|Designed by||P.D. Magnus|
You and your opponent lead rival caravans across the vast eastern desert, carrying goods between Jacynth and the Valley. Between the sand and the bandits, you just want to be done with it.
The goal of the game is to score points, which you can do by collecting cards during the hand and by being the first player to lay down your last cards.
Each hand is played as a series of trade seasons, and the score is tallied up at the end of each hand.
Separate the Aces and Crowns from the basic deck, shuffle them separately, and deal four to each player. Then deal two of them face up at the edge of the play area. This will leave two cards; set them aside without looking at them. (If the two face up cards have the same suit, set aside the second one and flip over one of the two remaining cards.)
Shuffle the remainder of the basic deck and deal eleven cards to each player. This will leave two cards; set them aside without looking at them. (The point of having cards left over is to introduce some uncertainty. You won't know just by looking at your hand what cards your opponent must have.)
The two Aces or Crowns flipped up indicate which trade goods will be profitable or costly during the hand. If the card is an Ace, then players will lose points for collecting cards of that suit. If the card is a Crown, then players will gain points for collecting cards of that suit. If both cards are Aces, then there is no possible upside to collecting cards; only penalties. If both are Crowns, then there is no possible loss.
Randomly decide who will begin the first trade season of the first hand. In subsequent hands, the player with the lower cumulative score plays first.
At the beginning of each trade season, a player plays a collection of cards from their hand called a 'caravan.' The opposing player must then play a higher combination of cards or pass. (The higher combination may either be a higher caravan or a different configuration of cards called a ‘bandit’.) If the opposing player does not pass, then the original player must play a higher combination of cards or pass. And so on, with each player laying down cards that beat the previous cards until one of them passes - once one player passes, the trade season ends.
Caravans: A caravan is a collection of sequential number cards. Each card in the sequence must share a suit symbol with each adjacent card.
Aces and Crowns may be used in place of any number-ranked card to make a caravan, but their suit does not change.
Wild cards can only substitute for a number rank; they can't be rank 1 or 10.
A caravan may consist of just one number card, and a caravan must include at least one number card; it can't be made entirely out of Aces and Crowns.
A caravan can be beaten by another caravan of the same length with a higher numbered card.
Example: Morgan begins the season by playing a 3-4-5. His opponent may play a 4-5-6 caravan, 5-6-7, etc. - but not a 2-3-4 (too low) nor a 4-5-6-7 (different length).
Bandits: A bandit is either a single Ace, a single Crown, or an Ace and a Crown together. Any bandit beats any caravan, regardless of the caravan's length or rank; bandits themselves are ordered in this way:
A single Ace is the lowest bandit.
A single Crown beats a single Ace.
An Ace and Crown of different suits beat a single Crown.
An Ace and the Crown of the same suit beat everything else.
Example: His opponent answers Morgan's 3-4-5 caravan with a Crown bandit. Morgan must either play an Ace-Crown bandit or pass.
Ending the season: When one of the players passes, the trade season ends.
If the last cards to be played were a caravan, then the player who played the caravan collects all of the cards from the season. Collected cards count for scoring at the end of the hand. They do not become part of the player's hand.
If the last card or cards to be played were a bandit, then the opponent of the player who played the bandit collects all of the cards from the season. Again, the collected cards count for scoring and do not become part of the player's hand.
If both players have cards remaining in their hands, a new season begins. The player who made the last play in the previous season (the one who did not pass) plays first in the new season.
If a player ought to start the next season but cannot play a caravan - because they have only Aces and Crowns - then the other player starts the season. If neither player can start a season, then the round ends and players score only for cards collected.
When you play the last cards from your hand, your opponent may finish the season by making one play if they have cards to do so. You then score five points, plus one point per card remaining in your opponent's hand. Those remaining cards are set aside; they don't count as having been collected by either player.
Both players then score points for cards they collected. For each Crown that was turned up at the beginning of the hand, players score one point for each card they collected during the hand that shares a suit with the Crown. For each Ace that was turned up, players lose one point for each card they collected during the hand that shares a suit with the Ace. A card that shares suits with both up cards may be worth two points (if both up cards are Crowns), negative two (if both are Aces), or zero (if the up cards are a Crown and an Ace).
Add each player's score to their score from previous hands. We find that five hands makes for a comfortable game, but you may increase or decrease this depending on how long you want the game to be.
Caravan was inspired by Sean Ross' Haggis, which is itself situated in a long history of card-shedding games.
Playtesters included Cristyn Magnus, Nathan Morse, and Jorge Arroyo.