个人感觉这游戏最大的特点是交互性很强。经营类游戏玩起来的场面经常是大家各忙各的，不怎么管别家在干什么。新手尤其如此，自己的还没折腾清楚呢，哪顾得上怎么打压对手。但Clans of Caledonia里面设计的交互点如此之多，使得即使刚上手也不得不在计划自己发展的同时考虑和对手之间的互动。选择Export Contract有竞争，买卖资源会影响市场价格，在地图上放工人的时候贴着对手的放置有neighbor bonus可以打折买资源，还有最终算分的进口资源稀有度会大大影响分值。这些都使得玩家需要关注对手的行动和局势，而不能只是闷头自己制定计划发展。可以说交互性之强是我玩过的经营类游戏里面的翘楚了。
另外值得一提的是这游戏虽然规则不算太繁复，但策略相当复杂，我玩了两盘之后还是有点点不明就里的感觉。很多经营类游戏的阶段性目标很明确，比如农场主那就是不要饿死和不要负分，再比如勃艮第城堡基本就是尽快填满小区域来获得早期加分。但Clans of Caledonia前期感觉目标非常开放，似乎做什么都行，很难看清早期的一些决策到几轮之后能有多大的收益。也可能只是我玩的还不够多。
Just realized I haven’t blogged about “Caverna: The Cave Farmers” yet, the heaviest board game I’ve bought so far, literally. By Amazon it weights 7.8 pounds. It took me more than 20 minutes just to punch out all the tokens.
Caverna is basically an “Agricola 2.0”. If you’ve played Agricola before, you can easily find lots of similarities in Caverna. Fixed number of rounds, sowing vegetables and harvesting crops, feeding animals and turning your farm to a zoo, and of course, feeding your family and struggling on the line of starving. Hence, it’s pretty easy for Agricola players to learn Caverna despite the length of the rule book.
But after a few plays I noticed there were some obvious differences between Caverna and Agricola, which actually made a veteran Agricola player like me feel weird. It was not until almost 10 games that I started getting the hang of it.
The first impression of Caverna was everything goes faster, twice faster. In Agricola the game gets more and more going on later in the game, the Caverna the “game accelerating trajectory” is even more dramatic. For example, Slash and Burn (build a field and sow) is an end-game “power move” in Agricola, but in Caverna it’s available from the beginning. In Caverna, a high-level dwarf doing a 4-loot expedition feels like he can single-handedly turn the farm over in one day, which gives you an exciting feeling that is rarely found in Agricola. On this point, I like Caverna better.
Another great part of Caverna is it increased the strategy diversity. In Agricola almost every game and everyone aims for the same main route: building rooms and adding family members. The strategy variety in Agricola greatly depends on the career/development cards. In Caverna because of the introduction of Expedition and the general increase of action capabilities, the value of an action can be much more dramatically different, so a smaller family size is not necessarily a huge disadvantage, in some cases it could even be an advantage (your higher-level dwarf can act earlier). Scoring changes for family members also reduced the importance of having more family members. Considering a few other scoring and rule changes, I feel Caverna really enables more feasible strategies in the base framework of the game, instead of relying on a huge set of random cards.
Using a fixed set of Furnishing Tiles to replace career/development cards is a bold design. Agricola’s great replayability mainly comes from the random cards, which is a double-edge sword. A strong hand or just one or two combos can sometimes give a player unfair advantages in a game; and new players usually cannot figure out their cards well that either slow down the game or make their winning chance very dim. Therefore I definitely welcome a try for a more transparent and balanced mechanism to provide similar replayability. So far I have mixed feelings about Caverna’s Furnishing Tiles. They’re public information so when a new player is confused you can easily explain. However they don’t seem to be very well balanced as far as I can see. There are obviously strong tiles and almost useless ones. Maybe I haven’t experimented enough strategies to see more usefulness from some cards. Anyway it’s still better to have all Furnishing Tiles in a public market so any player can buy, so the imbalance introduced by drawing is eliminated.
Overall I recommend this game to people who like Agricola and would like to experience something similar and new. Have the expectation that you might be confused for a few games and won’t immediately enjoy it even if you know Agricola well. It’s a real v2.0, not a v1.1.