Ender Wiggins
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Introducing Caveman Curling

Caveman Curling. You have to admit, the title of this game already grabs your interest. It did mine anyway. Curling - isn't that the game where they throw rocks on ice, and run ahead sweeping like crazy with brooms? Yep, that's it. And that's what this game is all about, just with a `caveman' theme. And here's the good bit: Just like Crokinole, this is a dexterity game. Think Crokinole style flicking, but with a curling type rink for all the action to happen, and add in some great artwork and a few twists. Two clans of cavemen will compete on an icy lake in a sport that's the ancestor to modern curling, but the concept is the effectively the same as the modern sport: flick your stones across the ice, trying to get closest to the target while knocking your opponent's stones out of the way! Instead of brooms, use a caveman style hammer to manipulate your stone and get closer to the best spot!

Caveman Curling actually originated under the name "Kairn", a design that was self-published by Frenchman Daniel Quodbach back in 2010, and enjoyed a small print run of only 200 copies. It was then picked up by several other publishers, appearing at Essen in 2011, and a new edition is set to come out with the help of a Kickstarter campaign that's currently running to gauge whether there is sufficient demand for it. So it's already an established product, and a bigger print run is going to see the light of the day in this new version if there's enough interest in it.

But first let me explain how this review came about, because some of you may be wondering how on earth it's possible for me to be reviewing an edition of a game that's currently still on Kickstarter and hasn't even been published yet. Well the publisher contacted me asking if they sent me an advance production sample would I be interested to help them out by doing a review of the game in order to help raise some public awareness that it's out there? Generally speaking I'm only willing to commit the time and effort to do a review if I'm convinced a game is worthwhile, so I did some initial research into the game, and quickly came to the conclusion that this would very likely be the kind of thing I could be enthusiastic about. Dexterity? Crokinole style flicking? Great artwork? Humorous theme? By all means, send me a copy and as long as it lives up to my expectations, I'll review it!

I'm pleased to say that Caveman Curling didn't disappoint - if anything it turned out to be even better than I expected. So let's show you more about this game, so you can decide if this is the kind of game for you, and if you want to jump on board the Kickstarter for it while you can.


COMPONENTS

Game box

The game-box is a somewhat unusual shape from your average board game - it's long and rectangular. The lettering is embossed, giving it a `chiseled-from-stone' appearance, which is more than appropriate given the caveman theme!


Game box

The back of the box explains how to play the game:


Box back

The somewhat unusual shape of the box has primarily been determined by the need to find some way to include the large gameboard, which is nearly a meter long. It rolls up and fits snugly into a separate compartment inside the box, and considering the size of the board, this is a very neat and handy solution to what otherwise could be a large problem. It also means that the game is quite portable despite having a larger than normal table footprint - and portability is a real plus, especially when in comparison it's no easy feat to cart around your crokinole board!

Component list

So what do you all get with the game?
● 32 x 90cm game board
● 12 rocks (in two player colours)
● 8 hammer tokens
● 4 totem tokens
● rules


Everything inside the box

Gameboard

The gameboard is a long 32 x 90cm board that looks like a curling rink. Kind of. On the left hand side is the bank or starting line where players will shoot their rocks from. On the right hand side is a "cave" with a fireplace in the center - this is the target area that players will be aiming for, by flicking their rocks (disks) along the icy watercourse.


Complete game board with slammers

The board comes rolled up in a tube shape, and once unrolled it lies flat with the help of two heavy "slammers" at either end. These are magnetic, and clip on both ends, working well to keep the board flat. The board is made of a special material that remains quite flat despite being stored rolled up - it's quite remarkable how this material behaves actually. Stretched out on the table, it won't be 100% perfectly flat, but it's fairly close. The material is also smooth and yet has an extra degree of traction that is just perfect for helping players judge the length of their shots.


The two slammers

I'd be remiss if I didn't give you a close-up picture so that you can admire some of the artwork on the board. It really is outstanding!


Sample artwork from the game board

12 Rocks

Each player (or team) gets six `rocks' in their colour, either red or yellow/brown. These are made of a very solid and painted wood, and are much thicker than the average crokinole disks, and also thicker than the original Kairn edition. The rocks are plain in colour, but the game comes with stickers which need to be affixed to the top of them, fitting almost exactly, and really helping add to the theme and overall appearance. The rocks themselves don't have concave or convex sides like some Crokinole disks do - cavemen weren't exactly noted for attention to that kind of detail! But you don't really need it either, because the traction on the board is deliberately quite significant, so it's easier to control the distance that the disks slide simply by varying the force that you flick them with.


Six stickered rocks for each player

Hammers

I guess cavemen hadn't come up with the concept of brooms yet, but they did have hammers! The game incorporates the element of being able to manipulate the path of your rocks by introducing hammers, which you can use after your flick to adjust the final resting position of your rocks. Each player gets four in their colour, two large and two small, and they can only be used once each per round. These are also made of brightly painted wood, and affixing the included stickers helps add to their aesthetic appeal.


Hammers in two different sizes for each player

Totem tokens

One interesting twist to the game is that players can place totem tokens on rocks that they have flicked, in order to `protect' them. We'll explain exactly how that works later, but here's what they look like. They're much thinner than the rocks themselves, but the same diameter, and as with the hammers the brightly coloured and thematic artwork helps add to the visual appeal.


Two totems for each player

Rules

The rules consist of a single sided coloured sheet of paper, and include a number of illustrations and even a couple of variations. If you're in any way familiar with games like bocce or curling, you'll practically know how the game works anyway. You can download the rules on BGG here.


Instructions

GAME-PLAY

Set-up

Each player gets the 6 rocks and 6 special items in their colour.


All the red player's pieces

With the game board in the middle of the table, you're ready to roll... or rock!


Complete game set-up

Flow of Play

In turns, players take turns doing the following two actions:

1. Throw a rock

Place a rock behind the bank line, and flick it as close as you can to the center of the cave target. Rocks that overshoot and hit the bar (slammer) at the end are removed from play, as are rocks that don't cross the halfway line or that turn upside down.


Lining up a shot

2. Use a special object

Immediately after flicking your rock, you can use one (and only one) of your special objects to affect it. Once used, the special object is discarded and can't be used again that round.

a) Using a hammer

This works like the broom in curling. You place a hammer on the board touching your rock where it ended up, and move the rock one hammer's length.


Getting in closer with the help of a hammer

b) Using a totem

This can enable you to use a rock a second time. You place a totem on a rock, and if that rock is later struck so that the totem falls off, you can decide to take that rock back and play it again at the end of the round.


Protecting a token with the help of a totem

Scoring

After all the rocks have been played, the player whose rocks are closest to the middle of the cave scores one point for each of his rocks that is closer to the middle than his opponent's closest rock. This system of scoring will be familiar to people who have played curling or bocce. Only rocks completely inside the cave line count. The player who scored points starts the next round, and the first player to get 6 total points is the winner.


Yellow scores 1 point

Variants

The rules include a brief description of two variants, neither of which really alters the game as such.

Clan's war: This is how you play with 4 or 6 players. Players make two teams, and players on a team share an equal number of rocks (3 each in a 4 player game, 2 each in a 6 player game). To make the game even harder, it's also possible to share out the special items before the game.

Mississipi variant: This simply adjusts the flicking order. With this variant, the turn order is like in bocce, i.e. you must keep throwing rocks until you get one better than your opponent's closest one. We find that this reduces the advantage of being the starting player, because you can find yourself playing multiple rocks in a row, and sometimes it will mean that you can get several rocks in for points after your opponent is `rocked out', leading to games where the score fluctuates more quickly. It also means that when a totem is knocked off, it's not always an obvious decision to take it back for a rethrow, because sometimes it's worth keeping it on the board if you're on a good position which will mean that your opponent has to take the next turn instead of you. So this is a really good variant that adds additional elements of decision making with respect to the totems, and strategy with respect to the placement of your rocks. There's more discussion on this variant here.

Kickstarter rewards: For obvious reasons I didn't get any of the Kickstarter bonuses with my advance production sample, but as far as I can tell Kickstarter backers are eligible to get an exclusive black sheep rock in each player colour which counts for double points, as a well as a complete third set of wooden components in black.


Ready to shoot: the view down the ice

CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

A number of great features about this game deserve to be highlighted:

What are Caveman Curling's components like? First of all, the artwork on the board is absolutely fantastic. The colours are bright and cheerful, but more importantly the level of detail really assures you that you're dealing with a quality product. From the perspective of functionality, the board could have been portrayed as a plain and boring ice rink, but the designer has conscripted the services of artist Bony le Ludonaute to come up with a board that looks absolutely terrific. What's more, there's all kinds of humorous details to be discovered - if you look carefully, you'll find all kinds of interesting cavemen engaged in a variety of activities alongside the rink! Even Santa makes an appearance, along with Waldo, Obelix, the Flintstones, and I suspect there's a number of other inside jokes to be found as well. There's certainly lots to look at and entertain you if ever there's any down time during the game! The brightly coloured wood and stickers on the rocks, hammers, and totems is consistent with this beautiful artwork on the board, and so the overall effect of the game on the table is an aesthetic success.

Secondly, the board has been constructed of a material that works really well for the purpose of a dexterity game. I admit that initially I was rather skeptical about using a fold out board, rather than just a table or some other shiny or slippery surface. But once I started playing, I was quickly won over by the board. It has significantly more traction than your average crokinole board, and the extra friction means it is much easier to control how far the disk travels when flicking it - and distance and finesse is very important in this game. This means that it's easier to control how far your rocks go, and that's just what you want in curling. It seems to provide surprisingly consistent results, so those who enjoy the challenge of accuracy in their dexterity games will appreciate this. And the weights on the ends and the unique material (I read somewhere that it's made out of Tyvek) means that it stays flat on the table despite being stored rolled up. At first I was somewhat surprised not to find some form of measuring device included to assist in judging close shots, but unlike similar games (e.g. Flicochet) you rarely need to do any measuring of any kind, because the symmetrical artwork makes it relatively easy to tell who is closest.

Thirdly, as has already been mentioned, the board folds up very comfortably and neatly, making it well protected and yet eminently portable - a real plus for a dexterity game of this type, despite taking up considerable space on the table.

How does Caveman Curling compare with other games in this category? In some respects Caveman Curling reminds me of Sorry! Sliders, which has sometimes been described as a poor man's Crokinole. Caveman Curling rises well above Sorry Sliders, not only by adding a plausible theme and by sharing a kinship with the sport of curling, but also on the level of components and gameplay. It is arguably even more similar to Flicochet, a simple dexterity game best described as table bocce, which reduces finger flicking to the bare basics. But while Flicochet is inexpensive, it also lacks impressive components and thus is a harder sell, and Caveman Curling has the further advantage of a playing surface which is optimal for the purpose. Comparisons can also be made to Elk Fest and Crokinole, but while they share a finger-flicking mechanic, each feels unique in its own way.

How does Caveman Curling compare with Crokinole? This is going to be the inevitable question that many gamers will ask. Well as every gamer's wife should know, it's quite rare for a gamer to ask "should I get A or B?", because usually a gamer will make a case for "this is why I should get A and B!" - and that's true here as well. The two games are both finger-flicking games, and if you enjoy that mechanic in Crokinole, you're almost certain to like it here as well. But while Crokinole is more a game of accurate aiming, in Caveman Curling it's more important to judge your distance - and that's where the playing surface really helps by giving enough traction that you can have more control over how far your shot goes. You can try to let fly with a power shot to send you opponents piece flying, but because the radius of these stones is slightly smaller than Crokinole pieces, and the distance to impact is greater, there's more chance you'll get an unfortunate angle which sends your own piece off as well, or misses altogether - although from time to time you will pull it off if you're good enough. So what is a standard play in Crokinole is a more risky play in Caveman Curling, and you have to rely more on finesse and placement. The game board really suits the purpose well and is surprisingly accurate, containing just the right amount of friction to prevent the rocks from overshooting too easily, and to enable players to judge distances more easily, and these judgments are more critical here than in Crokinole.

Caveman Curling also has possibilities for manipulating your pieces with the hammers, and for getting an extra stone with the help of the totems. This adds elements of additional decision making that just aren't present in Crokinole, and while they won't rescue your inability to master the basics of dexterity, they can make a difference. These do mean that Caveman Curling has a slightly more casual feel, and wouldn't be considered quite as pure of a dexterity game as Crokinole. The light-hearted theme and colourful artwork also enhance this feel. There's no random or luck elements, and while a sharp shooter will usually come out on top, the playing field does feel slightly more level than it does in Crokinole. Unlike in Crokinole, being able to adjust your rocks (with the help of hammers) after shooting them makes the game more forgiving without detracting from the need for skillful play. This all means that Caveman Curling is going to work reasonably well even when matching up experts with newbies. In the final analysis Crokinole and Caveman Curling are both games that are still pure skill, but Caveman Curling does feel a little more relaxed somehow, and I don't know that I'd spend 3 hours straight playing it, while I might do that with Crokinole. On the other hand Caveman Curling has the very real advantage of being portable, which is a real plus, because you can easily take it to a party or social gathering, and get in a challenging and quality finger-flicking game.

What about the Caveman Curling special items? I like them. I needed a few games to get used to the notion of using special items to adjust the rocks, but over time I've come to appreciate the value of this part of the game. So while I was initially inclined to think the game would be more pure and better without the hammers and totems, I've eventually come to see their usefulness and appreciate the nuances of decision making they add to the game. This is especially true of the totems, because being able to replay a rock is very powerful. On the other hand the totems are less important when using bocce style turn order (i.e. the Mississipi variant listed in the rules), because position on the board becomes even more key, meaning that when playing with this variant the decisions about removing totems aren't as obvious, and scoring tends to be higher as well.

Who will like Caveman Curling? Caveman Curling is the kind of game that will have a broad appeal, and can be enjoyed by gamers and non-gamers alike. In fact, one cynical player said midway his first game "I'm not sure I care for this, I much prefer Crokinole." By the end of a couple of games, he was a convert, saying "This is a addictive! This is a great game!" And the next time we pulled it out he declared: "This is a brilliant game!" Every dexterity game is going to have a hard time winning over fans who already appreciate the beauty, elegance, simplicity, and skill of Crokinole, and we'd be foolish to suggest that Caveman Curling is going to make anyone's love for Crokinole grow cold. Caveman Curling can occupy its own niche in this genre without needing to compete with Crokinole as such, and while it has an appeal to a similar audience, it also has the necessary ingredients to win over non-gamers and families, and also offers new possibilities.



Recommendation

Is Caveman Curling for you? If you're looking for a finger-flicking game that's like Crokinole, but portable and slightly lighter, without detracting from the skill of a dexterity game, this fits the bill. If it does look like it might be of interest, you can find more info over on the kickstarter page here.



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mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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Joel Eddy
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What the heck!? Kickstarter project backed! Great review. Thanks for doing this one Ender.

If only this would have been a few months ago. This would make a fantastic Christmas gift.
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Van Willis
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Yet another great review Ender!

How do you feel it scales with more players? Do you think the board would get overly crowded with 3 players (since one of the kickstarter bonuses is the extra set of rocks etc.)?
 
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Steve Carroll
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You could just use four rocks of each color, for the same total of 12 rocks on the board.
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Tor Sverre Lund
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Great review once again, Ender! A pleasure to read as always, and thanks for putting the game on my radar. Definite maybe! :)
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Jestin Jund
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Anything negative to say? This kind of felt more like a promotional review than a critical one. Not that I care, I'm just curious if there is anything wrong with it that you wouldn't mind mentioning.
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Ender Wiggins
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Vantastic wrote:
How do you feel it scales with more players? Do you think the board would get overly crowded with 3 players (since one of the kickstarter bonuses is the extra set of rocks etc.)?

I'm not entirely sure, since obviously I myself haven't played with 3 players each having their own set of rocks. Together with you I also wonder if it might be too chaotic with that many rocks and players. The game state would change more between each of your turns (given that two rocks are thrown in between), and there would be more jostling for position, which could detract a little from the skill and strategy.

If I had three players I'd be more inclined to run a 2 player game by having two people play together as a team against the third. But perhaps a 3 player game with three sets of stones could add new and interesting aspects to the game as well, and even if it wouldn't be as rewarding as a 2 player game or when playing in teams, it would still work and would still be fun.
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attilathejund wrote:
Anything negative to say? This kind of felt more like a promotional review than a critical one. Not that I care, I'm just curious if there is anything wrong with it that you wouldn't mind mentioning.

Well I generally only post reviews for games I'm enthusiastic about - although I'm not afraid to mention weaknesses if I see any.

I put your question to a few of the people who have played the game, and they all agreed to the following: "No real weaknesses at all that we can think of. Except perhaps the caveman streaker in the artwork - if you happen to find that objectionable!" (For the record, even I think it's quite harmless, and I'm known to be on the very conservative side when it comes to risque artwork!)

I wasn't paid to do this (unlike Tom Vasel's review of Eminent Domain and his paid preview of Lemonade Stand) - I'm just a guy who likes playing and reviewing boardgames, enjoying a great hobby like the rest of you. I'd like to think I'm fairly objective in how I present games, but I do make a real effort to evaluate games based on the audience they are intended for, while recognizing that they might not work in every setting with every group. A great game, after all, isn't necessarily a great game for everyone. In the case of Caveman Curling, you'll have to figure out if you're in the target group, which as I've stated in the review are those who enjoy dexterity games and don't mind a slightly less "pure" form of the game while still relying primarily on skill and dexterity.

I think this game has the right ingredients to please most people, and I haven't been able to find any flaws until now. As long as the components stand up in the long term, I can see it being a keeper. Don't be surprised to quickly find yourself becoming the envy of your gaming group if you're the guy who owns the cool Caveman Curling game. It might not have the full range of `miracle' shots that can happen in Crokinole (your immediate objectives in that game are more variable), but it sure is a lot of fun. I'm definitely going to have it on hand for some New Years parties over the next couple of days.
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Francis Cermak
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Caveman Curling » Forums » Reviews
Re: Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Do you like Crokinole? You'll love this!
EndersGame wrote:
I wasn't paid to do this (unlike Tom Vasel's review of Eminent Domain and his paid preview of Lemonade Stand) - I'm just a guy who likes playing and reviewing boardgames, enjoying a great hobby like the rest of you. I'd like to think I'm fairly objective in how I present games, but I do make a real effort to evaluate games based on the audience they are intended for, while recognizing that they might not work in every setting with every group.


That kind of sounds like a back handed slap at Tom. Both of those previews were clearly labeled as a "paid for" and I thought both were fairly objective, and Tom wouldn't stump for a game he didn't actually like. He's got six girls to raise after all.
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draco143 wrote:
That kind of sounds like a back handed slap at Tom. Both of those previews were clearly labeled as a "paid for" and I thought both were fairly objective, and Tom wouldn't stump for a game he didn't actually like. He's got six girls to raise after all.

I share your confidence in Tom's ability to ensure that his opinions are not affected by whatever returns he gets for his reviews, so my comment wasn't intended as a criticism.

But there are folks on BGG who are of the belief that receiving anything in exchange for a review will make objectivity impossible. In the interests of full disclosure, and in reply to the person who observed that my review felt promotional, I was simply making it very clear that while I did receive a review copy of Caveman Curling, this review was not a paid promotion, and I'm confident that my review honestly and fairly reflects my opinions on the game regardless.
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Raimund Bubelis
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Thank you Ender. As always a very detailed and well presented review.

I have played Crokinole for many years and am a fan of many dexterity games, but I'm not yet sold on this offering.

IMHO the components and variability of Sorry! Sliders exceeds that of Caveman Curling and very likely that the former will still be played years from now. If you are really looking for a Curling game then Curling Table Game may be worth the search. Finally, as for adding a plausible theme to a flicking game you can't go wrong with PitchCar or Catacombs.

P.S. Keep up the good work Tom.
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EndersGame wrote:
The board comes rolled up in a tube shape, and once unrolled it lies flat with the help of two heavy "slammers" at either end. These are magnetic, and clip on both ends, working well to keep the board flat. The board is made of a special material that remains quite flat despite being stored rolled up - it's quite remarkable how this material behaves actually. Stretched out on the table, it won't be 100% perfectly flat, but it's fairly close. The material is also smooth and yet has an extra degree of traction that is just perfect for helping players judge the length of their shots.


Some reviews's I've read and watched stated that the board that actually shipped with the game was just paper; different from the demo version materials. Anyone else with the actual game find this?
 
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draco143 wrote:
Some reviews's I've read and watched stated that the board that actually shipped with the game was just paper; different from the demo version materials. Anyone else with the actual game find this?

My guess is that these reviewers are judging the board hastily, haven't taken the time to do some research, and as a result are giving an inaccurate and unclear assessment of the material used for the game-board. I've seen one review which states that "the gameboard is a piece of paper", but to be frank this is misleading and factually incorrect. If you're expecting something like mouse-pad material (as that particular reviewer was), or a wooden board, then I can see that you might conclude that the game-board is just paper, but be assured that such a conclusion would be quite wrong.

It's a special material called Tyvek, and has the advantages of being 1. durable; 2. functional (perfect amount of friction for this particular game); 3. portable. Though Tyvek superficially resembles paper (for example, it can be written and printed on, and is quite flexible), it is actually a synthetic plastic material made out of flashspun high-density polyethylene fibers, and is ideal for the gameplay of Caveman Curling. I'm quite sure that all copies of the game ship with the Tyvek board, and not a paper one.
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EndersGame wrote:
It's a special material called Tyvek, and has the advantages of being 1. durable; 2. functional (perfect amount of friction for this particular game); 3. portable. Though Tyvek superficially resembles paper (for example, it can be written and printed on, and is quite flexible), it is actually a synthetic plastic material made out of flashspun high-density polyethylene fibers, and is ideal for the gameplay of Caveman Curling. I'm quite sure that all copies of the game ship with the Tyvek board, and not a paper one.

To me, the distinction is entirely academic. The material looks and feels, and for all intents behaves exactly like a piece of paper. From the description of the board I certainly expected something a little more slick and "plasticky" than what I got.
 
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