It's a two-player game, and the winner takes the whole pot. You build a "caravan" using the cards in your deck. The goal is to create caravan bids that beat your opponent's bids, so there's more strategy than luck involved. It's why you won't see Caravan in any casino - too slow-paced, and more importantly, no house edge. Here, take this holotape - it goes into more specifics about the rules. You'll also need a deck, so take one of my spares. So... you feel like playing a game?”— Ringo, Fallout: New Vegas
Obtaining a deck and additional cards
A free 54 card starter deck and game instructions can be received from Ringo in Goodsprings. This deck is composed of 53 of the 54 cards from the The Tops' set (There are 2 King of Diamonds, the King of Clubs is missing). Additional cards can be obtained from various merchants and corpses across the Mojave wasteland, or by beating Festus at Lucky Horseshoes, or alternatively you may find cards in the Sierra Madre should you have Dead Money installed.
How to play
At the outset of the game, the opponent will place a bid. The player can then either match or raise it. Non-player characters will not match every bid, only raising to about 50% of their initial bid. The player can bid any amount they want, limited only by their opponent's bid and the amount of money they have.
Building a deck
Caravan decks are composed of at least 30 cards from one or more traditional playing card sets. The deck may have any number of cards of any type, although it cannot have duplicate cards from the same set. For example, a King of Spades with The Tops on the reverse and a King of Spades with Gomorrah on the reverse is acceptable, but more than one King of Spades from The Tops deck is not. Any duplicate cards purchased by the player are automatically filtered out of the selection process.
Building a custom deck
Prior to beginning the game, the player is presented with the "deck creation interface". This interface consists of two rows of cards, both representing every card in the deck. The visible cards in the top row represent the playable deck, while the bottom row are the unused cards.
A deck is created by moving cards from the bottom row to the top row using the Add button. Cards can also be removed using the Remove button. The "Randomize Deck" button will randomly select cards, creating a new caravan deck each time from all the available cards in your total card pool. Once the player is finished creating their deck, they can move on to the game. The finished deck will be saved and cannot be edited until the next time Caravan is played.
Caravan is played with two players building three opposing caravans (or "bids") of numbered cards. The goal is to outbid the opponent in all of the three caravans by keeping the number of points on each of above 20 and below 27 (21-26) while preventing the opponent from doing the same.
The game begins with each player taking eight cards from their deck and placing either one numerical card or Ace on each of their caravans. A player may not discard during this initial round. (This is currently bugged, see Bugs.) Once both players have started their three bids, each player may do one of the following on their turn:
- Play one card and draw a new card from their deck into their hand.
- Discard one card from their hand and draw a new card from their deck.
- Disband one of their three caravans by removing all cards from that caravan.
After the initial card is played, the following card determines the direction of the caravan, either ascending or descending numerically. All subsequent cards must continue that numerical direction and/or match the suit of the previous card. Playing a same-suit card will change the direction of the caravan, if applicable. Cards of the same numerical value cannot be played in sequence, regardless of suit. Face cards and Jokers can be attached to an Ace or numeric card in a caravan (including your opponents') and affect them in various ways. A total of three cards may be attached to any given regular card, after which the only way to remove that card is through the use of a Joker or discarding the entire caravan.
|Card||Can be played against||Effect|
|Ace||-||Adds 1 to caravan value.|
|Number cards (2-10)||-||Adds card value to caravan value.|
|Jack||Ace, 2-10||Removes that card from the table, along with any face cards (Jokers, Kings or Queens) attached to it.|
|Joker||Ace, 2-10||Effects change based on whether the Joker is played against an Ace or a number card:
Multiple Jokers may be played on the same card.
|King||Ace, 2-10||Doubles the value of the number card it's played on. For example, a King played on a 4 adds 4 to that caravan. Multiple Kings may be played on the same card for multiplicative effects; thus, a second King will re-double the value resulting from the first King, so 4 x 2 x 2 = 16.|
|Queen||Ace, 2-10||Changes the suit of the card it's played on and reverses the direction of the caravan if played on the lead card. For example, playing a Queen of Hearts on the lead card in a 5, 7, 9 caravan will change the 9 to Hearts and make the direction descending. Multiple Queens may be played on the same card.|
A player's caravan is considered sold when the value of its cards is over 20 and under 27. The opponent may still outbid by increasing the value of their opposing pile while staying within the 21-26 range. The game ends when each of the competing caravans is sold to either the opponent or the player, with the victor providing a better bid for at least two of the caravans.
In the event of a tie between any two matched caravans, the game continues until one side has a better bid. The player with two or more sales on their side at the end of the game wins the pot. If either player runs out of cards to discard before a winning condition is met, the player will not be able to discard and will be declared the loser regardless of how many winning caravans they have.
|Name||Location||Common bids||Merchant||Game Limit|
|Cliff Briscoe||Dino Bite Gift Shop||*||Yes||5 Games|
|Dale Barton||The Fort||*||Yes||None|
|Amb. Dennis Crocker||NCR Embassy||Holds 2000 caps||No||None|
|Isaac||Gun Runners||Holds 200-227 caps||No||None|
|Private Jake Erwin||NCR Embassy||Holds 200-209 caps||No||None|
|Johnson Nash||Primm||*||Yes||5 games|
|Jules||North Vegas square||Holds 0-20 caps||No||None|
|Keith||Aerotech Suite 200||0||No||None|
|Lacey||Mojave Outpost||*||Yes||5 Games|
|Little Buster||Camp McCarran||Holds 300-390 caps||No||None|
|Quartermaster Mayes||Camp Forlorn Hope||Holds 390 caps||Restricted||5 Games|
|No-bark Noonan||Novac||Holds 2000 caps||No||None|
|Ringo||Goodsprings/Crimson Caravan Camp||Holds 200-230 caps||No||None|
|Jed Masterson||Northern Passage/Southern passage||Holds 200-300 caps||No||None|
-  Merchants who play Caravan will use one quarter of their currency as starting bid. Spending caps with them increases the amount they hold and the amount they bet, and vice versa. Merchants may also pay out in any alternate currencies they have in their inventory, including any you had already exchanged with them.
-  Certain merchants have a limit on the total number of times they will play Caravan against the player. This limit is absolute and does not "reset" at any point during the game.
- Planting any currency (caps, NCR dollars or Legion coin) into an opponents inventory will increase the amount of money he spends while playing caravan.
- A caravan deck can only be received from Ringo through dialogue options via the unmarked quest Ringo's Caravan Rules.
- Six names can be seen carved into the table where all Caravan games are played (one for each "caravan" spot), each of which is a location in New California (Boneyard, Redding, Shady Sands, Dayglow, New Reno, and The Hub).
- Merchants (if anted properly) can place as much as 81.5% of their available currency on a particular hand of Caravan. However, most Caravan-playing merchants are subject to a limit on the total number of times they will play against the Courier.
Behind the scenes
- The achievement/trophy names Know When to Hold Them and Know When to Fold Them (in game challenge) are references to the song The Gambler by Kenny Rogers.
- Both Klamath Bob and Melissa Lewis were at one point intended to be Caravan players. The dialog options which would allow this have been completely removed in both cases, but their Caravan decks remain in the game's resources. Additionally, Poindexter appears to have been intended to be a Caravan player. In this case the dialog option remains, but the associated dialog script, caravan deck, and necessary faction assignment are not present.
- Playing with any no-game-limit non-player character when he holds 59804 caps will result in the player winning up to 52029 caps. Dale Barton will fall back to 59804. This action is repeatable. Also, the game may crash when the non-player character holds more than 65,537 (2^16+1) caps into his inventory.
- Though the rules state no discarding may occur during the initial round, it is nonetheless possible to do so anyway. If the player does so, their opponent does not get a turn and the player gets to go again. The non-player character will also use this bug to their advantage. This is likely due to the fact that if you started with (for example) all queens, you could not make a move and the game could not progress.
- After the game ends:
- When it says to press any button to continue pressing start and then hitting start again will cause the game to become unresponsive, while party chat still works.
The button to continue will sometimes lag over. (Pressing (O) to exit will sometimes cause the Pip-Boy to open and pressing (X) will sometimes trigger dialogue with the opposing player).
- Confirmed on unpatched Xbox version of the game, only encountered at Crimson Caravan merchant as well as Cliff Briscoe.
- It is not possible for the player to discard cards once their main deck is empty. The opponent will still be able to do so once their deck is gone.
- Upon winning, the player gets the amount of caps in the pot added to their cap total, though the in game message only reports adding half the pot. This is only when the player wins, if the non-player character wins the caps are removed and added properly from both.
- When putting a card onto any pile, the green validation card will show upside down
- A bug may occur where the non-player character will not bid any caps even if the player wagers caps. If this happens, the player may lose his wager if he loses and won't win anything if he wins.
- Some caravan card games may not load up a screen, but rather load up the options to choose cards. The screen will remain with the player looking at their opponent.
- When drawing or discarding, some cards may change to a different card (ex. 7 to a 10) for the duration of the animation and then change back.
- Once the game starts and the non-player character places their first card for their caravan, you're not able to select any cards to be placed in your caravans
- Occasionally, upon acquiring the 30 cards required to play Caravan, the game will freeze.
- There is a possibility that you will not be awarded the trophy "Caravan Master" upon reaching the 30 wins required to get the trophy.
- An non-player character will sometimes 'win' a game, even though the requirements for a win will not have been met (non-player character may get a single caravan over 21 and win the game regardless of the players other bids).
- A game may continue on, despite the player meeting the win conditions.