- Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
- Publisher: Mayfair; Lookout
- Artists: Klemens Franz
- Players: 1 – 2
- Ages: 12 and Up
- Time: 20 Minutes (Solo) or 40 Minutes (2-Player)
- Times Played: > 5 (Both Solo and 2-Player)
Uwe Rosenberg loves making 2-player versions of his most popular titles, and historically he’s done an excellent job of distilling the core mechanics. Agricola was followed up by Agricola All Creatures Big and Small, which won the 2-player International Gamers Award in 2012. Le Havre was followed up by Le Havre: The Inland Port, which then won the 2-player International Gamers Award in 2013. Naturally, a lot of us have been asking when we’d get a 2-player version of Caverna.
Caverna Cave vs Cave is Rosenberg’s latest creation. It has hit store shelves in recent weeks, and it is getting a big debut at Gen Con. A few of us here at OG have had the chance to play it, so we wanted to review Rosenberg’s latest 2-player title, which also can be played solo.
In short, if you like Rosenberg’s games, I bet you’ll like this.
In Cave vs Cave, you are furnishing cavern after cavern, building the resources you need along the way to do it. The 2-player game will last eight rounds (and the solo game will last seven). The main mechanic is worker placement, although there aren’t workers. You get two workers in the first three rounds; three workers in the fourth through seventh rounds; and four workers in the eighth and final round.
Each player gets a player board, with one of each resource: wood, stone, emmer, flax, food, and gold. You’ll move these resources up and down the tracking scale as you earn them. The gold token can be flipped over to denote 10+.
Your starting board is covered with rooms needing to be excavated: the bulk of your score in the game will come from excavating these rooms and then replacing them with rooms/furnishings. You’ll need the game’s resources to do this. Only gold is worth victory points at the end of the game, so you’ll also be converting resources to gold as game end approaches.
Between the players is the action board. The first four spaces are always the same:
The first tile allows you to use an orange room in your cave and take wood. The second allows you to use an orange room and take emmer and flax. The third allows you to excavate a room — or two rooms for two food — and take a stone. The fourth allows you to pay food to place new rooms.
There are eight additional tiles that will be unveiled, one at the start of each round. The order they come out will vary from game to game. (I photographed the solo side, so only seven are shown below.)
As you can see, these are variations on the first four rooms: they allow you to build furnishings, use orange rooms (with higher numbers indicating that you can use more rooms), excavate, build walls (more on that below), raze walls, etc.
As rooms are excavated, they are flipped up into the face-up display of rooms available to purchase. There are a few there at the start of the game, but more will be added as people excavate their caverns, revealing additional rooms. Most of your points come from these rooms, so grabbing the right ones is part of the strategy.
Most of these rooms allow you to take or convert resources. For example, the “Shelf” lets you bump your supply of one of the pictured resources up to 2. The “Grindstone” lets you convert wheat to food.
These tiles have three other important features: the victory points for placing them (shown in the top right), the cost to build them (shown in the band under the tile name), and the wall configuration that must surround them.
Part of the game’s planning comes from organizing your Cave board to fit the rooms. Dark walls are mandatory; light walls are optional; if there is no wall on the tile, there can’t be a wall there. You’ll need to excavate, build, and possibly even raze to make a cavern that can accommodate the rooms you want. There are little “wall” pieces that can be added to your board with certain actions. There’s also an “additional cavern” for the first player to completely fill their Cave board with face-up rooms, but I haven’t seen that happen yet in my plays.
The game ends after the eighth round (or the seventh round in the solo game). At that point, the victory points on your tiles plus your gold equals your victory points. The player with the higher total wins.
In the solo variant, you aim for at least 50 victory points.
My thoughts on the game…
This might be Uwe Rosenberg’s best 2-player game. It takes the flavor of Caverna and distills it into a quick 2-player game, emphasizing many of Uwe’s favorite mechanisms like resource conversion, spatial restrictions, and worker placement. If you like his games, I bet you’ll like Cave vs Cave.
Cave vs Cave is all about the resource conversion and room planning. Early in the game, it is better to get tiles in that allow you to get and spend resources efficiently. Later in the game, it is all about grabbing gold and buying high-value tiles.
It has that tense will-I-or-won’t-I feel of worker placement. Unlike Agricola, the game isn’t cutthroat, as there are generally multiple tiles to accomplish your objective. As with any worker placement game, though, you’ll need to be flexible, even if I haven’t felt overly restricted in the 2-player game.
Cave vs Cave is decently easy to learn. Most of the action tiles are intuitive, especially for fans of Caverna. The most challenging thing to get used to is the rules of tile placement, but even it is intuitive. The game is taking us 30-40 minutes per game, but we play games fast, so don’t be surprised if you go over 40 minutes.
I like the solo variant, and I’ve played it a couple of times. My highest score is 45 points, so I’m not especially good at the game solo, but it is a fun little puzzle, and it really can be played in about 20 minutes. Since the setup and takedown of Cave vs Cave is so short, I could see this being one of my go-to solo games.
The designer/publisher could have added a bit more variety of room tiles to the box, but my bet is that’s coming: I could see expansions similar to those for All Creatures Big and Small.
Overall, I’m impressed. Cave vs Cave feels like a streamlined, quick-playing version of Caverna. As I said above, if you like Uwe’s games, I bet you’ll enjoy his latest 2-player title.
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
Larry (1 play): I like most of Rosenberg’s 2-player adaptions of his multiplayer games, but this one may be my favorite. There’s a good deal to think about and there seems to be plenty of paths for earning VPs. Selecting action tiles is more like Caverna than Agricola, as there are multiple ways of accomplishing the things you need to do, but there are still opportunities for blocking your opponent (or at least making them less efficient). There’s nice variety in the rooms available to be built and they come out slowly and randomly, which should allow for great replayability. I definitely want to play this some more and if my initial positive impressions continue, I can see my rating rising from “I like it” to “I love it”.
Fraser (1 play): Like Larry, even after just one play I suspect this will be my favourite of Uwe’s 2-player versions. It feels closer to its base parent game.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Chris Wray
- I like it. W. Eric Martin, Larry, Fraser
- Not for me…