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Caveman is a survival game where your objective is to become the dominant tribe on Volcano Island. It's a harsh world, where marauding dinosaurs cause chaos, other tribes attack you, and you struggle to keep your cave kids survive into adulthood.
Players start from the corner spaces of a hexagonal island, and slowly spread out over the island, looking for resources to help them survive and prosper. The winner is the first player to expand their population from two to eight people, or the first player to have collected all the available resource types, or the player who has made the most progress when the action card deck expires.
Players: 2 - 6
Ages: 6 and up
Weight: 1,500 grams
Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item.
Average Rating: 4 in 1 review
Caveman (FRED Distribution, 2007 - Magdalene Vrijland, Terry Shaw, Matthew Hall, and Simon Hall is going to be attractive to teenage boys for two reasons. First, the cover shows a rampaging T-Rex, exploding volcano, and fighting villagers, it really crackles with excitement. Secondly, the game comes with plastic dinosaurs that will be used to attack and destroy other player's villagers during the course of a game. Caveman is a game in which players are attempting to become the dominant tribe on Volcano Island, by attacking and fending off other tribes, learning new technologies, and reproducing to grow the tribe. Sounds fairly exciting, right?
Well, the short answer is that it is - Caveman is a fun, rollicking game in which players rush around with their tribesmen and fight each other and dinosaurs, while having a great time! Caveman is no masterpiece, including a horribly formatted rulebook, copious amounts of luck, and a good deal of chaos. But none of that seems to matter when playing, as the game is extremely thematic and just plain fun! It will appeal to younger folks because of its simplicity and quick combat, but there are enough strategic decisions to keep it interesting. When looked at clinically, there is no reason that I should enjoy Caveman; but despite that, I just find the game to be a lot of fun!
A board depicting the island is placed on the table, made up of a grid of circle spaces (arranged in a hexagonal pattern). A deck of cards is shuffled and placed in the middle, and three dinosaurs (T-Rex, Stegosaurus, and Triceratops) are placed on starting spaces next to it. A pile of resource tiles are shuffled, and fifteen of them are placed face up on gray resource circles. Each player takes four cavemen, four cavewomen, and four cave kid pieces; as well as a marker for the five developments (fire, fur, camp, spear, and wheel) in their color. One player goes first, and then play passes clockwise around the table.
On a player's turn, they draw the top card of the deck and utilize it for their actions. The top number on the card is the movement allowance the player has for their people. They may move their cave people around from space to space, spending one movement per space. Cave kids can move for free but must stay with an adult at all times, and there is a maximum of three adults and one kid in each space. New cavemen and cavewomen can enter the board from each player's beach, their starting spot (which costs one movement), but a player must have less than four pieces on the island to do this.
Each card has a red half. If this half shows a dinosaur picture and a number, the player may move that particular dinosaur that many spaces in any direction they choose; although dinosaurs cannot enter beach spaces or spaces containing other dinosaurs. Otherwise, the player must follow the special instructions listed on the card, which can range from changing a resource tile on the board, stealing a cave man from another player, etc. If a dinosaur or two cave people occupy the same space, they must fight. Dinosaurs roll red dice (number determined by the type of dinosaur), which have hits on three of their sides. Each tribesperson rolls one green die, which has a hit on two sides, and a spear on a third. The player who rolls more hits wins. A defeated dinosaur is placed back on one of the dinosaur start circles, while tribesmen are removed to make up the difference of hits.
After this, a player can claim one of the five developments, if they have two adults on two different resource locations:
- Spear: Flint + flint: This gives the player an extra hit when rolling a spear in combat.
- Wheel: Wood + wood: This gives the player one extra movement point each turn.
- Cave: Caves + wood: This keeps a player's characters safe when on a cave space.
- Furs: Animals + animals: This gives cave kids a better chance of survival.
- Fire: Flint + wood: This gives cave kids a better chance of survival. Players can only claim one development per turn and place their development token on the board to show that they now have this technology.
Finally, a player can attempt to grow any cave kids they have into adults. For each cave kid, a yellow die is rolled. If the player rolls an adult (two faces), the cave kid is removed and replaced with an adult. If the player rolls a skull (two faces), the cave kid is killed. The other two faces show fire and furs, which are either death or growth, depending on whether or not the player has the associated development. Then, players can add new cave kids to the board. For each kid added, the player must have a couple (caveman + cavewoman) on one space, and a caveman on an animal space or a cavewoman on a fruit space. None of these people can have been used for developments on the same turn.
The game continues until one of three things happens:
- A player has all eight of their adult pieces on the board. THEY WIN!
- A player has all five development tiles on the board. THEY WIN!
- The card pile runs out. The person with the most adults + development tiles wins!
Some comments on the game...
- Components: The box is one of the most exciting I've seen on a
game, which drew me to it in the first place, as a rampaging T-rex is
bearing down on a lone caveman bravely holding a spear. The board
itself looks fantastic, showing a three dimensional view of an island.
While it looks a little "busy", I did enjoy that it used circles
instead of the sometimes-too-obvious hexagons in the grid. The tokens
are of decent quality (although they should be double sided), but the
dice are top notch (even if the dinosaur dice look like tribal shields
instead). Everything fits easily inside the box - especially the
plastic dinosaurs, which are the showpieces of the game. Only three
are needed to play; but five more are included, which I gave to my
kids as pencil toppers (since that's what they are).
- Rules: The rules for Caveman are straightforward and fairly
simple to explain. Unfortunately, the rulebook is a sluggish mess, as
the rules are all over the place; and some of them aren't even there,
being printed on the reference cards instead. Fortunately, the
reference cards are useful enough that you won't need to refer to the
rulebook once players know what they are doing; but bright colors and
large font does not equal good formatting, and there is a dizzying
array of confusion that comes from the rulebook. That being said,
even young children can understand the game; and while they may not
catch the subtleties of game play, they'll understand the attacking
dinosaurs and humans just as well as adults. In fact, a very young
player could simply be put in charge of the dinosaurs, and go munch on
- Cards: The game revolves around the cards that players draw.
These are completely random, as I might draw one that allows me eight
movement on my turn; while my opponent might be stuck with a four
movement card, when they play. This randomness should even out during
the game, but it's certainly evident and affects the game enough that
players seeking a high strategy session are going to be annoyed. I do
enjoy how the single card affects the player's complete turn; and
there's still plenty of choices to be made , even if a player gets a
worse card than others.
- Resources: The game plays differently each time, because of the
allocation of the resource tiles around the board. Their resource
tiles are important to gain developments and/or more cavemen kids -
both of which are ways to win the game, so players will eventually be
locked into heated battle over them. Dinosaurs will chase cavemen
off; and while most cavemen with half a brain will run from a
dinosaur, the allure of the needed resources will cause them to throw
away their fears and stand their ground. Several of the cards allow
players to switch out resource tokens, so the dynamics also change in
the course of a game.
- Choices: Depending on what starting resources a player can
control will determine which victory condition they go for. Getting
the technologies is not as hair-raising as bringing new kids into the
world, but it likely will require traveling to a dangerous spot on the
map, braving a dinosaur or fighting angry cave people of the opposing
player. Kids are easier to produce, but they tend to die on a whim;
and if your population starts nearing eight, expect all the other
players to attack you, especially with the powerful dinosaurs.
- Multi-player and Time: While Caveman can be played with only two
players, I think it's at its best with four; because the competition
for resources is much fiercer. If you have more than four, and the
game devolves into too much chaos between turns, players will only win
after the game continues for what seems entirely too long. Games have
a fixed length - thanks to the deck size, and they usually last for
about forty-five minutes, which is perfect for this style of game play.
- Fun Factor: Caveman isn't going to win any awards for its game
play - there are too many technical problems; the dice and cards add a
huge element of luck to the game, a player can have a horrible
starting position, or everyone can gang up on the leader. Despite
that, I have a blast playing the game. Part of that is from the theme
- it works well, and the nice pieces certainly help. Caveman also
reminds me of Star Wars: Epic Duels, appealing to those who want some
light combat in their game - a guilty pleasure, if you will. It
would be hard for me to stand up and declare that I won Caveman
because of my awesome strategy or negotiation skills, but at the end
of the game, I don't care.
For me, Caveman is going to have its largest audience amongst teenagers. It's the type of game that I would have played time and time again when I was growing up, and even now I am glad to get the chance to just sit back and roll the dice. It's an attractive looking game, which will draw folks in; and there are multiple ways to win, offering a lot more strategy than you might expect - making this basically a gateway game for teenagers. It is certainly popular with the youth I've played with, and I expect to keep it on my shelf for them. But mind you, I have no problem jumping in alongside with them - Caveman just seems to exude fun.
"Real men play board games"