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.
[Xbox One] Rise of Tomb Raider. Surprisingly good. Finished in a week. I never played through any previous Tomb Raider games and had pretty negative impressions on this series. But this one is done well: nice graphics, friendly to players, fighting is good enough. Lots of exploration makes this game fun.
[Xbox One] Fallout 4. Probably my choice of game of the year. Played it through in about a month. Awesome graphic details and super flexible game system. Probably the only game I’d like to replay but may wait for a DLC upgrade.
[iOS] Blek. Light puzzle game. Stuck at level ~50.
[3DS] Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. Traditional JRPG. It was fun and nostalgic at the beginning but after 15~20 hours I gave up on it. The graphics on 3DS are just not good enough for me to enjoy it with a slow mood. Still bought Xenoblade Chronicles X Wii U version though. Hopefully will pick it up soon.
[iOS] Prune. Another light puzzle game featuring beautiful artwork. Finished in ~2 hours.
[iOS] Lifeline. Text adventure game. Basically a novel with a bit real life time flavor. Worth a try.
[Xbox One] Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Well it’s a great game but it’s not as good as Fallout 4 or even Tomb Raider. For those 2 games I couldn’t stop playing it. MGSV made me feel stressful and want to take a rest after playing for a while. It’s more for serious gamers or people who have plenty of time for gaming I guess. I’m still at ~30% progress and hesitating whether to pick it back up.
[Wii U] Splatoon. Nice shooting game on Wii with lots of innovations. I highly appreciate this game and enjoyed it for a few weeks. But multi-player shooting game just doesn’t engage me for long so now it’s on shelf.
[Wii U] Mario Maker. I simply don’t dig this game at all… Played maybe 2 hours top.
[iOS] Terra Battle. A mobile puzzle RPG? I’m not sure how to describe its type. Spent quite a lot of time on it in Jan/Feb. It had an interesting battle system and nailed the “growth” feeling in RPG well.
As expected there are more mobile game appearances in the list compared to previous years. However if we compare playtime, mobile games are still trivial for me and console games dominate living room time. This probably won’t change in the next few years.
It’s worth-noting to me that there was a blank period between May and Sep/Oct. Possible reasons: 1. TV show season; 2. I was very busy…