$30.00
Luke Hector
United Kingdom
Portsmouth
flag msg tools
badge
http://brokenmeeple.blogspot.co.uk/
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Agricola has been a fan favourite among Euro gamers and I like to think of myself as a fairly well balanced gamer so I enjoy Euro's and Ameritrash alike. Agricola made its way into my collection based on the farming theme which I thought was interesting and due to the sheer amount of components in the box. I love the idea of seeing a progression in the game where you can see your endeavours build up in front of you and at the end you feel a sense of achievement. City building games are good for this and farms in this case are no exception.

Some people were not as taken in by Agricola due to it's tense worker placement and the emphasis on feeding your people rather than building the farm. The negative point scoring which forced you to balance your farm out rather than specialise was also a concern. Well now we have Caverna and it's essentially panned out as Agricola 2.0 with more streamlined rules, less tension, but a wealth of options. Does it have a place alongside Agricola, or does it replace it entirely?


"That donkey is there asking - have you seen my friend Ed, oh no you haven't!!"


Designer: Uwe Rosenberg (2013)

Publisher: Lookout Games

# of Players: 1-7

Ages: 12+

Play Time: 120+ minutes

BGG Rank/Rating: #223/8.43

Dice Tower 2013 People’s Choice Rank: n/a

Category: Worker & Tile Placement Euro

http://brokenmeeple.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/agricola-20-now-w...

I Got A Lovely New Combine Harvester

If you know how to play Agricola then a lot of this game will be instantly familiar to you. There are 12 rounds to the game and depending on the number of players there is a selection of action spaces that players can use and place their dwarf workers on. As each round elapses further action spaces become available. As with every Euro game, you're opting for the most victory points and to do so you have to excavate your cavern and furnish it as well as expand your farm outside to keep animals and grow food to feed your family - oh yes, feeding is back but it's not as bad as you think.


"Nice little details dotted about the board and a useful food conversion chart at the bottom right"

Each player takes it in turns to place a worker on a space collecting resources, building pastures, chopping forests, furnishing your cavern with rooms and mines, etc. If someone has taken your space, too bad, so sorry you'll have to adapt and go for something else. As time goes on you will breed more animals, expand your fields and produce more children.


"These are on separate boards depending on player count - but there's a lot to choose from"

At the end of several rounds in the game you will have to feed your family. You will need to cook animals or harvest your vegetables/grains and have enough to feed every Dwarf you have. Failure to do so results in negative points at the end of the game. Not all harvests are the same though. Occasionally there will either be no harvest, a "lesser" harvest or one where you have a choice of breeding animals or harvesting fields, but not both.


"Like in Agricola the round action spaces are randomised by stage but there's only 12 rounds, not 14"

As well as ploughing fields outside and building pastures, you can also furnish your cavern with mines and room tiles. There is a huge selection of rooms available, that grant resource benefits, victory point conditions and space for more Dwarf children and knowing which to go for forms a big part of your overall strategy.

A new addition to the game is the expeditions, which is essentially sending your Dwarf's off on missions. First you have to arm a Dwarf with a weapon using ore and a blacksmith action space. Then you use an Expedition action space to send him off. Depending on the strength of his weapon, he can bring back different kinds of resources and food and with every expedition, he levels up his weapon before eventually you're able to chop forests, excavate caves and even furnish rooms on these missions.


"Reference cards for each part of the game are extremely useful and easy to understand"

Do not however make the same silly rule mistake that I have made which is misinterpreting the breeding rule for animals. If you have AT LEAST two of the same animal you get ONE animal. It is NOT however "gain one animal for EVERY two animals". Believe me when I say, this has a dramatic effect on the game if you get it wrong when suddenly everything is spawning children like rabbits.

Play continues with more and more options being made available to you as time goes on with the victor being, you guessed it, the one with the most victory points.

Man V Food

Now one of the biggest complaints with Agricola was that feeding your family was so tense and tricky at times that it became your focal point of the whole game. That's completely changed here, well depending on your strategy anyway. Nearly everything can be converted into food at any time and there's a handy conversion chart that helps with this. Dogs are apparently not edible though in this game. . . hmm, yeah I'm going to avoid the obvious joke here.


"Gold, weapons and food tokens - I don't like food tokens so I use wooden chicken/fish/bread pieces"

It's no pushover mind you, but no longer are you so focused on feeding that you can't enjoy building up your farm and you don't have to acquire ovens in advance like with Agricola. In fact the only game where I struggled to feed my family and by that I mean literally scraping for every last bite was when I adopted the strategy of mass family planning. In the early game I had so many family members that I was neglecting my farming duties. It worked well, but boy was it a trickier one to go for.

Man V Points

And now the second biggest complaint of Agricola. The scoring points system in the original game required you to have a balanced farm otherwise the negative points for not doing so pretty much crippled your attempts at winning. Personally this was my biggest issue with the game, I didn't mind the feeding aspect. In Caverna there are still some negative points for unused land and lack of animal groups, but that's all.

However this is balanced by the removal of the "capping" feature from Agricola. You couldn't specialise in that game as when you reached a certain point, you gained no further credit for going further. Now you can specialise to your hearts content. If you want to do nothing but create the world's biggest vegetable patch you can do so. And you gain points for literally everything on the board. Grains, vegetables, dogs, cattle, donkeys, pastures, mines, rubies, gold, family members, in fact the only thing you don't gain points for is ore gained from mining, but there's plenty of chances to convert them and chances are you won't even go for ore unless it's part of your main strategy.

Relieving the Tension For Better Or Worse

The result of both of these major changes is to make the game less tense for players. Now this works or doesn't work depending on why you loved Agricola. If you enjoyed the tightness of Agricola, then this might seem like a downgrade for you. Also even though you are competing for action spaces, in much the same way as Le Havre from what I've heard (yet to play that game, it's high on my wish list) there's usually always a decent spot for you to go even if it wasn't your primary choice. You rarely feel like you're screwed over completely.

The rules in Caverna are easier to follow and more streamlined than in Agricola, but there's still no shortage of options to take into account during the game. In Agricola you had less action spaces, but with all of the improvement cards and occupations, there was plenty of choice to overwhelm new players with. Caverna is pretty much the same. You don't have the cards, but you've got way more action spaces and there's a LOT of furnishing tiles to read over. My best advice here is to ignore any completely that don't go with your intended strategy at the start of the game and just go with the flow. That way you don't get overwhelmed and it gives you something new to look at every game!


"Lots of tiles, now this is only two board's worth. I believe there are at least four"

OCD Overload

When we talk about components, we come to a big positive and a big negative to the game. The boards look great and the furnishing tiles are nicely done as well with colourful, clear artwork on all of them. The resource tokens are all solid and chunky wooden pieces, larger even then Agricola's versions. But BOY is there a lot of them. I mean really, there is a lot. If you're wondering why the game costs around £60 to buy, this is the reason. You have got 7 player boards, a selection of boards to house the tiles with printed tile faces on them so you know where each one goes, a group of boards for action spaces depending on player count and then a million wooden resource tokens. Oh yeah and there's loads of tiles for fields, mines, pastures and caverns.


"There's a ton of each of these tiles - trust me, you need to have storage solutions in place"

It really is insane just how much is in this game box and you're definitely going to be glad they provide you with bags to house them all. I have a Deluxe Euro token box and I use that for everything, but the downside with that is trying to fish out all of the tokens each game. In fact the only component niggle is that Dwarf's are represented by discs again which look odd compared to everything else that's represented by a proper token. Oh well I've replaced those with Farmer Meeples! So you're definitely getting value for money if you're starting out fresh. I can't recall if Agricola only came with cubes as the version I bought had Animeeples and I replaced all the tokens with the deluxe versions. Here though, there isn't a cube in sight and for a Euro game with resource management that in itself deserves an award.


"My Deluxe Euro Token box - it's nice and works well, but big fingers do struggle with small pieces"

However a niggle with Agricola was having to replenish the action spaces with resources each turn. This didn't take too long eventually as you got used to it, but in Caverna the issue is compounded as 75% of the action spaces involve resources that replenish at various rates. So each round you are always having to put more tokens on the board and for me, getting them out of the Deluxe box is a pain. I'm tempted to ditch the box and resort to simple bags + ramekins for speed, but you are basically going to have to come up with your own methodology for mitigating this time-consuming issue.


"That's just a handful of tokens- there's loads of each and . . . come on, this is far better than cubes"

In terms of game length, it's not that bad providing you don't have too many players. I've played the game solo (which is actually quite good) and with 2, 3, 4 and 5 players. With 4 or less it's relatively easy to manage. At 5 however it was quite a hassle for table space and resource replenishment. Now I could improve on this with sorting out the tokens as above, but I warn you now, 5 players can be a long game. I will outright refuse to try this with 6 or 7 players as I don't know of a pub table that exists that could possibly house that many players, and the fiddly aspect with the tokens would just become unbearable.

Verdict . . . . . And The Question

Despite the niggles that have been mentioned, this is a fantastic game. There is so much you can do and so many paths to victory that every game is different and you really get a sense of progression. By the end of the game your board is populated with all sorts of farming and cavern tiles, animals and food and you really feel like it's unique from the other players. You can specialise in any way you like and it's no longer the end of the world if you don't grab the maximum amount of workers in your family - another common complaint with Agricola.

Turns run smoothly and you can't help but get into the theme of building a farm and cave system. This is about as far as a board game version of Harvest Moon can get. With too many players it can bog down however so I recommend no more than 5 players and you really need to invest in some storage solutions for the tokens for mid-game.


"Solo game in progress"

It is however fiddly to manage the resources and the sheer amount of options can be overwhelming for new players, however it is easier to learn the basic rules than Agricola due to the simplified rules for feeding the family and scoring. Veteran Agricola players may miss the cards, but the furnishing tiles I feel make up for them with so many options available to everyone without having to spend ages drafting the cards before the game starts. Do not be fooled by the easier rules though, this is still a heavy Euro game, just for different reasons than Agricola. One is tighter, the other gives you more to do.

But here is the question, much like Doctor Who I've wanted to avoid this question for as long as possible but eventually it catches up with me. And I've got to do the same for Eldritch Horror as well, so double trouble.

Is Caverna: Cave Farmers better than Agricola and if so, is Agricola now relegated from the collection?

There are many similarities between the two games, but also some key differences. Agricola is more tense and tight and has a greater emphasis on feeding and balance. Caverna has more options for each player but is a looser game and feeding is now a side issue rather than the main focal point. Expeditions are a good feature, but they're not unbalanced so think of it as another strategy to go for. Losing an action space to another player is no longer a crushing blow to your strategy and an early mistake won't completely screw up the late game forcing you to endure another 2+ hours for nothing.

The Occupation/Improvement cards are replaced by Furnishing Tiles and both ideas work fine and I like both versions. My one niggle with the cards however is that even with drafting you might end up with wasted cards or ones that don't benefit your strategy very well so there is a luck element. At least with the tiles, everyone has access to every one of them. However the cards particularly in the I & E decks from the base game have a little more interactivity between players and Agricola has a lot of room for expansion, but I'm sure Caverna will get the same treatment with more furnishing tiles.

I like both games for different reasons, but I'm going to put my hand up and say. . . . . Caverna is better than Agricola. The production is excellent, it's more streamlined and there are so many options available to players of which all are available from the start. If offered a game of Agricola, I would happily still play it though, but Caverna would always get the casting vote given a choice of the two. Yes it's daunting with all the tiles and the handling of the components is fiddly, but Agricola had similar issues and all Euro games have a learning curve.

Will I now be getting rid of Agricola? That's an even harder question. I enjoy the game but for many people the lack of stress in Caverna is a big factor and it is for me as well. Some say Agricola is more interactive, but personally that's highly dependant on the cards drawn and most of them simply involve passing the cards to other players after use. That's nice and all, but hardly a reason for keeping it. The cards also have a big power swing so luck can sometimes play too much of a part in their use.

My biggest issue with Agricola is the scoring. You HAVE to balance your farm, you can't specialise at all and that's a big killer for me. Caverna allows you to do whatever you like and even incurring some negative points no longer cripples your endgame. My first game I ever played with my friend, I tested this out by opting for sheep battery farming. I grabbed no other animals, but at least got some bits in the cavern to boost the points for sheep further and some fields for growing food. I only won by 3 points, but it was still a win.

For now I think it has a place, but with more games played I think I could actually be forced to make room for other games and Agricola will have to go sadly. It's not a bad game, I love Agricola and I'm not a subscriber of "Cult of the New", but Caverna addresses some key issues for me and it's easier to bring to the table for new players. Certainly if you haven't got either of them, go for Caverna as buying both outright from scratch doesn't seem worth it.

If you're unsure - give both a try and see what you think, that's what I say. You can't go wrong with buying Caverna without testing it first, it's brilliant. But at most games clubs you can bet someone owns one or both of these games so get involved and see which you prefer.
47 
 Thumb up
2.83
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Fridjof B
Norway
Tranby
Norway
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for a fine review!

Your wood looks better than mine (bought on Essen'13), which looks like the ones in this photo by Mike Stevenes (Omahavice):



I tend to mix them up with the cattle.

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jason Carlough
Germany
Berlin
flag msg tools
badge
High adventure in the world of high finance...
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I think he substituted wood from the Mayday token set. Which is probably the same place he got the wooden token box. He also mentioned wooden chicken/fish/bread pieces which also come with that set.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Luke Hector
United Kingdom
Portsmouth
flag msg tools
badge
http://brokenmeeple.blogspot.co.uk/
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
That is correct - I acquired the Deluxe token set from a local supplier and substituted the wood in Agricola/Caverna and also even Kingsburg.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
United States
New Jersey
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review! I'm dying to try this one, but it's good to hear that, from hearing what you like/don't like about Agricola, that I might like this one a bit less than Agricola. I love how tight that game is, I love how much conflict is involved (even thought it's indirect, there's a lot of it), I really love it.

It sounds like this errs more on the Le Havre side of things, with much more being laid out from the start and a much less tight game.

Thanks for the great review!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Luke Hector
United Kingdom
Portsmouth
flag msg tools
badge
http://brokenmeeple.blogspot.co.uk/
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks!

I really need to give Le Havre a go. I have it on the Ipad and haven't had a chance to test it yet. At this rate I'm just going to buy the game, because I hear so much about it, but don't know anyone that owns it. I bet I'll love it.

Yes from your perspective, if you liked the tightness of Agricola, then Caverna is lighter in comparison because there are more action spaces and all the tiles are available. It does however remove the luck aspect that Agricola had with the cards because no longer does anyone benefit without doing something for it.

My main beefs with Agricola were the scoring and "must feed at all costs" aspect as mentioned in the review, which is why Caverna ranks above it for me.

That being said, if Agricola came by and did an official rule variant for the scoring system removing the "capping" on points, that would certainly make life harder for me deciding between them.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mathue Faulk
United States
Cedar Park
TX
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
greetingsfrombergen wrote:
Thanks for a fine review!

Your wood looks better than mine (bought on Essen'13), which looks like the ones in this photo by Mike Stevenes (Omahavice):

I prefer the Caverna wood to the Agricola wood, and I wish it was readily available...
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Holger Hannemann
United Kingdom
Upper Heyford
Oxfordshire
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review. But this game is a no for me. As far as I can see they took my beloved Agricola, removed all the fun and replaced it with with a Castles of Burgundy "there is always something good to do" style of play including a Feld'esque VP salad. Not my style of game.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Luke Hector
United Kingdom
Portsmouth
flag msg tools
badge
http://brokenmeeple.blogspot.co.uk/
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
It certainly is going to depend on the style of game you like. The "There is Always Something Good To Do" style is one I go for, because they're is nothing worse than being in a long Euro game where your moves count for nothing and you know it. Power Grid has such a problem for me and so do the 18XX style games.

There may always be something good to do, but whether it's optimal or not will be the key to winning. I think there is a place for both games in the gaming world easily, whether I keep both or not, remains to be seen.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jacek Deimer
Poland
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
I've played both Caverna and Agricola(family game) only few times, but I have very stron feeling that Caverna is much more superior to family Agricola.

There is simply so much more to do in Caverna, more farm spaces, greater variety of actions, many actions give you more than 1 effect, more flexibily via expedition and rubbies.

As many have pointed in Agricola we were strugling for survive and in the end all farms looked almost the same. In Caverna each player's board can look unique! And you have this feeling of development and acomplishment in the end.

I agree that Caverna is open ended , but I disagree that there is always something good to do. In most games I play I try to evaluate each action VP. And even after few plays I can see that not being able to get right action at right movent can cost a lot of points.

I haven't played full game of Agricola (with cards) but I suspect they allow you optimize your engine and score more points in the end. On the other hand I'm worried that they will determine your strategy too much -> You will have to play the way your best cards tells you, am I right here?


So, for new player, who only tasted both games, Caverna is clearly a winner. Same feeling is shared by our entire 8 people playgroup, 6 new to both games, 2 seasoned Agricola players.

I suspect that Uwe Rosenberg wanted to improve his award winning desing, when creating Caverna and I have to say that he succeded.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Luke Hector
United Kingdom
Portsmouth
flag msg tools
badge
http://brokenmeeple.blogspot.co.uk/
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I suppose when I say "something good to do" you can take lee-way on that with the word "optimal". You may be going after donkeys and someone nicks the donkey space, but you still get points for acquiring sheep so it's not all bad.

The cards do determine your strategy a lot as a player who manages to make good use of the cards will 95% win over anyone who doesn't. I like to pick my strategy ahead of time though rather than have some cards dictate it for me. Even Seasons has that small issue where the cards you draft usually determine your strategy, but at least in that one you draw lots more cards during the game and can chop and change. In Agricola, you don't draw any more cards during the game.

It's a bit hard to compare Caverna to Family Agricola. Family Agricola I would never really play as it's too simple and the cards/improvements are what make Agricola for me.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Matthew Jeffries
United States
Indianapolis
Indiana
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I pretty much agree with your review. But I will NEVER get rid of my pimped out copy of Agricola...I even customized my own game box to hold everything.

I have only played a solo game so far. I tried to just play quickly and didn't read all the furnishing tiles. In 1.5h (had to reference the rules several times) I finished and scored 93 points. I specialized in expeditions and making lots of ore. After adding up my score, I can see SO MANY things I could have done to better my score. I really do love the focus on specialization with less penalty for not generalizing.

For some reason, I really like the use of dogs to herd sheep.

Another big change is the increased number of harvest phases in Caverna. Really changes the dynamics of the game.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Luke Hector
United Kingdom
Portsmouth
flag msg tools
badge
http://brokenmeeple.blogspot.co.uk/
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
My Agricola isn't as pimped out, the deluxe box works for both games. But I must admit, Agricola is still cool so keeping both May work out. I've no incentive to expand Agricola beyond base game though.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Holger Hannemann
United Kingdom
Upper Heyford
Oxfordshire
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
farmergiles wrote:
It certainly is going to depend on the style of game you like. The "There is Always Something Good To Do" style is one I go for, because they're is nothing worse than being in a long Euro game where your moves count for nothing and you know it. Power Grid has such a problem for me and so do the 18XX style games.

There may always be something good to do, but whether it's optimal or not will be the key to winning. I think there is a place for both games in the gaming world easily, whether I keep both or not, remains to be seen.


Yes, I agree with you. I guess Agricola is an extreme in the sense that if you get cheated out of a couple of necessary actions you won't win the game. Of course to counter that you can always play a more open strategy that might not be as powerful in the end but saves you from losing because you lost one or two actions. I like this kind of tension and these overarching decisions. At the other extreme you have games like Le Havre Inland Port where each of your decisions is to either collect 29 or 30 points, and you end a game 295 to 302 points. For me there is no tension, and even a win is quite meaningless.

I know I'm probably the minority but I really love punishing games. Mostly because the stakes are much higher and the reward of actually playing the game is much higher than games that are pure VP hunts which only satisfy if you win or as optimization solo puzzles.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Luke Hector
United Kingdom
Portsmouth
flag msg tools
badge
http://brokenmeeple.blogspot.co.uk/
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I don't mind punishing games if the game isn't that long. Because then you can then almost reset and go again. Co Op games are an exception because not making mistakes vs the game is the whole challenge.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.