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How To Play Cavemen: The Quest for Fire (8 Minute Guide)

How To Play Cavemen: The Quest for Fire (8 Minute Guide)


Cavemen: The Quest for Fire is a turn-based strategy card game with a  prehistoric twist. Players control their own tribe, with the ultimate goal of being the first tribe to invent Fire. Inventing Fire requires a player to raise their Tribe thinking attributes to a high enough level first, and possess the Conch token while the Fire card is present in the card pool. To accomplish this, players can grow their tribe, hunt dinosaurs, and create inventions while acquiring and spending the prehistoric currencies of Food and Teeth. The win the game each player has to devise their own strategy that will lead them to be the first to discover fire.

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Game Description:

The game can be played with 2 – 5 players. The game consists of the following components:

  • 20 starting cards, consisting of 5 Tribal Leaders, 5 Hunters, 5 Home Caves, and 5 Rules Summaries
  • 86 game deck cards for general play, consisting of 30 Cavemen, 27 Beasts, 21 Inventions, and 8 Cave cards. The Cavemen are further subdivided by type, with 10 Hunters, 10 Thinkers, 5 Elders, and 5 Explorer types.
  • The Fire card, which indicates the level of tribal knowledge needed to win.
  • 32 small food tokens, worth 1 Food each
  • 10 large food tokens, worth 5 Food each
  • 30 small tooth tokens, worth 1 Tooth each
  • 7 large tooth tokens, worth 5 Teeth each
  • 1 Conch token, which gives the player who holds it priority as well as an extra turn. It is also needed to invent Fire when the time comes.

Card Markings:


In addition to the Fire card, the cards present in the general deck are: Hunter Cavemen, Thinker Cavemen, Explorer Cavemen, Elder Cavemen, Inventions, Beasts, and Caves. These cards are marked with the following attributes.

Stone Marker:

The Stone Marker is in the lower left corner of the card. It is used to determine the initial Conch holder, and also for drawing Casualties after a player chooses to hunt.


The Cost is shown in the upper right corner of the card, shown in both Food and Teeth. On a Caveman card, it indicates the cost to recruit the Caveman. On a Beast or Invention card, it indicates the minimum Tribe score needed to Hunt or Invent the card.

Hunting Score:

The Hunting Score is located on the top left of Cavemen cards and is represented by an arrowhead symbol. The combination of all of the Cavemen Hunting Scores in the Tribe indicate the size of the Beasts that the Tribe can hunt.

Invention Score:

The Invention Score is located on the left side of Cavemen cards and is represented by a light bulb symbol. The combination of all the Cavemen Invention Scores in the Tribe indicate the maximum difficulty of an Invention the Tribe can invent.

Foraging Score:

The Foraging Score is located on the left side of Cavemen cards and is represented by an apple symbol. The combination of all the Cavemen Foraging Scores in the Tribe indicate the amount that can be foraged in a turn.

Population Score:

The Population Score is located on the left side of Cavemen cards and is represented by a caveman symbol. The combination of all the Cavemen Population Scores in the Tribe as well as all Cave cards in the Tribe indicates the maximum number of Cavemen allowed in the Tribe.

Exploration Ability:

Exploration Ability is indicated by a footprint symbol on the left side of the card. This allows the player to acquire caves at no cost while the Caveman is in the Tribe.

Beast cards indicate the ability needed to hunt the Beast as well as the resources gained from it.

Invention cards state the name of the invention and the permanent attributes it affords the Tribe.

Cave cards indicate the amount by which they increase the population total for the Tribe.



Each player chooses one of the five Tribes, and takes the corresponding cards from the set of starting cards. The five Tribes are the Tigers, Snakes, Owls, Bears, and Wolves. If there are less than 5 players playing, the remaining starting cards are returned to the box and do not enter the playing deck. Each player will have a Tribal Leader card, a Hunter card, a Home Cave card, and a Rule Summary card. These cards form the player’s tribe, which are placed face up in the player’s tableau. Cards can be added and discarded from the Tribe tableau as gameplay progresses. The combined attributes and advantages of all the cards in the tableau form the total attributes for the Tribe.

Next, players draw their initial resources of Food and Teeth. The starting amounts will vary with the number of players in the game as follows.

  • With 2 Players: 9 Food, 4 Teeth
  • With 3 Players: 8 Food, 4 Teeth
  • With 4 Players: 7 Food, 4 Teeth
  • With 5 Players: 7 Food, 4 Teeth

The last step in the game setup is to determine the initial Conch holder. This is done by shuffling the game deck and drawing a card at random. If the stone marker (shown in the lower left corner) on the drawn card matches that on any player’s Hunter card, that player receives the Conch. If there is no match, another card is drawn until a match occurs.


The game progresses in 5 Phases that repeat until the game is won. The phases are:

  1. Draw Phase – Cards are drawn from the deck to fill or replenish the card pool.
  2. Conch Phase – Players determine the new Conch holder.
  3. Feed Phase – Players pay Food to feed their tribe.
  4. Action Phase – Each player chooses to Recruit, Hunt, Invent, Forage, or Explore.
  5. Discard Phase – The card pool is reduced to 3 cards.

Draw Phase

The players form a common card pool from the deck. This is done for the first time by drawing one card per player from the deck, plus an additional 5 cards. On subsequent card draws, the amount added to the pool will be one card per player, plus an additional 2 cards.

Conch Phase

The first Conch holder is determined randomly from the deck. On subsequent turns, the conch passes to the left on each turn. After passing, the players can bid on the Conch or decline to bid on it. Bidding begins clockwise from the new Conch holder, using Teeth as the currency. Each player can bid on the Conch, but must use an higher bid amount than any previous bids. Bidding continues until all subsequent players pass on bidding. The phase ends with the Conch either passing to the highest bidder, or remaining with the new holder after all other players have passed on bidding.

Feed Phase

Players now feed their tribe using the Food tokens. The Conch holder pays 1 Food per each Caveman in his tribe, including the Tribe Leader. All other players pay 1 Food, regardless of their tribe size. If a player cannot feed the tribe, it suffers Starvation, and the player must choose a Caveman (other than the Tribe Leader) to discard. If a player has only a Tribe Leader, the card is not discarded.

Action Phase


Players take turns performing one of the 5 possible actions, according to their desired strategy. Each player must perform an action, and actions begin with the Conch holder and proceed clockwise until all players have gone. The Conch holder then gets to perform an additional action. Possible actions are as follows:

Recruit a Caveman

Players can choose to add an additional Caveman to the tribe if a Caveman card is present in the card pool. The player pays either the required amount of Food or Teeth indicated on the card, but not a combination of both. A Tribe can only have as many Caveman as is equal to its population score. If a Tribe is at capacity, a new Caveman can still be recruited to replace an existed Caveman, which is then discarded. The discarded Caveman can not be the Tribe Leader. Cavemen contribute to the Ability score of the Tribe.

Explore for a New Cave

Players can choose to explore for a new Cave if a Cave card is present in the card pool. The player can acquire the Cave at no cost if an Explorer card is present in their tribe. If not, the player pays the number of Teeth indicated on the card. The Cave contributes to the Population score for the Tribe.

Hunt a Beast

Players can choose to hunt a Beast if a Beast card is present and the Beast’s cost is less than or equal to the player’s Tribe Hunting Score. The Beast card is then discarded and the player receives the indicated amount of Food and Teeth. The player then draws for Casualties by drawing the first card in the deck. If the Stone Marker (indicated on the lower left of the drawn card) matches that on any of the player’s Caveman cards, then the player must discard one of his Cavemen. The discarded Caveman can be any except for the Tribe Leader. If the player discards his starting Caveman, it is returned to the leftover starting cards and not discarded to the playing deck. If a player draws the Fire card while drawing for Casualties, the player draws another card to determine the Stone Marker.

Invent an Invention

Players can choose to invent an Invention if one is present in the card pool. The Invention card must have a cost less than or equal to the player’s Tribe Inventing Score. The player then permanently gains the advantage described on the Invention card.

Forage for Food

Players can always choose to forage for food, regardless of the cards present in the card pool. To to this, they collect 1 Food for each point of their Tribe’s Forage Score.

Discard Phase

After each player has performed an action, the player to the Conch holder’s right discards all but 3 cards from the card pool back into the deck. If Fire is present in the card pool, it must be discarded first. However, after the deck has been exhausted for the first time, discarded cards are reshuffled to continue play, but Fire must remain in card pool for the duration of the game.

Winning the Game:

A player wins the game when they invent fire. They must hold the Conch and have an Tribe Inventing Score (indicated by the light bulb symbol) greater than or equal to Fire’s cost. The cost depends on the number of players as follows:

  • With 2 Players, the Fire Cost is 10
  • With 3 Players, the Fire Cost is 9
  • With 4 or 5 Players, the Fire Cost is 7

Quick Info:

Playing Time: 45 minutes

Alt. Titles: Cavemen

Players: 2 – 5

Suggested Player Age: 13+

Community Suggested Player Age: 13+

Rating: 5.7

Community Rating: 6.4

Popularity: Overall: 3,978; Family: 984

Difficulty: Medium

Published Year: 2012

Creator/Publisher Credits: Rio Grande Games

Official Game Site:


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