Caverna: Cave vs. Cave – Hidden Treasure
Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, it’s off to work we go! This isn’t the land of princesses and dwarves, but it’s certainly a game about dwarves digging out caves. Caverna: Cave vs Cave is the two-player version of the popular Caverna, by Uwe Rosenburg and published by Mayfair\Asmodee. Cave vs. Cave supports either one or two players, lasts about 30-45 minutes, and is rated for ages 12+.
Players use an “action board” to select actions for each turn. Place the action board in the middle of the table. Place the four action tiles with a single dwarf on the back face up (any order) on the first four spots of the board. These are the spots before the first wall without numbers on them.
Shuffle the remaining action tiles and put them face down on the rest of the numbers, correlating the tile number with the tile spaces.
Place the six room tiles with light grey backs face up near the action board. Take a player board and place nine room tiles (with dark grey backs) face down on your board in the appropriate spaces. Do not cover the Cave Entrance and the space immediately above it.
Finally, take one token for each resource: Wood, Rock, Emmer, Flax, Gold, and Food. Place these on the 1 space on the goods track on the right side of your player board. Resources max out at 10 on the resource track except for Gold, which can be flipped over once it exceeds 10.
Choose a first player and give them the starting player token.
Cave vs Cave is an action selection, resource management game, which means you take turns selecting and performing an action.
Cave vs Cave lasts eight rounds. At the beginning of each round, the start player turns over the next tile on the action board and selects one of the now-available action tiles to perform. They indicate this by pulling that tile off the board towards themselves.
Players alternate taking actions until each has chosen the number of actions indicated on the back of the tile flipped over that round. Once the round ends return the tiles to the action board and give the start player token to the other player.
The goal of Cave vs Cave is to gather the most Gold. You do this by mining rocks out of your cave and building rooms that offer various bonuses.
Variety comes in the action and room tiles you select. At the beginning of the game, four action tiles are available to choose from. Over the course of the game, you gradually reveal more actions. Because they’re ordered by round, each progressive section is gradually more powerful than the last. However, because the order of tiles is randomized within the section, every game unfolds differently.
Similarly, the light grey tiles revealed at the beginning of the game ensure there are always room tiles available on every play. When you mine a dark grey tile from your player board, flip it over and add it to the rooms available to be built.
We’ll review the starting tiles and their icons to help explain how the game works. The actions on the action tiles can be taken in any order, but only once per round. For example, the Cultivation action tile provides three different actions. You can do those actions in any order.
Cave Entrance – The Cave Entrance is a room that is pre-printed on the player board and is always available. Use this room to raise your Wood, Emmer, Flax, or Stone resource by one.
Cultivation gives three actions, taken in any order. The first listed is to take one room action (the yellow square). This could be the Cave Entrance or any other room you’ve built. The second action on the tile raises your Flax by two. The third action raises your Emmer by one.
Excavation provides a choice. First, excavate one OR two squares from your cave. In order to excavate two, you must pay two food to do so. Also raise your Stone resource by one.
Use Housework to build rooms in your cave. First, pay food equal to the action count in the round. Then, pay the cost in resources on the room you want to build. Finally, you may build an additional room by paying five Food OR one Gold, and then paying that room’s cost as well. There are also restrictions on where rooms can be placed: each room has a wall requirement.
Undergrowth allows you to take a room action and also gain two wood.
In addition to the action tiles, you may always exchange goods according to the legend on top of your player board. At any time you may exchange one Flax, Emmer, or Gold for one food.
Finally, some buildings have a blue header instead of the normal yellow one. These buildings have passive abilities that are always in effect.
The general rule with action tiles is that actions depicted on a tile separated by slashes are choices (one or the other) and any other icons are additional. You may take all or some of the actions on your tiles.
Cave vs Cave ends after each player takes four actions in round eight. Players total the victory points on their rooms (the number in the shield) and add their gold. Whoever has the most points wins!
Cave vs Cave includes a solo mode, which is essentially a points threshold mode with some small variants. It’s nothing to write home about, but it’s worth acknowledging the work Lookout Spiele did in providing this variant in the box.
I really enjoy Cave vs Cave. Anitra much prefers another two-player offering from Lookout Spiele: Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small. She likes the “set it and forget it” aspect of coupling animals together and allowing them to multiply. Cave vs Cave is much more hands on and requires near constant tinkering. Because the game is relatively short at just eight rounds, it’s difficult to build an engine that will make you feel like you have plenty of resources at your disposal.
The constant push and pull to acquire the right resources and rooms to ratchet up your victory point and gold total is a fascinating puzzle for me. If you enjoy the careful balance of tight resource management games you will enjoy Cave vs Cave. The game is well-balanced; it was possible but unlikely for players to have enough resources at their disposal that room selection came down to “luck of the draw”. But you must make every move with a purpose.
The artwork in Cave vs Cave is fine, but I’ve heard many people who don’t care for Klemens Franz’s art style. I can understand this, but either way the iconography and layout is excellent and makes the game very easy to understand with little-to-no questions about what the tiles mean.
If you’re looking for a nice two-player game with easy to understand mechanics but varied gameplay from game-to-game, consider Cave vs Cave. It’s easy enough for my eight year old to understand but fun enough to play with adults.
The Family Gamers received a promotional copy of Caverna: Cave vs Cave for this review.
Caverna: Cave vs. Cave
Playtime: 20-40 minutes
Number of players: 2
Age Range: 12+ (we say 10+)