The Sorcerers Cave 1978

We all have had our ways of finding a way into boardgames and RPGs, some are chance encounters such as reading a book, some are through friends or through TV. My interest started at school in 1981 when I heard of someone playing (through a mutual friend) a new game called ‘Dungeons and Dragons’. Being someone that had been brought up films such as the ‘Sinbad…’ series, ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ with Doug McClure or anything to do with sci-fi, I already had an overactive imagination, so to speak. After much nagging and cajoiling through the mutual friend (named Adrian, aka ‘Ade’) I managed to get involved with the group. Philip (or ‘Marshy’ as we called him) was the one that had all the rule books and games, including the D&D rules, ‘Car Wars’ and ‘Necromancer’ by Metagaming/Steve Jackson. I managed to get a few games during dinnertimes at school (despite being told ‘I wouldn’t get it’ at first – children can be so cruel!) and bought bits and pieces from Marshy and Ade with some pocket money I scraped together.

The first ‘proper’ foray into owning gaming stuff was ‘The Sorcerers Cave’ boardgame by Terence Donnelly and originally published by Ariel (in the UK at least) back in 1978. I bought this from Ade as he was done playing it and I was eager to own any sort of gaming ‘kit’. I recall playing it solo, as the game could be played this way or with friends. The aim of the game was to reach the fourth level dungeon and defeat the sorceror and collect as much treasure as possible. Along the way you have encounter cards for creatures such as trolls and the deadly medusa! The box was supplied with rules, dice, counters, encounter cards and dungeon tiles. The games biggest advantage is that the dungeon tiles could be placed and changed each game, giving a different game each time you played. The rules were quick to start and I got into playing pretty easily. Sorcerers Cave served me well into 1982, but the games started to drop off as I got into more ‘advanced’ RPG and board games in 1983, when things took off with Tunnels and Trolls and trips to Games Workshop.

The dungeon tiles were used for games with miniatures as they proved to be roughly the right size for 25mm gaming, but eventually Sorcerers Cave found its way into my bedroom wardrobe where it lay for the next few decades.

I thought the box was lost when I moved out of my parents house, however whilst doing a bit of sorting out in the garage a few weeks ago, I came across a box that had been packed up and was full of gaming and miniatures kit, including the SC box.

The quick couple of photos I took show that its still in reasonable condition, surviving being stored for such a long time. Everything seems to be intact and no components lost. I didn’t have time to spend more time looking through it, so it was safely packed away again. Now I know I’ve still got the box, I plan to open it up again in the near future, when I have some more time to spend on it. 

For those that are interested, the original writer Terence Donnelly is still around and has some notes about how The Sorcerers Cave game was inspired and developed. His blog gives an overview how the game system works and some of the follow up products, the expansion pack and The Mystic Wood.

Though not as advanced as many games today, I still have fond memories of The Sorcerers Cave game as it helped me get started in an enjoyable lifelong hobby.

About AlegisDownport

Musings on the Traveller RPG world, technology, astronomy and digital art.
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8 Responses to The Sorcerers Cave 1978

  1. ffilz says:

    Very cool game. I have two copies plus one copy of the expansion set for really big adventures… I also have Mystic Wood and have done some house rules to use Mystic Wood as an above ground for Sorceror’s Cave.

    Having not played any of the recent similar dungeoneering board games, I wonder how they stack up.

    • Thanks for the feedback – I wonder if anyone else could comment on how SC/MW stacks against more recent boardgames? Like you I largely stopped playing the boardgames (once I got into RPGs) so I don’t know how similar games would compare – interesting thought though!

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  3. I loved both the SC and MW. Thanks so much for sharing this, and the link to Terrence Donnelly’s blog. These brought back some great memories.

  4. I still play Mystic Wood once in a while, and I recently played it on Tabletop Simulator with some friends since the pandemic has kept us home. This game would offend modern board gamer sensibilities with its high luck and lack of balance – often one player accelerates out of control with power, and the characters’ winning goals can be very lucky. For example your goal might be to find a specific card in the deck and bring it to a specific location, both of those things being literal luck of the draw. But it’s very quick and a lot of fun, with some neat mechanics like the transporting and the upgrades after you defeat a denizen. The dual attributes and how they work with the combat system clearly inspired Talisman. Everyone I play this with enjoys it, but we all understand it’s a little bit silly. The overall feel of the setting and the literary background behind it is pretty cool.

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