Wednesday, August 28, 2013

We didn't Start the Fire- Cavemen: The Quest For Fire

I've had several opportunities now to play Cavemen:The Quest for Fire, a card game published by Rio Grande Games. This game was interesting enough that I purchased a copy for myself. This is a very interesting game with a lot going for it. There is always something a player can do in this game, though at time, nothing a player can do to win. Each player begins with a tribe containing a leader and a hunter. Then a random player is chosen to begin by pulling a card and seeing how many DOTS (pebbles) it contains. Every card in the game has a number of these pebbles for randomization, etc. That player becomes the bearer of the CONCH shell, which demonstrates that he is a GREAT leader, I guess. The holder of the conch shell will get to take the first action in a round as well as a bonus action after all other players have taken their actions. A number of cards are displayed face up. There are cavemen cards that a player may pay the cost and recruit into his tribe. There are invention cards and players must have a certain level of cards with the light bulb icon points (some of the thinker cavemen have level 1 or level 2 thinking capability- expressed by a number adjacent to the light bulb icon) on them within his tribe in order to claim an invention. For example, to make fire and win the game a player must have a minimum of 7 light bulb points in his tribe in order to complete and win the game. (He also must control the conch in order to make fire and win the game).Players may pay the cost to "discover" a new cave, thereby creating room in their tribe for additional tribesmen. Perhaps the most important aspect, though, is that players may also choose to HUNT a dinosaur card. Players must have an adequate level of hunting skill in their tribe in order to hunt the dinosaur. If he does, he can claim the reward, payable in meat and teeth (the coinage inthe game). After hunting, the player must flip the top card of his deck and if he has any member of his tribe that matches the number of pebbles on that card then the player must lose a tribesman (his choice which) card. Hunting can be brutal, but players can reduce their chances of losing a tribesman by selecting tribesmen cards that all have the same number of dots, but that will slow down the game considerably for a player and probably not a recommended course of action. Players can safely forage, which means that they total up the foraging icons (represented by an apple) and get that amount of meat with no danger to themselves. The invention cards are well-thought out and allow the player to break normal rules. For example, the coolest card in the game is the bow and arrow which allows a player to hunt without risk of losing a tribesman card. Other inventions provide bonus teeth or meat, or simply increase skills such as hunting or thinking. The key to the game is really controlling the conch shell and knowing when you should bid for it. Unfortunately, the conch shell bidding is ALL done using teeth, which are more difficult to get than meat. Another problem is that he who controls the conch must feed his people better than non-conch holders. Normal cost for feeding your tribe is one piece of meat. The conch holder must pay one piece of meat for each tribesman. Therefore, early in the game, players must begin recruiting hunters, killing the biggest dinosaurs and collecting teeth, because teeth are needed to bid for the conch shell, and to create fire, players need the conch shell, the requisite amount of thinking power, and the FIRE invention card, which may not be displayed when the player is ready to create it. The fact that other players can view your tribe means that they know when you are able to win the game. This can create a sour moment as all players can realize that player A has the elements needed to win, AND more teeth than other players so the winner is usually determined by all players conceding that he\she is unstoppable. I managed (in my fifth or sixth game) to gain a SNEAKY win, but it was more because players were not paying attention to what cards were available during the bidding phase. This will likely be rare. The game is a short one. Most games seem to last thirty-forty minutes, and it is easily learned. At the last gathering we lamented the fact that this is a simple building game and there was nothing players could do to really affect the other players other than taking a card that they might want. We're hoping that an expansion will include some sort of raid card. Either way, this is an interesting card game with a lot of things going on. I'd give it a score of 7 on a scale of 1-10.

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