Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Caverna: Cave vs Cave (Mayfair Games)

You and your dwarf partner have just arrived at a brand new cave. Home, sweet home! Before you get too comfortable though, you realize that there is much work to be done. The cave must be carved out, rooms must be built. and wealth must be accumulated. You have a long road ahead of you and to make matters worse, your least favorite dwarf in the world has decided to settle in the cave right next to you...just great! Well, you don't want him having a nicer cave than you, so you must do better than him. This is Caverna: Cave vs CaveCaverna: Cave vs Cave is a game for two players, age 12+. It takes approximately 40 minutes to play and retails for $28.
Setup
1. Unfold the Action Board, placing it on the two-player side. Place the board between both players. 2. Place the four Action Tiles with a dwarf on the back, face-up on the four unnumbered spaces on the Action Board. (Order does not matter)
3. Shuffle the remaining Action Tiles and place them face down on their coordinating numbered spaces.
4. Give each player a Cave Board and one of each Good (Wood, Stone, Emmer, Flax, Food, and Gold). Place these goods on the "1" space of your Cave Board.
5. Sort the Rooms by Light Gray and Dark Gray backs.
6. Place the six Light Gray Rooms face-up near the Action Board.
7. Place the eighteen Dark Gray Rooms face-down. Shuffle them up and distribute randomly to the two players to place on their Cave Boards.
8. Place the additional tiles and markers nearby. Randomly pick a starting player and begin!
Game Play - The game is played over eight rounds with three phases each round.
1. New Action - Reveal the next Action Tile on the Action Board.
2. Action Phase - Choose one of the face-up Action Tiles from the Action Board and carry out the action. Turns will alternate between players until the specified number of turns for a particular round has been reached (Two turns in Rounds 1 to 3, three in Rounds 4 to 7, and four in Round 8).
3. Round End - After the specified number of turns, return any chosen Action Tiles to the Action Board and pass starting player to your opponent.

Review
Caverna: Cave vs Cave is exactly what it promises to be. It is a two-player version of the immensely popular Caverna. The game is not a worker placement game like its "big brother," but with the action selection, it serves the same purpose as having a worker and putting them on an Action Tile. For people who have played regular Caverna before, this game will feel very familiar in terms of iconography, actions you can perform, and the general look and feel of the game and how it flows. For those unfamiliar with regular Caverna, Cave vs Cave can serve as a good introduction to the larger game or just be a welcome way to play the game 1 on 1 in a quicker and more affordable way.

With those positives, there were some negatives for my experience. The first thing I didn't like was the variability in the game, or lack thereof. With the Action Tiles, there are three "2" and four "3," so there will be a slight bit of variability in the order in which the Action Tiles are revealed from game to game, but not enough for my taste after you play the game 10+ times. Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small (same designer) had the same problem. It was a fun two-player version of its "big brother," but needed more variability for replay value. Thankfully, they remedied the problem with two expansions, and I suspect Caverna: Cave vs Cave will do the same thing in the future. The other thing I didn't really like was the direct interaction. I know. I know. It's a two-player game. You can't get around direct interaction, because it is just you and your opponent. Unfortunately, the direct interaction in this game was a bit too mean for my taste, because instead of making a move that was beneficial for you, you often found yourself making a move that was hurtful for your opponent, because it was the better play. Some people might like that, but as my two-person gaming partner is my wife, I don't think that would be good for me in the long run to play a game that would constantly twist the knife.

Overall, I think this is a well-made game in terms of game play, components, art, and value. However, I found that the game was ultimately not for me. If, however, you like your two-player games to be more on the cutthroat side, this is the game for you!