Jon Vallerand
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Agricola is the first heavy board game I've ever played, and the first resource management game, and back then, with little else to compare it to, I loved it. However, the more I played other games, the less I liked that one. When playing Agricola, I felt helpless, like I was taking baby steps towards survival, and then even smaller steps towards, you know, doing well. Eventually, when I was at a gaming night, the other 4 guys there wanted to play it, and I just left: it was the first time I felt so negatively about a game that I'd rather not play games at all than play it. I've since felt that way about a multitude of other games, but that is another subject.

I recently discovered Caverna, and fell in love with multiple things it does better than Agricola. Here are the Top 5 things that make Caverna better than Agricola (IMHO):

#5: Rubies - Rubies are wild resources. You can, at any time, trade them away for another resource/animal/tile of your choice. The Sow action is available, but you only have 2 grains to sow in your three fields? Trade a ruby for a veggie, and maximize your action. You can finally get a fence action, but have no place to put it? Trade a ruby for a pasture tile, and build on it. Rubies allow you to be adaptable, to better optimize your action. There isn't much I dislike more in games than taking an action and only being able to use part of it: rubies often have saved me from doing so.

#4: Adventuring - A new type of action in Caverna is the adventure (which I call the Raid, but that might just be me). Through the game, you can equip your workers with weapons (which gives them a level), and then send them raiding. When a worker raids, they get a certain number of resources (or eventually actions), with the worker's level determining the possible loot. This allows you to get multiple, absolutely unrelated things, from a single action, for that time when you need a boar, a stone, and 2 gold, but only have one action.

#3: Growth is less essential - In Agricola, the largest family usually won. Not only was each family member worth 3 points, but the extra actions far outweighed the worker's food upkeep and room cost (and, eventually, you didn't even pay for the room). In Caverna, they made workers worth less points, gave them opportunity costs (a built dwelling is one less spot for a special ability), and forced you to play your unarmed dwarves first. What that meant is that if you had armed dwarves, and got new ones, you basically lost the race towards adventuring spots until you armed your new dwarf. All in all, Growth is a strong strategy, but is not the bread and butter of the game.

#2: Dwarves eat their meat RAW - In Agricola, it took a long time to get your food engine going, because not only did you need to get stuff to eat, but also to build an oven or hearth, specific to your particular food engine, before others could. Getting the last cooking improvement was basically a guaranteed last place. In Caverna, they took away that extra step, which means you can devote more of your actions towards building up, rather than surviving.

#1: You do so much more - This one, Caverna did better than not only Agricola, but also most worker placement games. In Agricola, each action is a baby step. In Caverna, each action allows you to do SO MUCH STUFF! Getting one grain? Screw that, I want to get a double tile (DOUBLE TILE!), AND food, AND grain! You want sheep? Would you care for fences for them? You need wood? Well, do you want to raid with that? If in Agricola you took baby steps, Caverna gave you giant steps, which is ironic since you play Dwarves, but eh. In Caverna, most actions give you "riders", a D&D term that means an extra bonus. It sometimes is something you absolutely need, and can optimize your actions. However, sometimes, it's something you didn't need, but it begs the question "what do I do with that field now?". It changes the frustration you feel from the baby steps, to new decision points. It changes feeling helpless, to feeling like you're actually making profits.
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Glaucio Siqueira
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Agricola is a very hard and tight game, the interactivity between the players comes from that, by blocking essential spaces and foreseeing when you could be blocked. People who don't suffer through the learning phase get beat very hard and hate the game. Caverna has none of that... No space is essential. It is an easy game and feels quite solitaire. Tons of possible actions are always available... It is meaningless to me. But to each his own!
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ArrBeeDee Dial
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I think it comes from the prospective of what happens to you in real life.

If, all day, you get beat on by job, coworkers, and life then playing a game that is beating you up isn't fun. Many days, I want an uplifting end to my day and Agricola doesn't do that (for me). Ok, some days Sushi Go is to much also...

Agricola is a great game - one of the sharpest blades in the toolbox. Enjoy it when and where you can. Play what makes you smile after a hard day.
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trevor

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JVallerand wrote:
When playing Agricola, I felt helpless


This pretty much sums up the main difference between the two.

This also summerizes the two types of people in this world:

- People who like Argicola more because of the pressure it puts on you to accomplish something

- People who like Caverna more because it lets you do whatever you want to, whenever you want to, with little to zero presure. (and, for me, little sense of accomplishment)



I've played both, and I will play Caverna if my group wants to play, but clearly I prefer Agricola for that very reason, a sense of accomplishment.
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trevor

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I also find it funny that the 5 things that make Caverna better than Argicola in your opinion are the 5 main things that make Caverna worse than Agricola IMHO


1 : Rubies are a cop out, a wild resource that make the game far too easy by removing alot of the pressure, just like.....

2: The Adventuring, another "resource grab" that makes very little thematic sense and removes much tension

3: Growth is a fine balancing act in Aricola (and I very much disagree that whoever has the biggest family always wins, having 50+ plays of Argicola under my belt), where in Caverna it is far less of a decision, growing your family is a no brainer

4: The food engine is the crux of Argicola and very satisfing (again IMHO) once it is up and running. Where, again, in Caverna there is little pressure to feed.

5: Being able to do anything you want to whenever you want to isn't necessarily a good thing that I look for in my games. Again, this is all preference. In Caverna, sure you can do more, but that is because there is no pressure on you to do anything other than whatever you want to. I just feel like in every game of Caverna I play I can always execute whatever I am planning from the start of the game, with little to no competition from the other players, where those "baby steps" I took in the first few rounds of Agricola have turned into this awesome food generating and stone gathering, house building, cattle farming mega machine.


Again the overall theme is you like one game if you like pressure and strategy, one game if you like no pressure and a sandbox to create whatever you want to. To each their own........

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Jason Rupp
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It's going to depend on what you're after. Personally, I'm not a fan of Caverna because I like a tight difficult game. The openness of Caverna is a negative to me. It makes the game play loose and imo it's far too easy to do what you want. Someone took your spot? Not a problem! Don't have the required resources? Not a problem! It's dumb imo. Actions should be more meaningful. I don't like how easy it is to eat. I don't like how easy it is to get the resources you need.

Farmers of the Moor is amazing. I really hope they move that to digital because the Agricola ios app is great!

The lack of occupations also makes Caverna a bit of a bore for me.

If you like a more open and forgiving game, obviously you will like Caverna more.
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Brad Keusch
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I prefer Agricola, as one of the best designs I've ever played, but I still really enjoy Caverna too. Caverna has a bit more of a viscerally satisfying sense of creation, as the food is large and chunky, and you can place tiles on top of tiles and really get to see your large player board take shape in front of you, the cost of the game reflected in the components is really worth it in this sense. It's a million times better with more casual gamers as well, I feel confident teaching this game to almost anyone, and ultimately it depends on your group, but agricola rarely hits the table now that I have caverna as well because the majority of people around me just like it more.
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Tom Builder
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They are both great games.

One complaint I have with the adventuring is that it slows the game down. Some people can take forever deciding what rewards to take.
 
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Matt N

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One point unmentioned is that Agricola has a lot of variety through occupations and minor improvements, which do a lot to spice up the game. Some people hate the randomness involved with those, in which case they prefer Caverna or the Agricola family game. (Farmers of the moor is a compromise in that respect.)

I'm not sure how people are defining "more casual gamers", which I suppose is a relative term, but I would never consider Agricola or Caverna to be a good idea for casual gamers.
 
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Mike Summers
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jellyfish1 wrote:
They are both great games.

One complaint I have with the adventuring is that it slows the game down. Some people can take forever deciding what rewards to take.


Let people shop while you continue your turns. We always do this and it keeps it moving along. This is recommended in the rule book and it seems to work great with us.
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Thomas Robb
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To me, Agricola is a themed game first, meaning that those early European farmers were at the end of the plague. Most people were poor and farming to survive, not make money. Agricola is meant to simulate that time in history. You painfully, at times, try to build your farm to survive and hopefully, food and resources will become more plentiful, IF you can become very efficient. That is what those people lived through and tried to accomplish - you do get a nice sense of building something tangible and meaningful, small though it may be.

Caverna is the 21st century equivalent of Agricola in which you can have anything you want whenever you want because most Americans are used to this type of behavior. Advertising and politicians tell Americans to get the products "they deserve." You want food - go to the grocery and get it. Working hard to get small benefits just doesn't fit the current lifestyle of most Americans, particularly those that buy these board games. They have some extra capital to spend on entertainment. Those 16th - 17th century farmers spent their free time (mostly) surviving.

Comparing the two is like comparing people who are four centuries removed from each other.

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Your analogy falls apart at the point where you ignore Caverna's theme. It would surely make more sense to say that Caverna is a lighthearted, fantasy-themed farming game, with a fair bit of humour even in the rulebooks, and a much greater sense of fun. This is indeed worlds away from how you painted Agricola's theme.

I'm not saying I agree or disagree with what you said, just that I think you could more effectively say it by directly comparing the themes rather than bringing meta stuff into the conversation. Plus your references to Americans are out of place in a German game.
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trevor

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Yeah im not sure I get the whole "Americans are spoiled" reference.

You could have easily have said Caverna is a game set in a fantasy world populated by dwarves who when they get hungry, they just go up to the nearest unicorn and have them crap chocolate chip cookies
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Thomas Robb
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I agree that Caverna and Agricola are "German" games, but IMHO they were probably written for the American public because that's where the game would make the most sales.

I think Uwe heard the criticism from board gamers about the game being so restrictive and maybe considered he could make money giving the public unlimited resources as opposed to limited ones.

I agree the Caverna theme is light hearted and humorous - but he could have kept the food restrictions and limited resources from Agricola to Caverna - but he did not - why?
I think he designed the game to be an "American Smorgasboard" because he thought that would sell. And, why do essentially the same game twice - since people were complaining about the food limitations - why not try a game without them?

They are both excellent games - I didn't say Americans were spoiled - I said they like their resources plentiful and easy to procure.

 
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Andy Kerrison
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thomasrobb wrote:
I didn't say Americans were spoiled - I said they like their resources plentiful and easy to procure.



Mirrors reality... the US is full of almost every major natural resource known to man (a factor which has contributed immensely to the US becoming an economic superpower) whilst vast swathes of Europe have little or nothing.
 
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thomasrobb wrote:
I agree that Caverna and Agricola are "German" games, but IMHO they were probably written for the American public because that's where the game would make the most sales.


Ok, you qualified this as an opinion, but in my opinion, that's a stretch. "Written for the American public"? Seriously? Agricola?

thomasrobb wrote:
I didn't say Americans were spoiled - I said they like their resources plentiful and easy to procure.

Understood. And I never said I like bacon. But I do love me some thinly cut strips of fried pork belly.
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Alex Rockwell
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I completely agree with these 5.

On the other hand, I would also make a list of 5 things that make Agricola better, and it would be 'variability of setup' repeated 5 times.

Both are great and worth playing.
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Duncan P
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My experience of Agricola is that it takes several actions to collect wood and build fences in preparation for animal husbandry and the next thing your opponents do is take that giant pile of sheep you wanted and turn them into food with a single action. I like the concept of Agricola it's just the numbers are way too tight. You never really get past the poverty line.
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Jason Rupp
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Alphaeus wrote:
I like the concept of Agricola it's just the numbers are way too tight. You never really get past the poverty line.


You do when you've learned the game and understand how it works though. I often score in the 40s and 50s and have a huge farm.
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Jon Vallerand
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Alphaeus wrote:
My experience of Agricola is that it takes several actions to collect wood and build fences in preparation for animal husbandry and the next thing your opponents do is take that giant pile of sheep you wanted and turn them into food with a single action. I like the concept of Agricola it's just the numbers are way too tight. You never really get past the poverty line.


This is exactly my experience. You might want to try Caverna then!
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Mick Adams
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One observation I would make, as someone who really enjoys both games, is that I don't consider Agricola a superior game JUST because it's much tighter than Caverna, nor Caverna a superior game JUST because it's more open than Agricola. Yes, Caverna is probably more accessible in that you tend not to get so easily shafted by your opponents using denial (or, as some gamers might see it, dick move) tactics but that doesn't mean that it requires less skill to do well and win at than Agricola. Indeed, one might argue that Caverna is the more hardcore game because it requires you to consider a greater range of information and options than Agricola, where there are generally far fewer "good" moves. At the end of the day, both are excellent games, I think, and as previous posters have said, preference will largely come down to whether one wants, either generally or on any given day, a tighter, more brutal, more fiercely competitive experience or a more open, less punishing, more laid back one. Either way, their greatest strength is that they both make a good intellectual demand of every player.
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I agree with the spoiled modern-day Americans reference. Agricola is a game where you struggle to get what you need (like 99% of humans throughout history). Caverna is much more open, where the "struggle" is maximizing the plenty that you are getting (like 95% of present-day American citizens).

I even agree with the "written for the American public" comment with one caveat: I don't think Agricola was created with Americans in mind, but that Caverna probably was and is the "Americanized" version.

I really like Caverna, and found it a welcome variant to the Agricola theme/mechanic. However, ultimately, I found myself bored after 10-15 plays because every game was the same. I was even employing the same strategy most games. Now, maybe I didn't give the game enough chances to reveal its inner depths, but after 20 or so plays, I sold it.

Agricola, on the other hand, I was slow to warm up to, but I like more every time I play it. I'm up to probably 50+ plays and every game feels different because of the different cards and how changing just one card in your hand can completely change the possibilities and strategies. Also, every round seems to depend much more on what other players are doing so each game itself is a much more fluid and reactive experience.

In Caverna I'd map out a plan at the beginning and then the game was trudging along doing the best I could to continue with that plan. With Agricola I have to constantly juggle multiple plans just for the next round or two, all of which would send me down completely different trajectories (if he does that, I have to do this, but if he instead does that, then she'll do this, and I'll then have to instead do THIS, etc, etc). I really have no clue what I am going to do each game and only get a general idea by the mid-game, and then it's a fierce battle for whatever I can get at the end.

For me (and as someone who liked Caverna better, at first), Agricola wins hands down thanks to its essentially infinite variety and replayability.
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Mandela FG
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Thanks for the piece. It was well presented and very useful for people like myself who hummed and hawed over which to get. Almost all these things you see as pluses for Caverna, I see as negatives. It made me realise Agricola was the one to go for, for me. Still think Caverna is a great game but appreciate the sense of achievement more with Agricola.
 
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