What is Caravan? It’s a card game that’s played by two people, where the goal is to build "caravans" of cards in ascending or descending numerical order. Each player must build three caravans, the goal being to build caravans of cards numbering a total of 21 points, but not exceeding 26 points. These caravan hands (hands with a value of 21 to 26) are considered "sold", the goal being to "sell" all three caravan hands. , ideally with you selling more than your opponent (best two out of three wins). In the case of two competing hands being "sold" at the same time, the higher caravan in the "sold" range wins.
To start playing Caravan, talk to Ringo in Goodsprings’ gas station after completing the tutorial missions Ain’t That a Kick in the Head , Back in the Saddle and By a Campfire on the Trail. He’ll offer to play Caravan with you and give you a starter deck, which includes the standard 54 cards in a deck. Once this is yours, it’s time to go into some general rules, in the order in which they’re relevant in a normal game of Caravan.
Thems the Rules
First, find somebody to play, after which you’ll get to make a Caps wager for the game. After that you’ll get to pick a minimum of 30 cards. The goal in Caravan, as mentioned earlier, is to build up three lines of cards whose values total up to determine the strength of the caravan. Again, the golden numbers are 21 and 26; 21 being the minimum value required for a caravan to be considered a "sold" Caravan, and 26 being the maximum value. The cards have the following effects:
Has a numerical value of one.
Adds the numerical value of the card to strength of the Caravan.
Jacks can be played on numerical cards and will remove that card from play and any face cards adjacent to it. For example, play it on a 10 card that’s adjacent to a King card and both will be removed.
Queens can be played on numerical cards and Aces. When played on such a card they change the direction, or flow, of a caravan. Caravans have to be built in either ascending or descending numerical order. Playing a Queen on a hand that was running in ascending order (2, 3, 5) will change the order of the next card(s) played on that caravan. In the example given above, future cards played on that caravan would have to be lower than 5.
Kings can be played on numerical cards and Aces, and will double the value of the card they are played upon. Play a King on a 2 card, and it will double the value of the card (2 x 2 = 4). If you play another King card on the previous one, it will double the value again (in the above example, the 2 card with two Kings on it would now add eight to the Caravan hand.
Jokers can be played on numerical cards and Aces, but not on face cards. When played on numerical cards, they will remove all other cards of that number from play, but not the individual card the Joker was played (example: play a Joker on a 4 card, and all other 4 cards will be removed). If Jokers are played on Aces, they will remove all non-face cards of that suit from play (example: play on a diamond Ace card, all diamonds will be removed).
Once you’ve selected at least thirty cards, the game will begin with the opponent always going first. Before you play your first hand you can discard as many cards as you want. Afterwards, each discard action will give the enemy a turn. You must first place a starting card in each of your three Caravan hands, afterwards you must put a card of ascending or descending value. Seems obvious enough, but once you decide on a course (ascending or descending) you must continue playing ascending or descending cards. For example, start out a caravan hand by playing an 8 card, if you then play a 10, you’ve painted yourself into a corner because you must now play an ascending card. On the other hand, if you play a 7 card on that 8 you started the hand with, you can then play anything lower than 7, then anything lower than that. You can break this rule under one condition (not counting face cards): if the card you’re playing has the same suit as the card you’re playing it on, ascending/descending value doesn’t matter. For example, you cannot normally play a 9 card on a 10 card in an ascending caravan hand, but if both cards are, say clubs, you can. You can never play two cards of the same value (two 10s in this example) on each other, no matter what the suits are.
Building Your Deck
So, those are the basic rules. Build up three hands - three caravans - shooting for a score of 21 to 26 (the higher the better). You can build up your deck by finding or buying cards throughout the Mojave. Normally you cannot use duplicate cards unless they come from different decks. Ringo’s starter deck comes with a full compliment of cards from The Topps Casino, so say, for example, you found another Jack of Hearts card from The Topps deck, you could not play more than one of these cards. If, on the other hand, you found a Jack of Hearts from the Gomorrah deck, you could play it. Building up your deck might suit some people, and the cards are usually pretty cheap, but it’s not necessary to win all the Caravan games you could possibly care to play.
With all that said, there’s a simple way to win almost every Caravan game you play, and you can do it with the starter deck you get from Ringo. Pick all four copies of your 7, 9 and 10 cards, then fill your deck up with 18 random cards. On your first turn, discard every card that is not a 7, 9 or 10, then build caravan hands exclusively from those three cards, if possible. The obvious reason being that these are three card, guaranteed 26 value Caravan hands. Not only will you build caravan hands with the highest useful value (26), but since it only takes three cards in each caravan, you will do it faster than your opponent. This is a nice strategy if you want to grind out the "Know When to Fold Them" and "Caravan Master" trophies/achievements, not so nice if you want to actually have some challenge to the game.