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Subject: A GFBR Review: A nice mix of strategy and dexterity rss

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GeekInsight
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Dexterity games are their own strange subset of the board gaming world. Instead of thematic ameritrash and engine building euros, the dexterity game introduces physical skill to the table. A practiced hand (rather than a practiced mind) will more often win the day. Speaking as someone who tends to eschew dexterity games, I found Caveman Curling absolutely delightful. It combines a light theme with enjoyable disc flicking, and a nice strategic element.

The Basics. Caveman Curling features two teams – or Clans – that face off in the ancient and noble sport of curling. The game can easily played by up to six players breaking into two teams. Teams take turns flicking their rocks (small discs) down towards the fire. The object is to get as close to the center of the fire as possible.

The game is scored much like bocce. Only the closest team scores, and that team gets one point for every rock closer to the center than the opposing team’s closest rock. First team to six point wins. While an especially gifted team could theoretically earn all six points in a round, the more common score is 1-2 points per round.

You'd think that the fire would melt the ice. But it doesn't. Fire technology is too primitive.

Layered on top of this is a strong strategy element. Players can position their discs (if flicked accurately) in creative ways. Sometimes it’s best to flick a disc short of the center so that it serves as a blocker. You don’t want the other team to come in and hit your rock with theirs and knock yours away. This can and often does happen. If the other team gets in close to the center, sometimes the best move is just to smash into them.

Additionally, each team gets a set of special objects: two small hammers, two large hammers, and two totems. Hammers are used to “hit” the stones. Only, instead of actually striking them, you simply lay them down and move the stone to the other side of the hammer. It’s a good way to get your stone closer to the center, or to set up an excellent block. The totems are placed on top of a rock. If another rock knocks the totem off, the totemed rock can be replayed. It’s a great way to protect a stone that you think your opponent is going to target.

The Feel. Caveman Curling provides skill, strategy, and a dose of comedy. It is a very light game, and one that can be played relatively quickly. A few good scores can end a game in minutes, but even the longest games tend to resolve in under half an hour. Caveman Curling provides just the right amount of strategy to a skill game to keep things interesting, without bogging the game down.

Flicking the discs is easy and satisfying. A few strikes is all it takes for new players to get the hang of things. The goal is a good distance away: not so close that you can’t get a good flick in, but not so far that you can simply flick with all your might and get near the center. Thus, the skill component is enjoyable and, at least by my groups’ (I played it with two separate groups) unpracticed hands, a good equalizer.

After a stone is shot, the discussion begins. Do we use a totem? What about a hammer? Should we hammer it closer to the center, or hammer it in front of another of our stones so that they become harder to knock out? There is definitely a keen strategy element that breathes needed depth into the game. Don’t get me wrong, flicking discs would have been fun-ish all by itself, but it would have ultimately been a novelty quickly forgotten. The strategy part really makes the game come alive. It changes it from pedestrian filler to entertaining endeavor.

Caveman Curling does a good job of filling the gap that can occur if someone is going to be a little late. It’s fun, it’s stimulating, and it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It can also be enjoyable at the end of the night when everyone is a little tired and isn’t looking for a heavy strategy game. And, if the game ever does last longer than you’d like, it’s simple enough to play to a lower score. Personally, I’ve found six to be a good stopping point, but things can be sped up (or slowed down) easily.

Frankly, negatives are hard to spot. It is a dexterity game, so if you don’t like dexterity then Caveman Curling isn’t going to win you over. And if you’re looking for meaty strategy, then this won’t fit that bill at all. So only if you view the kind of game Caveman Curling is as a negative, will this game have negative aspects.

Components: 4.5 of 5. Fantastic, fantastic. All of Eagle/Gryphon Games’ Kickstarters have had stellar parts and Caveman Curling is no exception. The discs are just the right weight and have a sheen that makes them slide more easily. The board curls up, but comes with two weighted edges that do a good job making it flat again for play. It’s also made out of some sturdy, linen infused paper, so it goes back to flat quickly. The artwork is absolutely delightful. It reminds me of a Where’s Waldo book with all of the small events going on. The half point off is only because it comes with stickers that you have to put on yourself. Somehow, I always manage to mess that up and some of my stickers are not as centered as they should be.

Skill/Strategy Balance: 3.5 of 5. Okay, so instead of the usual Luck, we’re looking at Skill. Just as Luck can be a spoiler, so can Skill if you are playing against a far more experienced opponent. There’s no denying that a steady, practiced hand will have an advantage. But part of Caveman Curling’s charm is that this isn’t the kind of game that you practice privately to develop the skill. So I don’t see practice being much of an issue. And, on top of that, the totems and hammers tend to even the playing field and introduce interesting choices.

Mechanics: 4 of 5. The game works very well. It is an excellent blend of strategic thinking and dexterity. In some ways, it reminds me of (American) Football. Stay with me here, I can make this work. In Football, half the game is the play calling, and coaches try to out think and out guess one another constantly. The other half is the execution of those plays by the players. In Caveman Curling, you can strategize about where how to place your discs, but ultimately you rely on your flinging skills. On the downside, though, the rules are ambiguous in a few places. Can you use a hammer and a totem together? Multiple hammers? I think we’ve figured things out in the spirit of the game, but the rules can be unclear.

Replayability: 3.5 of 5. On the one hand, this is the kind of game that will stay fresh over many plays. Each game is a little different as you try to shoot the discs as accurately as possible and respond to your opponents’ plays. With each experience unique, replay value is high. On the other hand, Caveman Curling simply isn’t the type of game that you will play multiple times in a row, or that you will gather together for specifically. It will see the table with frequency, but only when the mood is right.

Spite: 1.5 of 5. Spite is always difficult to measure in a two player game. Is there ever a time when hurting your only opponent doesn’t directly benefit you? Not really. While some plays – such as targeting the other team’s discs with your own – may seem spiteful or antagonistic, such tactics will directly benefit you. So I’m going to rate the spite low. (Spite, generally, is a measure of how easy it is to drag others down, even where it doesn’t directly benefit you. Think of it as a “take that” element).

Overall: 3.5 of 5. Caveman Curling is a fun dexterity game, and it should have a place in most any collection. But, at it’s core, it is “just” a dexterity game. It’s the kind of game that will be brought out when the time is right, provide everyone a wonderful time, and then be put away until the mood strikes again. Given its light nature, it won’t necessarily “wow” you, but it will prove quite fun when something short and tactical is needed.

(A special thanks to Eagle/Gryphon Games for providing a review copy of Caveman Curling)

(Originally posted, with pictures, on the Giant Fire Breathing Robot)
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Van Willis
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Great job with the review. You highlighted that the game is light, fun and really has more to it than it might seem at first. I too really enjoy the hammers and totems, they add another layer to the game.

MyParadox wrote:
Can you use a hammer and a totem together? Multiple hammers? I think we’ve figured things out in the spirit of the game, but the rules can be unclear.


The answer to these questions is clearly spelled out in the rules-
Caveman Curling rulebook wrote:
The player can use *ONE* (and only one) special object to affect the rock he just threw.


Only 1 special object per throw and it has to be on the rock just thrown.
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GeekInsight
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Vantastic wrote:
The answer to these questions is clearly spelled out in the rules-


So, as it turns out, I can quickly find most information in lengthy rulebooks. But put it all on one page like Caveman Curling and suddenly I have problems.

Thanks for the tip.
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