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Subject: Caverna in Essen - More impressions than review! rss

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Christian Gienger
Germany
Germany
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I only played 4 rounds of Caverna in Essen, so I can't really tell about the whole game, but I think I got a feel for the game as I do have Agricola experience. If you don't know Agricola, this review won't help you much as I will compare and explain with the help of Agricola!

Components
The components are plentiful and well designed. There are lots of wooden pieces that are custom made, so no cubes. The only generic items are the workers, but that is a design thing as the cardboard tokens that show weapon strength have to be placed on the worker.
The game boards, weapon tokens, cave and outside tiles as well as fields and rooms are made from standard cardboard and the round cards are normal playing card quality.
Normal and standard is what several people consider good quality but as this is what I expect from games, I don't think they are special.

Game play
Usually I describe the game play in detail at this point but as I haven't even seen all round cards in the game we played, I just explain the basics and differences to Agricola.
Like in Agricola everybody starts with 2 workers and a cave with room for those 2 people and each round a new action card is added so there are more choices every round.
As additional resource there is ore and ore can be turned into weapons which are used on a voyage which yield resources of your choice depending on the weapon strength of the worker you put on this action.
Those weapons also bring a new element as workers have to be placed in order from the weakest to the strongest dwarf, except if you pay 1 ruby to put a worker earlier. Rubies are another new resource that can be used as wild card for almost everything. As new animal we have dogs who can guard sheep even without fences or stables.
The biggest difference to me is not the missing cards which are replaced by more rooms that do different stuff, but the different feeding mechanism. You can turn almost everything (no dogs) into food during a feeding time without the need of having an oven or other rooms.
As well there are 2 different kinds of nurturing rounds, some with harvest, some without.
The scoring was also changed to a flat x points per y, so you may specialize and gain from it. There are still negative points for missing animal races or open spaces on the board.

Conclusion
While I liked Agricola I love Caverna, at least after 4 rounds of play. It just feels like you can really achieve something and are not just fighting for enough food to keep your family alive. As the scoring in Caverna is more open and you actually get points for more than x things of a kind, players are really doing different things, not just the same things in a different order!
I have not bought Caverna yet and will not buy it until I had 2 or 3 full plays as I don't want to put 60 € into a game that I may end up liking less than I thought after a third. I do fully understand that there is great! material inside that box and enough stuff for 7 players, but I'm 99% sure that I will never play this game with more than 5 players. It still is bad for AP prone people and even if you don't have them the game lasts for at least 30 minutes per player which adds up to 3.5+ hours with 7 players which is probably too long to be fun with this game. I rather split into 3 and 4 player groups for different games in this case. So I do belong to the faction that had preferred a 4 player game with the expansion for 5-7 players as an add-on.
And in the 4 rounds going for weapons looked like a supreme strategy as you get basically anything from it and there is only one spot for getting ore and only one spot for voyages in the first 2 rounds, but on the other hand, I doubt that there is such a obvious best strategy in a game by an experienced designer that tested that long.
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J T
United States
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Very interesting impressions. I've been hesitant to bring Agricola to my game group, since they have an upper-limit to the amount of brain-burn they're willing to tolerate, so I'm looking forward to seeing how people ultimately see Caverna vs Agricola... if more people find Caverna an excellent game without quite as much stress, it may jump to the top of the list in the next few months.

Locu wrote:
...but on the other hand, I doubt that there is such a obvious best strategy in a game by an experienced designer that tested that long.


Let me introduce you to my friend "A Few Acres of Snow" and a little town called Halifax ...the Biggest Flawed Game of 2011.
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Richard Dewsbery
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Caverna has less stress in the sense that everything - especially food - is easier yo come by, and rarely are you left choosing between two slightly rubbish options for your last play of the round. On the other hand, for the feeling of "OMG, I want to do that, and that, and that, and that'd be nice too, but I only have one action" Caverna has *that* sort of stress in spades.
 
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Matt Shinners
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RDewsbery wrote:
Caverna has less stress in the sense that everything - especially food - is easier yo come by, and rarely are you left choosing between two slightly rubbish options for your last play of the round. On the other hand, for the feeling of "OMG, I want to do that, and that, and that, and that'd be nice too, but I only have one action" Caverna has *that* sort of stress in spades.


I think something similar is the reason Lords of Waterdeep took off - maximizing your score is hard, and there's a lot you want to do, but you never feel like you're fighting to survive, and you always feel like you're doing something that matters.

Agricola, on the other hand, creates a similar feel to Chvatil games (Dungeon Lords/Dungeon Petz in particular), where you're just trying to stave off total failure better than the other guys.

If you can keep the great parts of Agricola but introduce the feel of Lords of Waterdeep (for those who prefer that feel, which, I believe, is a decent majority of gamers), I don't know that it could be stopped.
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Al Johnson
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I know I am in the minority but I love Agricola for the very reason many people criticize it - the constant need for food. I also love the limited options and that everyone is fighting over them. I prefer a game with few good options that everyone fights over rather than several good options; where if I don't get choice A, that's OK, choices B, C, and D are also good. To me the greater tension (and interaction) is fighting over desperately needed resources. I also am not crazy about all the buildings coming out right at the beginning of the game - that seems to be just begging for AP.

However, with that said I will probably give this a spin when given the opportunity. I've been surprised before.
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Thorsten Bahr
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Augsburg (near Munich)
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couldn't agree more
 
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Mathue Faulkner
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Al Johnson wrote:
I know I am in the minority but I love Agricola for the very reason many people criticize it - the constant need for food. I also love the limited options and that everyone is fighting over them. I prefer a game with few good options that everyone fights over rather than several good options; where if I don't get choice A, that's OK, choices B, C, and D are also good. To me the greater tension (and interaction) is fighting over desperately needed resources. I also am not crazy about all the buildings coming out right at the beginning of the game - that seems to be just begging for AP.

However, with that said I will probably give this a spin when given the opportunity. I've been surprised before.

That's one of the main reasons I love Agricola.

While Caverna uses similar mechanics, the game is so much more open that I don't really feel the need for the two games to compete within my collection. Caverna and Agricola just provide different experiences...
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Jim Rhodes
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Reading about Caverna, it sounds a little like the computer game Dwarf Fortress. Does anyone know if this is a sensible comparison or am I way off the path here?
 
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