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I should like this better than The Swarm since it has sparkling jewels, but the rules seem needlessly complex and new players have a hard time grasping the flow of the game.
GAMEPLAY Over three rounds, Cavum has players build tunnels, set dynamite, discover veins, construct stations, and ruin opponents’ best-laid plans. All with the aim of discovering gems and establishing new cities. The building phase is the meet of the game where players take 1-4 actions on their turn with 12 actions in one round. The final action is always prospecting, which is how gems are acquired. Gems can be used to fulfill order cards or sold back to the market. Cities will score for stations that are connected to mountain stations. At the end of the round, the dynamite goes boom and some players will have to re-establish the tunnels that previously allowed them to collect gems and score in the cities. THOUGHTS Cavum features some light auctions, network building, pick up and deliver, recipe fulfillment, and area majority—a mish-mash of mechanics that mostly come together in a very puzzley, thinky package. The network building is the true meat of the game so, if you’re not into this, Cavum should be a hard pass. This also means that, Cavum is more abstract than thematic experience even though it should be said that the artwork is nothing short of spectacular. It might be one of the top five most beautiful games I’ve ever played. Also of note: Cavum is incredibly interactive and paying attention to each player’s turn is important as the board state can change significantly. The result is that Cavum is heavily tactical, timing is significant, and the gameplay is incredibly mean. Where Cavum is lacking is in the other phases of the game. Specifically, the bidding for sequence and order cards feels somewhat insignificant even though the Dutch auction color sale can sometimes get interesting. I also have a problem with the order cards providing such a huge point swing while only inflicting negligible negative points if left unfulfilled. Still, I see Cavum being a favorite of mine for a long time. PROS -Looks a bit muted from far away but up close the game is gorgeous. Little miners in little tunnels (*squeal*)! -For a game that is saddled with the description of recipe fulfillment, this is an important part of the game but, for my money, the city scoring and color sale were much more interesting. -The beating heart of this game is the route building and the possibilities that emerge can be thrilling or a blow that knocks the wind out of you. It's the sort of a game where you learn from the cleverness of your opponents and they learn from you. Because of this, every game is going to be wildly different. CONS -While most of the rules are what you'd expect from a typical Euro, there are a lot of little rules regarding how and where tiles can be placed that can make a steep learning curve for newcomers. -Board, tiles, and gems could be a bit bigger. It's easy to mess up the board state, especially when laying tiles and performing dynamite phase. -This could change after some more experienced play but the dynamite felt fairly inconsequential, with the exception of the final city scoring. -Order cards seem poorly balanced. A 24 VP card has a -5 VP penalty but a 27 VP card only has a -2 VP penalty? Also, the penalties could be higher to make taking an order card a more weighty decision.