Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 8 August 2017

The little game about Dwarves:- Caverna: Cave vs Cave

GameCaverna: Cave vs. Cave

Publisher: Mayfair Games

DesignerUwe Rosenberg

Caverna: Cave vs Cave is a 2-player only worker placement game that pits two rival dwarf families against each other, trying to make the most prosperous new cave home. You’ll need to carefully manage actions and resources to ensure you can mine out the mountain, build rooms in the cleared areas, and, of course, make lots and lots of gold!

Caverna (the original) was a game we only got recently, it’s a game where you have to grow crops, raise animals, expand your cave and do all of this while avoiding starvation. I can’t deny that I was a little disappointed upon opening Cave vs Cave and finding that the only one of these features that survived the transition was the cave expanding part. To me Caverna was all about finding places to put those extra donkeys that you just bred, so the lack of animals was a particularly big blow. I also miss the cuddle room. Caverna: Cave vs Cave is a heavily cut down interpretation of the original... but that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad game, the narrowed focus has allowed them to refine the cave building aspect of the game and add a lot of dynamics that there simply wasn’t space for in the original. 

The game set up ready to play, there are a selection of starting rooms on the right side of the main board.

Probably the most streamlined part of the game is the components, Cave vs Cave comes in an admirably small box for its contents, with fold out boards resulting in a game that actually commands a fair amount of table space. Gone are the mountains of tokens for each resource, replaced with a multi-purpose track. All this results in a game that is fast to set up, a very welcome change from its lumbering big brother! The next biggest change is the inclusion of rubble tiles, these are areas that you need to clear out of your cave as the game progresses before you can build rooms, but with the twist that the rooms you can build are on the reverse of these tiles. Even once you know that game well, you can’t rely on a consistent strategy. Sometimes the room that took you to victory last game might be one of the last that gets excavated!

Gameplay is simple and relatively fast, each round you take turns choosing an action tile to take, you then perform the printed action before your opponent takes their tile and so on. This does a good job of simulating worker placement rules, while not actually including any worker meeple. The board tells you how many workers you have each round, and therefore how many actions you can take before the round ends. There are also several actions that become more expensive in food as the game progresses to represent having to feed your growing population.

Cave vs Cave includes large wooden and card tokens, but also includes a smaller set of card tokens that for spares, or simply because they fit a little better.
Most of the actions are self explanatory, with digging out caves, building rooms and gaining resources, but I feel a lot of the strategy comes in the tiles that give you action points. The rooms that you build come in 2 flavours: blue rooms which activate whenever their condition is met, and orange rooms that have to be activated with action points. Creating a good synergy in your rooms can result in a very productive cave, and makes the tiles that give 2 or 3 action points extremely valuable. It’s worth noting that to even build a room you have to have the right combinations of walls around it, a vault has to be protected from all sides for example. There are only two tiles that allows you to build walls and one of them is the last to appear, and this is only an example of the competition that there can be over getting the tiles you want.

When all is said and done Caverna: Cave vs Cave is a quick to set up, quick to play, relatively light worker placement(ish) game, making it almost the complete opposite of it’s bigger brother. If you come into the game expecting Caverna you will be disappointed as they are only really related by theme. But that doesn’t mean Cave vs Cave isn’t a solid game, in fact it’s a very good two player experience with just the right amount of player interaction to have an impact, but not cause arguments.  


Caverna: Cave vs. Cave was a review copy provided by Esdevium Games Ltd. It is available for an RRP of £27.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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