Cavern Tavern Review

Cavern Tavern Review

 Anyone who read our Beer Empire review will know that the chaps here at Polyhedron Collider are partial to the occasional pint of the good stuff. And depending on how drunk Jon is, occasionally the bad stuff too. If he ever offers you some of his “Binja”, my advice is to decline, politely or otherwise. Put it this way; last time I had some, I could see beforehand. That’s not to say we’re against the idea of cocktails – quite the opposite. I’m rather partial to a good Mojito or five, and if offered I wouldn’t turn down Sex on the Beach with a couple of Slippery Nipples.

With our documented love of D&D, it’s fair to say that we like a bit of fantasy action mixed in with a hint of cardboard, a splash of dice-chucking topped with a wedge of strategy. So when Final Frontier games arrived on Kickstarter with a worker placement game about making intoxicating beverages and serving them to a customer base in a fantasy land, it’s fair to say that I’d was already on-board with this campaign. In fact, so on-board I’d applied for VIP seating, table service and a booth from which to watch the show. The main event this time is the delightfully presented Cavern Tavern, a worker placement game set in the Five Realms. Sort of like Westeros, but with less violence and fewer tits, unless you count me after a few beers.

cavern tavern dice placement board game review

Cavern Tavern is a relatively lightweight worker placement Euro for 2-6 players (there are also solo rules) set in the aforementioned Five Realms. The famous tavern is run by “Mr. Nasty” which you’d be forgiven for thinking he was some kind of 2nd rate porn star. In fact, Mr. Nasty is the owner of the Tavern, a rather cantankerous dwarf who has no time for shoddy workmanship, late orders or poor work ethic. Kind of the opposite of most Yodel drivers. Your role in life is to take orders from customers, collect the necessary ingredients and serve the concoction in a timely fashion. Seems simple enough, but with everyone competing for the same resources, the game rapidly becomes a race for spaces as you’d expect for a worker placement game.

The board is broken into various areas; the Tavern itself, the Cellar for ingredients, the Kitchen, the Chores list, the Wizard’s tower. (Every good pub has a Wizard’s Tower – or toilets as they may be known. You know the story, go in clean come out with some kind of ailment. No? Just me then.) Oh, and Nasty’s office. Your “workers” in this case are represented by dice – I say “workers” deliberately here as they’re not really workers in the traditional sense, they’re more “task options”. You have four dice which are rolled at the start of each turn. You place your dice on the spaces depending on either their value (or combined value) or the number of dice depending on the location. You get your reward in the form of ingredients, VPs and sometimes a bonus which could be used to make your opponents’ lives feeling more uncomfortable than a particularly lengthy session in the Wizard’s Tower.

Cavern tavern board game review ingredient cards

The Cellar is simple enough – place value of die or dice on spot, get ingredient. The fun starts in the Kitchen or the Chores board where values higher than six start to give you VPs, ingredients and bonuses, so while they’re more attractive from a reward point of view, you’ll not be able to gather many ingredients in a round so you run the risk of late delivery to a customer. Since most orders need between four and six ingredients, it’s up to you whether you play safe or incur the wrath of Nasty and the customer in the form of bad reputation with the boss (which manifests itself as VP loss at the end of the game) and fewer VPs for completing a late order.

Forget the order entirely and you’re in a world of trouble as you suffer a total VP loss if you don’t complete in the allotted timescale. Completing Kitchen tasks and Chores also give you reputation in those areas which, if you get enough, will help you in the future by awarding more VPs for tasks done in those areas and the ability to manipulate your dice rolls as you desire. Get in Nasty’s bad books enough and he’ll take you aside and have a word, and not the sort of words that make it into children’s bedtime stories.

Cavern tavern board game

Cavern Tavern is very pretty, if a little brown and I love the aesthetic of the game. The player boards seem a little flimsy, but they’re not paper-thin. Beyond that, the game is high quality and the components all feel good. Steve has commented during the obligatory PHC playthrough that he thinks the icons on the order cards are a little difficult to make out – I can see his point as they are a little small. I’ve not had a problem, but he’s older than me so let’s put that down to him becoming as decrepit as Nasty himself.

One thing we do agree on, though, is the rulebook. Whilst most of the rules are clear and concise, the order in which the rulebook is laid out is quite confusing, which makes it hard to navigate to find particular rules, something which we needed to do a lot to start with. Also, there’s a couple of rules that are unclear which led to interesting discussions around the table. Thankfully and to their credit, Final Frontier have since released an FAQ and clarification document which covers it all off, and they were very responsive on Twitter when I probed them, so I can’t complain too much.

Cavern tavern board game chores track

Since Cavern Tavern is a product borne out of the ever-present Kickstarter like some kind of maternity ward with targets to hit, there’s even an expansion built-in which involves a Secret Chamber. Thankfully not the kind of Secret Chamber that leaves Harry Potter fans frothing in an excitable tizzy, but one that introduces Mrs Nasty who you can use to help you fend off her grumpy husband if he gets to boisterous.

I am reminded of Euphoria by Stonemaier Games when I play Cavern Tavern, which is due to the dice-as-workers idea and the multi-placement areas for dice. The similarity beyond that is minimal, although whilst on the subject of Stonemaier, I am also reminded of Viticulture for the way the game plays out and for its weight as a Euro game. The more I play Cavern Tavern, the more I like it so I’m rather glad I backed it. It doesn’t take long to play either. Once you get into the rhythm of things, it can be whipped through in about an hour for 2-3 players, perhaps 90 minutes for more. Steve has commented that he found the game a little boring. I don’t have a problem myself, but I understand where he’s coming from given his taste in games. Cavern Tavern is one of the lightest Worker Placement games I’ve played and as such, it doesn’t take long to suss out what you’re planning to do and where to do it, so most of the mental challenge is perhaps lacking for the more seasoned board gamer. On the flip side, I’d certainly recommend the game for anyone looking to get into Euro games and for those breaking into board gaming.

Cavern tavern board game drinks order

I’m sure that drinking whilst caving is generally frowned upon for various health and safety reasons, but in the case of Cavern Tavern it’s wholeheartedly encouraged and I for one am a big fan. Besides, who doesn’t fancy a cocktail of Beer, Wine, Fruit, Ambrosia, Liqueur and Syrup whilst wandering blindly into a darkened room full of Trolls? I see it all the time on a night out in Worcester and most of those people seem to survive, although I’m sure those that do often tell tales of when they encountered their own Mr. or Mrs. Nasty…
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