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 Cave, a game for two players, age 12+. It takes approximately 40 minutes to play and retails for $28.
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!
El Dorado is the famed city of gold. For centuries, people have been searching for this city, hoping to strike it rich! Peer Sylvester took this idea, combined it with some history, and made the game The Lost Expedition. The Lost Expedition is a game for 1 to 5 players, age 14+. It takes between 30-50 minutes to play and retails for $30.
Overall, I have mixed feelings about this game. For starters, I would like to talk about the components. The artwork on the cards is beautiful and makes it feel like a graphic adventure. The cards of also very high quality and large, to display all the beautiful art. The game box is in book format, which I could take or leave, but it seems fitting for Osprey since they are known for their historical books. As for the tokens, they are cardboard and a bit too tiny for my liking. They seem to be good quality cardboard though, so overall I would give the components a very good rating.
I have only played this game solo and with two players, so this is all I can comment on. The game play was very fun, and it felt like you were trying to solve a new puzzle each play through. There were plenty of difficult decisions to make with each game, and it was a struggle trying to balance food, health, and ammunition, mixed with difficult decisions of who was going to ultimately die for the greater good of the success of the party. Whereas this game was fun with one and two players, I can’t imagine playing this with more players. It seems like instead of a civil discussion of the best course of action, it would instead turn into chaos trying to make a decision.
What I love best about this game is the historical nature of it. Peer Sylvester explains on the first page of the rulebook that this game was based on Percy Fawcett’s final attempt to find the lost city of El Dorado. He took his son and son’s friend with him (which is why you have a part of three in this game) and they were never seen again. I would have personally loved it if they used those three characters as the characters in the game, instead of people like Teddy Roosevelt, but there might have been legal issues with doing so, or it could have been too raw to have children dying in a game. At least all the characters are historical in nature, and you have the option to research them outside of the game and learn more about them.
In summary, the game is a fun little puzzle that I find best with one or two players. In ways, it reminds me a bit of The Grizzled, as it is a cooperative game where you can’t share information about the cards in your hand. The biggest difference between the two (apart from theme) would be that you have the capability to play this one competitively as well. If you are looking for a survival game with adventure, perils, and strategy, check out The Lost Expedition!
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Copyright 2017 Stuart Dunn
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