It’s Wednesday; what does that mean? It means it is time for the first Worker Wednesday of 2015! The day of the week I look at worker placement games. These reviews will go much like every other review with a minor exception; they will all feature games that heavily rely on worker placement. For those who have known me for a while this would come as a shock; I was at one point in my life not a big fan of worker placement games; I would make the argument that they were all the same with minute differences that didn’t add enough to the game to differentiate themselves from others, essentially saying, “If you’ve played one worker placement, you’ve played every worker placement.” Fortunately my life has changed and I have found a new appreciation for Worker Placement games. There are yet many games that are clones of other games but my eyes have been opened to the wide world of WP games that are so much more!
Enough intro; lets look at today’s Worker Placement game Caverna!
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
EPT: 120 minutes (much longer if any player is prone to analysis paralysis)
Arguably everyone who follows the world of hobby board games knew of Caverna’s approach and hailed it as Agricola’s spiritual successor only this was a dwarven farming game… they had me at dwarves… Like many I was excited to try this game and when at last I got my hands on the game I was not disappointed, my spine was nearly shattered under the game’s weight, but I was not disappointed. As a recovering Ameritrasher (more details here) I love little bits, the more the better, and Caverna is the king of little bits.
Much like the worker placement games that have come before it, players begin with a set number of workers; in this case 2. Players then place their workers somewhere so as to activate an action and get a reward; this is the definition of worker placement so how does Caverna play any differently than those that came before it? Why should I enjoy this game more than the other Worker Placement games in my arsenal?
Like many games in this genre players can increase their worker count, the size of their dwellings and farms, as well as send their dwarves out on adventures… wait what? Adventures! Caverna does something that I loved the idea of and hoped played as well as it sounded. In Caverna player’s workers can be equipped and sent on adventures returning with loot. The adventure system is essentially another place to put workers and get a reward; they are separated, however, in that the workers level up as they adventure and thus get greater rewards. This was new to me in the world of worker placement and I believe it played out very well. There are a limited number of adventure locations and thus they can become a highly sought after placements making them often fought over and raced to. A second aspect setting this game apart is that as dwarves you not only farm the land but mine the mountains. This was another fascinating feature that I believe worked out well. The players have a board of buildable locations that have a limited number; only one player can build a cuddle room, so you want that room before someone else can snag it! there are multiple mines and dwellings, however, so they are helpful but not as urgent. It adds a fun aspect to the game and can cause some great tension!
I will not go into full details of the rules as we will have a video review of the game coming up in the next few weeks that details them a bit more and as the rulebook is 20+ pages and I don’t want to write that long of a post. So rather lets jump to my perception of the game.
As you have likely picked up on I like this game; it feels like a euro game that was dabbling in ameritrash territory. It had an element of theme that affects gameplay, it has a million little bits, and almost features direct player to player conflict as you fight over spaces (arguably this is indirect but I feel the theme makes it feel more direct as well as the addition of buildings that can only be taken by one player and then used only by that player).
The art is equally gorgeous on the game, it is a common joke with gamers that you can tell a euro by the mediocre art… and if you find a true to the bone ameritrasher they will tell you the characters on the box look as bored as the people who will eventually play it… Caverna’s art, however, is fun and at times silly and their bits are fantastic representations of the goods you are acquiring, hoarding and spending. This, I would argue, is a great game to aid in introducing players who love theme and long games into the euro worker placement game space.
The Way I rate games; Caverna now receives an 8 out of 10 (it has dropped slightly since my first few playthroughs as the novelty of the game wore off but it is still a great game and warrants more time on the table than it gets)
Visuals – 1.75 // 2
Skill/Luck – .75 // 1
Pacing – 1.5 // 2
Theme/Immersion – 1.5 // 2
Mechanics – .75 // 1
Fun Factor 1.75 // 2
Visit again Tomorrow as I take a look at a great vintage game that is impossible not to love; Fireball Island! Until then you can find us on social media!