Dec 11, 2015

Caverna, 2-Player - A Review

Caverna, the Cave Farmers, is one of the newer games in my collection.  I have been waiting to play it with more than two players before writing a review, but since I have had no luck I thought I would share what I have found so far, and update once I get to play with more players.

Caverna Box Cover

The game is for 1-7 players, and the box indicates that it will take 30 minutes per player.  For two player this seems accurate, once all players know how to play.  The time it takes to explain the rules in such are large game cannot be understated; I have only done this once (besides my wife, but she learned it along with me) and it took ~45 minutes with someone who plays a fair number of boardgames.

Caverna Box Edge, showing # of players and time it takes to play

The first think I noticed with Caverna was just how heavy the box is.  There are a lot of components, and they are of high quality.  Most of them are made of wood, and some tokens and coins are made of a relatively thick board.  All of the mats and tiles are thick and stiff.  The only disadvantage with all of the components, especially because it is set up for up to 7 players, is that it takes a long time to get everything out and organized.  Definitely a candidate for an organizer, which now on my wishlist!

Caverna Animals

Caverna "food"

Caverna resources

Caverna Player Board

Caverna Dwarves (one with weapon) and some dwellings

Gameplay is pretty familiar to anyone who has played many worker-placement games, especially Agricola or Agricola: All-Creatures Big and Small.  Each player takes turns placing one of their dwarves on an action tile on the center board and performing that action.   Some of the actions include gaining resources, digging into your mountain to make room to build, creating mines, clearing pasture or farmland, expanding your family and building rooms in your cave.  One of the features that I enjoy is that there are no cards, flipping of tiles, etc.; all of the tiles that can be built are available to anyone from the beginning of the game.  There are a huge number of tiles that can be built, so many that there is even a simpler version with about half the number of tiles that you can use in the first few games or when teaching someone new.  There is a little bit of randomization as one action is added to the board each round, and the order they appear is somewhat randomized.  After most rounds there is a harvest phase where you get to harvest your fields, you are required to feed your people and then your animals breed.  I found the feeding to be a nice balance; you are rarely at risk of starving your dwarves (which I found to be very stressful the few times I played Agricola) but it takes a little bit of planning to make sure you don't eat what you wanted to plant next round or eat down to one of a particular animal so it doesn't breed.  The game lasts 11 rounds (only for two player, 12 for more) after which you total your points.  Points are from your built tiles, animals, dwarves and some of the resources.  There are some mild penalties if you didn't fill your board or if you don't have some types of animals.

My board after a game

My wife's board after a game

I have really enjoyed this game so far, my wife not as much.  It really comes down to what type of games you like to play.  I love the amount of depth and the variety of ways in which to score points; I don't think I have played the same way twice yet.  My wife enjoys the fact that there is relatively little interaction between players; really it is only if you "take" the spot the other person was planning to use.  There is no stealing of resources, etc.  She just doesn't enjoy the amount of time it takes to set up and the amount of time it take to play.

The components, the artwork and the theme all seem to work really well.  I think that the gameplay is awesome as well, every single game I am wishing I had just a few more actions left, oh the points I could get if I did!  I would highly recommend this game, but from what other spaces get added with more players, I am thinking that this is where the game will shine.