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Caverna: The Cave Farmers» Forums » Strategy

Subject: There seem to be only two paths in this game...or maybe not? rss

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Chris Reynolds
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In my three plays of the game so far, one person has always focused on upgrading the dwarf weapons, while the others have not. It seems like this is the first split in the strategy--that you must early on decide which of the two forks you will take.

However, this seems programmed to me, in a way I dont like. Is this true for all plays of Caverna? Am I doing something wrong? Do many strategies involve a mix of upgrading weapons and not?
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Aernout Casier
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Sounds like group
think. Play it more, try to make use of buildings more. I have won without a single armed dwarf. And I am surely not the only one.
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Mark Yang
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No, you can play Caverna any way you like. You can win without going on expeditions. There certainly isn't a single road that comes to a 2-way split.
 
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Mark Beyak
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I don't think we are answering Chris's question. He never mentioned NOT being able to win without going on expeditions. If I may try to pose his question in a different way; Does the game allow for successful strategies that do not involve going full out warrior/expedition OR completely eschewing the arms in favor of farming/mining?

My experience with the game, so far, is no. Pick one of those two options for your best chance to win.

I would love to be proven wrong.
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Chris Reynolds
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Thanks Mark. Yes, this is my question, better said.
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that Matt
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It seems oversimplified to say that, because one aspect of the game is all-or-nothing, there are "only two paths." Is everything under "no expeditions" so similar?

Like, I can play a full game of Caverna tonight or not play Caverna at all tonight, but I wouldn't conclude that there are therefore only two paths for tonight's activities.
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Jacek Deimer
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Well. I believe a mixed approach is quite viable.

Usually I mostly ignored weapons race, but it is good to have a one dwarf equipped with a weapon. The main reason is an ability to Furnish a Cavern with weapon of level 7 or 8. That is very handy, as there is only one normal action space on the board that allows to furnish a cavern and it is usually highly contested. Without an armed dwarf you might miss crucial scoring building during end game.

The game is full of choices and one of them is to decide how much you are going to invest into weapons.
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Jan-Willem van Leeuwen
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Another way to look at it is this: When you're not going for weapons, it is often a good move (only once in the game) to use your starting dwarf and some ore you may have to go blacksmithing + expedition. This blocks your armed opponents (who have to wait for their armed dwarves to be eligible to take a turn) from using the triple expedition.
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Nicola Bocchetta
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I think this is a design choice for 4p games an up. But in 2 or 3 player games you have to balance the expeditions with the building
 
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Chemist .
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I love going on Expeditions. In my last four- player game, I went on the most Expeditions, but only got second place.
 
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Andy Kerrison
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Beyak wrote:
I don't think we are answering Chris's question. He never mentioned NOT being able to win without going on expeditions. If I may try to pose his question in a different way; Does the game allow for successful strategies that do not involve going full out warrior/expedition OR completely eschewing the arms in favor of farming/mining?

My experience with the game, so far, is no. Pick one of those two options for your best chance to win.

I would love to be proven wrong.


I would say that not only is a mixed weapon/farm/mine strategy viable, it is optimal. I have on various occasions scored 120+ points with only one armed dwarf out of five or six. The key to making this work is efficient use of rubies to bump your armed dwarf in front when necessary.

In every Caverna game, the value of adventuring vs growing or developing is partially dependent on both the player count and the paths being followed by the other players. If nobody else picks weapons they become very powerful, and vice-versa. A mixed strategy leaves you with the flexibility to be opportunistic about any good grabs that come up regardless of what your opponents do.
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Tom C
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Unless you are playing a solo game, there is no definable "best strategy" or even a suggested strategy to win. It is highly dependent on what the other players are doing.

Can always pick up the peaceful cave and prayer chamber to let you decide if you want to push the arms race (or subsequently abandon the arms race if others start pushing it too).

Larger games (2+), it seems trying to go all or nothing never works. If it does work, it means the other players in the game allowed it to happen (either out of courteous to a new player, being new themselves and not knowing how to block, or being focused on an all-or-nothing themselves and turning it into a race.)
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Game Guy
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Way late here, but yes, I do believe there is room for a mixed strategy in this game. Let's take a look:

The baseline pattern of the game is that the number of options available per Dwarf rises at the beginning of the game and then falls off dramatically. This happens basically every game because it takes a few moves to be able house and feed your third Dwarf and you only get two actions per turn. Meanwhile, new action cards are being flipped at the end of each round, increasing the available options. However, after a round or two (or three) most players will have the necessaries for having and supporting little Dwarf babies. At that point the Grow actions (at least two out by now) become hot stuff and lots of new little bouncing bundles of dourness (they are Dwarfs after all) appear. This means that there are fewer actions available per Dwarf and that means that less valuable actions will be used. Many of the action spaces have a very small pay out, especially if they used on consecutive turns. This is even truer if the player has completed certain tasks, such as clearing all fields or digging all caves. So, at some point, the most valuable action left to choose will be an adventure, even if the Dwarf in question has a fairly small weapon number. Add to this the opportunity to block "Quest heavy" opponents from the most desirable multi-adventure actions and it quickly becomes well worth while to arm a Dwarf and get him out there, even if you have to spend a Ruby to do it. I would argue that a mixed strategy of mostly building but with some Questing thrown in is not just possible, it may actually be more optimal than a straight economic strategy.

The inverse strategy is all but necessary. There are only a couple of spaces which offer adventures and/or weapon building. It is almost impossible not to do other things with at least some of your Dwarfs. I have seen players try to go with two heavily armed Dwarfs (HADs) to keep food costs down and try to slaughter their way to victory. It never works, never. Even if the other players are content to let that player get the best adventures for themselves every turn (a rare occurrence) adventuring just does not produce enough points to win by itself. Players following a well crafted economic strategy will be making several points worth of livestock with each Harvest above and beyond the points they make directly with their actions.
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