Fallout: New Vegas -- How to Play Caravan
- By: CM Boots-Faubert
- Posted 22nd Nov 2010
Starting a Game
After your bets are made and accepted, you build and select your deck, and then it is shuffled and you draw your eight cards. At this point you need to begin placing out your caravans -- and these should be either high or low cards, and NOT middle cards unless you plan on reversing the direction later -- but to do that on more than one caravan you have to have constructed a balanced purpose-built deck.
In basic terms you should try not to make big jumps in direction -- for instance if you started with a 3 playing a 7 or 8 would limit you to having to play an 8, 9, or 10 next, however if you have a card that is of the original suit of the caravan, you can play that regardless of the direction -- and bear in mind that playing the same suit allows you to reverse the direction as well!
The basic issue that tend to confuse new players and paint them in to corners is the mistaken assumption that all of the cards in a caravan have to be the same suit. That is not how the game works! Still, it is easy to understand how a new player could assume that it is, especially because of the vague and difficult to follow instructions in the "text file" that Ringo provides, so let me walk you through a sample game:
On one of your caravans you start with a 3 of Clubs. On your next turn you place a 4 of Spades on it, for a total of 7. On the turn after that, you place an 8 of Spades, giving you a total of 15, but you do not have any 9's or 10's when your next turn starts. You DO have a 6 of Clubs however, and despite the fact that your 6 is in the wrong direction, because it is the same suit as the starting card -- Clubs -- you CAN play it, which reverses the direction of your caravan and ups your total to 21 (15+6=21).
Your opponent has 25 points burden in their opposing caravan, but as you have reversed direction and you have a 5 of whatever in your hand, you play that, taking your burden to 26, beating your opponent's opposing caravan!
It looks like your opponent is going to beat you though, because he can play a better score on the other opposing caravans, so you hit him with a multiplicative face card on one of his other caravans, sending his score over 26, which nulls out that caravan, allowing you to win! Good on ya, mate! That is sound basic strategy!
The Secret Ways of Face Cards
Just in case you did not fully grasp the function of the different face cards, we are going to cover that next:
Jack: Placing a Jack on a top card removes that card and any face cards placed upon it from the caravan. This is a good card to use if your opponent begins his caravan by doubling up his score.
Queen: Playing her will reverse the direction of the track -- the same as if you played a card of the base suit -- though the Queen has no numerical value. Despite the fact that she is not worth any points, the Queen can be a very valuable card if you find yourself painted into a corner or are stuck with a hand full of low cards, since she gives you the ability to quickly reverse direction without penalty.
King: This is your multiplicative tool, effectively doubling the value of any card that it is placed upon. You can easily see the benefits to your caravan when you are fighting a low-ended build, but consider this: if your opponent has used a high card to get into the 25/26 range, or even doubled up on a 10 to get there, laying your King on their caravan will overburden them, putting them out of the game.
The only choice that they have if you do that is to remove cards -- if they can -- or remove the entire caravan and start over!
Joker: This is both a powerful strategic tool and a a card that can blow up in your face if you are not paying careful attention to the routes when you use it.
When you place a Joker on a number card, it will remove all of the other cards of that number except the one you played it on from the game -- your opponent's AND your own, so you want to be careful when playing it on one caravan that it will not mess up your other caravans.
When you place a Joker on an Ace, it removes ALL of the cards in the game that are the SUIT of the Ace -- which can really mess you up if you forget that small fact, and end up losing a lot of your own cards!
Your Best Strategy
It may sound rather obvious, but your best strategy regardless of how good the opponent is, is to pay attention to the board and the tracks. More games get lost because the player focused only on the caravan that appeared to be in contention, ignoring the other two, than for any other reason!
The actual playing of the game is not that complicated once you understand what each face card does, and the basic mechanics of play. One of the messages that is driven home by this game is to save early, and save often, because getting killed can cost you a lot if you waited a long time between saves. It may not be obvious but this applies just as well to Caravan, considering that a single hand can easily run $4,000 caps it makes a lot of sense to save before you play and, if you lose, to reload the game!
When you win, save! That way you never have a serious setback. There are gamers who think that this sort of stratagem in using the game save system is cheating... You will have to decide that for yourself. Considering how difficult it can be to acquire caps in the game and how many you need (a bleeding lot that is how many!) well, anything that you can do to obtain an edge is worth doing.
As you get to know your opponents you will notice that they tend to follow strategies of play unique to them, for example the Ambassador tends to try to get one of his routes to 26 and then works on the second while largely ignoring the third until his first two are in good shape. At that point if he has them you will see 10's and Kings come onto the board in short order. Knowing that, you should practice a defensive strategy with him of destabilizing his first route whenever possible.
Using a King on the highest card of his first route will send it into the red, and he will subsequently ignore whatever his strategy was to correct that red route -- giving you breathing room on the other routes to develop them. This is especially useful if you ended up with a lot of low value cards to use on your routes. Sometimes a King is better played on your opponents pile than on your own.
Using Jokers: The most effective use of a Joker is early in a match, when you have less to lose. If you have a Joker, and your opponent has used some 10's on the board and you have one in play, play the Joker on YOUR 10 -- that will leave it on the table, but remove his. Bonus!
It is key to the basic strategy of game play here to pay attention not just to your own routes, but to his as well, because often interfering with his routes is your only path to victory!