So after Christmas (which by the way was a bounty of nerdy gifts that I will get into later), I picked up Caverna to fill out a vital piece that was missing in my collection. I’ve found that I really enjoy worker placement games, and yet, somehow, I still didn’t own a true worker placement game. I had already played Agricola and it was pretty good, but I kept hearing about how Caverna was just a newer, better version of Agricola. So, I sort of blindly bought it, based on the recommendation and the fact that it appeared similar enough to Agricola that whatever minor changes couldn’t possibly make it so different that I wouldn’t like it.
So, I’ve played a few games now, none of which has more than 2 players, so I can’t speak for large player games, but I can speak very much so for the game with fewer players.
The way the board expands and shrinks for the number of players is great for keeping a certain balance and also a certain freshness to the game. I can’t wait to play with a different number of players other than two to see all the actions we’ve never been able to take.
Creating new workers in Caverna is a lot easier than it was in Agricola. Essentially, there are certain spaces on the board that allow you to create workers, and if those spaces are taken up before you get a chance to go, you can’t get a worker. With this game, with 2 players, about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way through the game, there are two different ways to get new workers. With additional players, there are even more workers.
There are no cards for this game, other than the reference cards. Instead of having technology and occupation cards or some other type of mechanic, you get to choose your theme based on the buildings you buy. The buildings are available at all times and out for all to see. There are two different sides to the buildings boards to make the game simpler or to give more options depending on the players and length of time you want to play for. Though, I think after one play through with the easy side, it is much more fun to add all of the buildings.
On my last play through, I ended up getting the prayer chamber, a weaving room, and a brewery. I felt so much like my dwarf tribe was actually just an abbey in southern Belgium, selling delicious beers to the locals and staying pacifist.
These game adds adventuring with weapons, which is sort of a wild card action that can get you a number of items or actions, so you can get a lot of things even if others have already taken up spaces with those items that you wanted.
The game seems pretty easy to teach and understand, everyone I’ve shown the game to has gotten it before the end of the second turn. Since the game is so much about scoring points, it is advisable to let people see the scoring pad so they aren’t blind sided at the end of the game with what they did.
Overall, I suggest this game is not for non-gamers, but gamer families and friends that don’t want to play dice rolling games or games with violent themes could like this game. Really, I would suggest that anybody gives this game one solid play through. Even if you don’t grow to love Caverna, you’ll probably grow to love the Worker Placement mechanic. The points system in this game really enforces you to be thematic if you want to win, which is very interesting.