker on the tile if the card says so (for example, the spider web marker).

Entering a Cavern

If you discover a cavern, you can choose to rush or creep into it. (You can also choose not to go in at all). If you rush in you must fight any monsters in there, but you can add +1 to you combat score for rushing. If you creep in you can try to Escape from the cavern, or else Make Friends or Cast a Spell with each monster (if any). Move your figure into the cavern on the tile. Take one Cavern card (red) for each red spot that is in the cavern and look at them without letting the other players see. You must declare any monsters; anything else is treasure which you can keep (without showing anyone). After you creep or rush into a cavern, you cannot make any more movement in that turn.

Not Entering a Cavern

You might decide you‘re too scared to go into a cavern you‘ve just discovered. Put a Not Used marker on it to indicate that the things in that cavern have not yet been encountered. Later, the first person to enter it can choose to creep or rush, and take the Cavern cards as if the cavern had just been discovered.


If you crept into a cavern, and you encounter one or more monsters, you can attempt to escape. Roll a die: if the score is equal to or less than your Escape value (on your Character card), move your figure just outside the cavern (but on the same tile); you have snuck out and the monsters inside remain undisturbed (“asleep”). If you fail to escape you must fight the monsters.

Making Friends & Bribing

If you crept into a cavern, you can try to make friends. If you succeed, the monster will let you leave, and will remain undisturbed (“asleep”). If you fail, you must fight instead. Roll a die: if the score is equal to or less than the monster‘s affinity score, you have succeeded. If you have any cards in your hand with a Value (such as money or food), you can use them to Bribe the monster. Hand them over to the monster Before you roll the die. Note that sometimes special affinity bonuses apply (look on your Character card or the monster‘s card for details), and some monsters cannot be bribed. It is possible to bribe a monster with treasure that you found in the same cavern. When you bribe a monster, all players see the card(s) you hand over.

Combat & Fighting

You can fight monsters or other players. You must be in the same place on the same tile to fight. You can only start a fight at the start or end of you move, but you can defend yourself out of turn whenever you are attacked. Every fight that starts always ends with one of the two fighters being killed; when this happens, the winner takes all the treasure cards held by the loser (without other players seeing them). The loser‘s figure is removed from the tile.

To determine who wins a fight, both sides roll a die and add the score to their Combat value, together with any bonuses (such as +1 for rushing into a cavern, or because of magic weapons). The highest score wins; in the even of a tie, roll again.

If there are several opponents, the attacker chooses the order in which the fights will occur.

If a Player is Killed

If you are killed, and you are a character holding a Quest card, you have failed to find your quest; so you cannot win. However, you now “take over” the monster that killed you. Monsters that are “asleep” will wait in their caverns until woken by a monster that visits them. Although monsters cannot win, they can try to stop any of the other players from winning. Apart from the Dragon, all monsters are automatically cooperative with each other. Monsters can work together as a team to stop any of the remaining players from finding their Quests. Monsters can explore caverns to find things (but cannot rush or escape).

Holding, Using and Exchanging Treasure

Keep the cards you find hidden from the other players – it‘s possible that you have their quest! You can exchange cards with any other character or monster who you meet on the same tile, if they let you. Many items give you extra abilities or bonuses when you use them, but you may have to show your card when you do this. You can show combat, magic or escape bonuses by revealing the bottom of the card without showing the item itself. But some cards you have to reveal when you use them, so sometimes it may be better to keep an item you‘ve found secret by never using it.

Casting Magic Spells

If you have a Magic score greater than 0, you can attempt to cast magic spells. You cannot cast a spell whose level is higher than your total Magic score. Spells can be powerful, but if they go wrong, you can be vulnerable. So be careful.

You can only attempt to cast each spell ONCE per turn. Spells that work on other people (Petrify, Fire-Ball and Shape-Changing) can only be cast at a target you are with.

Spells are cast before combat. If you rush into a cavern, you can‘t cast any spells. If you are attacked, you can chose to defend yourself with magic (Petrify or Fire-ball); but if the spells fails, you cannot defend yourself physically, and you are killed.

The Caverns Spell-Book

Level 1:
The FLYING Spell

The Flying spell allows you to fly at speed, a few inches above the floor. You can only attempt to cast this spell before you make any other movement.

spell fails, walk One Tile
move Two Tiles

Remember that you cannot fly into the Unknown, or up stairs, or past anyone who wants to fight you; but you can fly over deep water.

Level 2:

The Petrify spell turns the target to stone for one complete turn.

spell fails
turned to stone (miss one turn)

When you turn somebody to stone, nobody can hurt them or take anything they are holding. Some monsters are immune to this spell.

Level 3:

The Shape-Changing spell makes you or your target bigger or smaller.

spell fails
grow bigger or smaller for one turn

By changing shape you or your target can pass through narrow passages or deep water that might otherwise be impassable.

Level 3:

The Invisibility spell makes you hard to see.

spell fails
remain invisible
become or remain invisible

When you are invisible, remove your figure from the tiles, but keep a note of which number tile you are on. As soon as you attack someone, or cast an attacking spell, this spell is broken. While you are invisible, +2 to your Escape value.

Level 4:

The Fire-Ball spell blasts balls of exploding fire at the target.

spell fails (if any die scores 1)

Roll three dice and add the scores together: if the total is greater than the target‘s combat score, they are killed by the flames, BANG! This spell can also be used to destroy spider webs.

Level 5:

The Summoning spell calls the person to you.

spell fails
the target is moved to your tile

You must specify who the target is before you attempt the spell. Move their figure to be standing next to yours. If the target does not want to be summoned, they can deduct their total Magic score from your dice score.

Some notes


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC license (zip files containing all the card illustrations and tiles are available for download as a jumping-off point for you to create your own version). It was inspired over twenty-five years ago by two original games — Sorceror’s Cave and Mystic Wood. Please read about the game’s origins to understand how it came about.
Creative Commons License