[Tactics and Tactility is our column about the feelings, details and pleasures of tabletop gaming. This week Ava is looking at Caverna, and the gentle joys of piling up rocks.]
In front of me is a little board. Half of it is forest, half of it is mountain.
I do not understand the intricacies of the game I’m playing, Caverna, but I do understand that this tiny cardboard fiefdom is mine. Within the context of the rules, I can do what I want with it.
The game in Caverna comes from competition for the best spaces, picking the right order to do things in, making sure you can be as efficient as possible, and always having a back up plan. There’s a load of clever decisions to be made on the central board, and a few on your player board. Where you put things matters, but not as much as how quickly you got there, and just the simple binary question of whether you have enough space or not.
That’s the game. That’s the puzzle. That’s the beating heart of the design.
But that’s not what makes me love my time with it.
Caverna is a treasure trove of little wooden objects. Animals and resources all come in tiny wooden images. Rooms and fields are little cardboard tiles. You lay the tiles out, you find the right spaces for things, and then you’ve built a thing.