Monday, December 1, 2014

How to Play Caverna

Hope you had a great American Thanksgiving! Had a lovely time myself, but drove back from New York last night, so no brain power for Publishing News. Expect it Wednesday.
From Mayfair Games

Played the game Caverna for the first time. It's a very interesting game, and worth playing, but I warn you now the rulebook is badly written. The rulebook doesn't actually explain well how to play--written more like a reference guide of game terms. We spent 3 hours with 3 people just playing through the first game to figure out how it worked, rulebooks in hand. They're not so easy to parse, as far as rulebooks go.

If you pick up the game yourself (and it's really a fun game, so it's worth it), here's the basic game play. You can use the official rules to give more detail on each described action.

I'd suggest reading through this post either before or after certain sections of the official rulebook, after opening the game to see the pieces.(Suggested parts of rulebook to read: "Setup" Pages 1-3, charts on 4 & 5, "Flow of Play" section pp. 6-11, "End of Game & Scoring" p 23).

The rest of the rulebook and the appendix are more useful during the first time that you play. They further define each action. If you don't have someone who knows how to play, you can read over the explanation of each action in the rulebook/appendix as you play it, for any action that isn't immediately obvious.

HOW TO PLAY: (the 5 stages of each round)

1) Flip the card that determines the new action for the round. There are 12 rounds.
2) "Replenish" the tiles (for any tile with a resource and an arrow, add one more). If any tile exceeds six of one type of resource, empty it back to 0 instead (unless it goes from 5 to 7, in which case empty it the next turn when it would have 9).
3) First person puts a "dwarf" (a round piece) on one action (actions include the new action drawn for this round). First person does whatever the action says they can do, if possible (if not possible, they can still play there to block it.) Second person plays a dwarf on a different action. Third play plays a dwarf on an unplayed action. Etc. First person then plays the second dwarf, etc. When everyone has played two dwarfs, anyone with a third dwarf may play dwarf #3 (in turn order, of course). After all 3rd dwarves are played, anyone with a dwarf #4 may play it. Etc. NOTE: For each player, the strongest dwarf goes last. Weakest goes first. So all dwarves without a weapon must be played first, and dwarves are played in ascending weapon order.
4) After all dwarves have been played, players take their dwarves back home.
5) Harvest if applicable. Then feed dwarves as required (this can change during different turns). Then breed animals.
Round is over. Start next round.

Points are scored for having the most victory ("gold") points at the end of the game. Points may be lost for not having one of every kind of animal, for undeveloped spaces on the gameboard, and for not having enough food to feed all your dwarves.

Each dwarf eats 2 food. On the turn you get a new dwarf ("having a baby"), you only have to feed it 1 food. If you cannot feed all your dwarves, for each food you fall short, you lose 3 points. So if you have 3 dwarves but only 4 food available (let's say a wheat, a food token, and a pig), you get -6 points.

The game is over after the end of the twelfth round's harvest.

Those are the basics.


Types of Actions & Resources Overview (AKA further details in a slightly more organized presentation than in the manual):

There's a lot of extra tokens, tiles, chips, and wooden markers in this game. Don't panic; most of them are ways to mark resources at hand or are special tiles you may or may not have by the end of the game. In other words, you won't use most of them.

The five basic types of actions are clearing rock or forest, building mines/rooms/farms, obtaining resources, expeditions, and having a baby.

Clearing forest/building mines: This allows you to build stuff. You can't build anything on an uncleared section. There are a few different actions that allow you to do these, and most allow you to do something else in addition (get resources, etc).

Building mines/rooms/farms: On cleared forest, you get farmland and a meadow. You need these to grow your own food. You can also upgrade your meadow to a pen using the wood resource, which allows you to keep animals. Farmland allows you to grow food, but you have to plant it first. In cleared rock--tunnels you can build mines (ore mines or ruby mines); in cleared rock--squares you can build rooms. The room called a dwelling is needed before you can get an extra dwarf piece; the rest of the rooms give various bonuses that differ per game (they've got various symbols on the back and are drawn randomly from the set for each game).

Obtaining resources: (Note: All resources can also be obtained on expeditions; see "expeditions" for more)
  • By farm: Growable resources: wheat or a pumpkin ("vegetable"). During any action that allows you to sow, you place one growable resource per farmland square, for up to two wheat and two pumpkins (aka sow a total of 4 squares if you have 2 pumpkins and 2 wheat, or 2 squares if you 3 wheat in your stock, etc). This turns each wheat into 3 wheat (take 2 extra from the bank) and each pumpkin into 2 pumpkins (take 1 extra from the bank). Pumpkins are worth 2 food each and wheat worth 1. The catch is that you only get to take one from each farm per harvest, and they don't automatically replenish, and they don't count as points until they're harvested. So if you plant 1 pumpkin, during the next harvest (which doesn't happen at the end of every turn, even though you still have to feed your dwarves) you get 1 pumpkin, and during the harvest after that you get another pumpkin.
  • By animals: Breeding resources: All types of animals except dogs can breed 1 animal per harvest, if you have 2 after feeding your dwarves. So 2 pigs (worth 2 food each) can become 3 pigs, but 4 pigs only become 5 pigs. If you don't have a place to put a new animal, it runs away. Donkeys can live in ore and ruby mines (1 per mine), sheep can live in meadows if you have dogs, and any animal can live in your house. You can't mix animals other than dogs in locations (pigs and cows are mortal enemies, apparently, and cannot share a pen or the house). Dogs are bonuses that don't count towards limits.
  • By nonliving: Rocks and wood are used to build houses. You get these by clearing (caves or forest) or by taking special actions that give them as bonuses. Ore is used for making weapons, which are required for expeditions.
  • Rubies: Rubies are obtained as bonuses through several special actions. They're cheat stones, basically. They count as any resource when building, they can count as 2 food, you can use them to clear forest or make a cavern tunnel, you can trade them for cows (you don't get cows otherwise), you can use them to play your dwarves out of order. This last is important b/c it allows you to send your strong dwarves on expeditions when you need lots of items at once, but think someone else can and will claim that action before you.
Expeditions: You can use up to 8 ore to build a weapon. When you have built a weapon, there is a card numbered 1-8 on one side and 9-14 on the other, with pictures. A weapon built with 5 ore is considered a level 5 weapon. When you take an expedition action, you may choose rewards from 5 or below (but no repeats). Actions show a shield with a number on it. This number on the action board is the total number of rewards you can get. So a level 5 weapon built when you land on the "Blacksmithing" action (which has a shield with a 3 on it) allows you to choose 3 resources level 5 or below. You can choose the level 5 reward (pig) and the two level 3 rewards (a wheat and a sheep), or a level 4 reward and level 3 and level 1 (pumpkin+donkey+dog), or any combination so long as you don't take a reward higher than your weapon level. You cannot take two of the same reward in the same expedition action (so you can't take 2 pumpkins). After you take all your rewards, your weapon levels up. You cannot build higher than a level 8 weapon, but you can level it up to a 14. You may always choose to give your weapon a single extra level as one of your rewards. You can only get cows from expeditions with a leveled up weapon (level 10 reward) or by buying one with a ruby.

Having a baby: there a couple of different action tiles that allow you to do this. They give you the ability to produce an extra dwarf that basically means from that round on, you get an extra move every round.


Special notes:

Dogs look a lot like woods. We built an unfortunate number of rooms out of dogs, after clearing dog-forests, before we decided to put these on separate ends of the table in order to avoid mixing them up. Cows are also the same color, but they're slightly easier to distinguish. Pigs and ore are both black, but are easy to distinguish; same with donkeys and stones.

It seems to be worth it to get baby dwarves asap. The extra moves usually feed themselves. Going first and having an extra move tend to be about equal advantages (together they've especially powerful).

It also seems worth it to have multiple weapons. And to have rubies. Otherwise other people end up taking the best expeditions first, meaning you don't get multiple rewards. Expeditions are very powerful.

The imitate action allows you copy someone else's action. However, only 1 person can use it per round. It's a powerful action but easily blocked, and easily used for blocking others.

TL;DR summary: Don't be intimidated by the number of pieces; they're all optional ways of scoring points. To play, each player puts pieces on actions and does what the action shows. Look at the pictures carefully. Feed your dwarves to not lose.

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