Duration: 20-30 Minutes
Designer: Kedric Winks
Publisher: Cheatwell Games
Artist: Augustinas Raginskis
Our rating: 8/10
Description from the publisher: Cadaver is a card game in which players compete to become the best necromancer by reanimating a series of unearthed corpses.
Different corpses require different types of resurrection so the necromancers must use an array of arcane assets and accomplices to do their dastardly deeds.
Disclosure: We were gifted a copy of Cadaver by the designer in exchange for a review. This in no way affects our opinions or rating of the game. * Article contains affiliate links. *
Cadaver is a light-hearted, lightweight set collection and take that card game of raising the dead. Players take on the role of necromancers aiming to raise as many corpses as possible before the dawn.
Players start by separating one of each resource type and place them on the table face up to create 3 resource piles. The rest of the deck is then shuffled, and each player is given a hand of 5 cards.
A players turn consists of a 3 key steps: Laying, Drawing and Trading.
First the active player may lay up to two cards from their hand onto the table face up. They can also discard cards which count as a laying turn into a face up discard pile.
Once this is done the player then draws back up to 5 cards. This is usually from the draw deck, but there are also accomplices in the game which allow for cards to be drawn from the respective resource piles in the centre of the table.
Finally, the active player can trade any number of cards from their hand with one other player if an agreement can be reached. It is worth noting that you can go over the hand limit of 5 as a result of trading and you would simply not draw any new cards on your turn until your hand is back below the 5-card limit.
The cards that you play fall under a few different categories; Corpses, Resources, Accomplices, Coffin Lids, Keys, Ghouls and Amulets.
Corpses are the cards that will score you points at the end of the game if they have been successfully completed or “raised”. Each completed corpse at the end of the game on its own is worth 1 point but if players can raise 3 identical corpses, the set is worth 10 points and a set of 3 different corpses are worth 5 points. To start work on a corpse, it must be placed face up on the table in front of the player.
Corpses are completed by playing the correct resources from the players hand on top of the corpse and will stay with them until it has been completed and cannot be reassigned to another corpse.
Accomplices are played onto the table face up in front of the player alongside their corpses and allow them to draw the top card of the resource deck if they wish guaranteeing that they can get the resource they need rather than drawing a random card from the draw deck.
Coffin lids can be laid onto any face up card on the table so can be on either your own or other players corpses, accomplices or even the resource piles! Once a card has been locked with a coffin lid, any cards underneath it cannot be used. The only way to unlock a coffin lid is with a Key. Any coffin lids that have been unlocked are discarded out of the game along with the used key.
Ghouls allow players to steal a face up corpse or accomplice from another player and add it to their own collection. If the target of this attack is a corpse, this will transfer the corpse along with any resource card that has been placed on it. The only way to repel the ghoul is with an amulet card which is then discarded along with the failed ghoul. The amulet can also be used as a wild resource when completing a corpse.
There are a couple of extremely powerful cards in the game, the “Abomination” card and Igor the accomplice.
Igor allows a player to pull any type of resource from the face up cards in the middle of the table as opposed to the other accomplices which only specialise in one type of resource.
The Abomination is worth 5 points alone if you can pool together the resources to raise this corpse so acts as a really powerful score booster!
Once the final card has been taken from the draw pile, each player now has one final turn to try and complete as many corpses as possible. In this final turn players may trade before laying cards and can lay as many cards as they like.
The player with the most points from their corpse combos at the end of the game is declared the winner and the most successful necromancer!
So what do we think of Cadaver?
We have had a LOT of fun with cadaver, the game is quick to play, easy to learn and teach but is piled with a ton of strategy!
The thing that we most loved about the game is how interactive it is at all times; all players are involved on each turn meaning that there is VERY little down time, this also offers the benefit that all players remain engaged throughout.
Cadaver really comes alive (pardon the pun) when it comes to the “take that” and trading elements.
In Cadaver you can extort your friends as much as you like, say you’ve seen one of your opponent’s raise two of the same corpses already, you know how much that third corpse is worth to them… and the third one just happens to have ended up in your hand. You know what that means, if they want it, it’s time make them pay handsomely!
The ghouls, coffin lids, keys and amulets become powerful tools in taking on your opponents and can even be used as valuable trading commodities to barter with. We often use these to “sweeten deals” when trading with players for something that we desperately want.
Cadaver can be really mean if your gaming group really leans into this style of play. We love take-that games and sometimes the meaner the better so this game plays perfectly for us as we go all in when it comes to take-that actions!!
In our play throughs we have even seen players go as far as discarding a corpse that they know another player needs to prevent them from completing a set. Or even using a ghoul to steal a corpse another player needed for a set, and then locking it in their own lay area to stop easy access of that scoring option to the player they stole it from.
All these options make the trading turns so dynamic, lively (I know, ironic!) and filled with bartering and bantering. Players might begin to build alliances with certain players if they’ve helped them in a previous turn. Or on the flip side, they might start to build a feud another player, which begins an epic battle of two-ing and fro-ing between two people.
Ok… I know we are leaning massively into the take that nature of the game, and yes, Cadaver by nature has strong take-that elements; but say you are a player who isn’t that into this style of play…
We have found that this game doesn’t have to be so aggressively “take-that” if you don’t want it to be. If you wanted to play the game with kids for example, you can also be a bit more lenient with the trading turns, you can also choose who to target with your take that cards or discarding them altogether taking a lighter approach with certain players if you would like to.
We absolutely love the striking artwork in the game which has a clear macabre theme without being overly graphic.
Our favourite cards are the corpses which are each loaded with character and fantastically stylised. We especially love the zombie looking corpse with the goatee who reminded us of an old 1950’s ice cream vendor or member from a barber shop quartet. Also, the skeleton corpses, one whose skull has become dislodged and seems to have developed some foliage growing out of its eye socket; or the one with their dislocated jaw jutting out at a peculiar angle beside their skull.
The insert in the box itself is made to look like an open grave, so when you get to the bottom of the stack of cards it is as though you have exhumed all of the corpses from the grave. We thought this was a really neat touch, and very clever design.
Overall, we have had a blast with Cadaver and will continue to bring it to the table on a regular basis, especially throughout October where I feel like it will be perfectly thematic and gruesome in nature!
Be sure to add this game to your list if you’re looking to add a lightweight, dynamic and thematic card game to your collection. One thing is for sure it’ll be certain to bring some “life” to any party!