21 May 2017

Caverna: The cave farmers boardgame review

This one I bought on sale in our local hobby store, it had reduced price as the box was slightly damaged which brought down the price 25%, which was enough to get a fair price for this game which I had been interested in for a while but always thought it was a tad expensive.

Caverna the cave farmers is a worker placement, resource gathering and base building game. You can play it solo against a specific victory condition or play 2-7 players competing against other cave dwellers attempting to get the most points. The game adjusts itself against the number of players taking part in the game with some boards with additional actions only being with x-number of players.

The idea behind the game and the rules are quite simple. You control a dwarf family, and over a number of turns you have to expand your cave, farmlands, livestock and food supplies. At the end of the game points are earned for various conditions. It is also a worker placement game with lots of planning involved and a TON of choices of what to do each turn. The main board has starting actions on which you can place workers to receive resources or build rooms/farmland. As the game progresses new additional actions are unlocked each turn.

The options for you to gather victory points are vast. You get points for building and expanding rooms in your cave. You get points for food and farmland and keeping livestock. You get points for the number of family members you have. Points for resources and a huge amount of room bonuses also apply. This in turn allows you to focus on what you find most appealing. Do you want to gather resources by sending your dwarves on adventures or do you want to gather resources from playing actions on the board. Do you feed your family by growing wheat and vegetables or by breeding livestock - or the both? Do you intend to buy a room that offers bonus points for mined ore or do you want to buy a room that gives you bonus points for livestock? The ways to score points in this game are vast and players do not necessarily compete directly with each other than in ways of blocking actions on the board by placing your own workers on them.

Thrown into the regular worker placement is also the element of feeding your family, sowing the fields and breeding animals.  At the end of most turns you are required to spend food on family members to avoid getting a "beggar token" which yields penalty points the end of the game. On most turns you are also allowed to sow fields, which requires that you have wheat or vegetable tokens to be used as seeds on your fields. Breeding animals requires that you have at least two of the animal type, and space to keep them. Initially you can keep some animals in your cave, but you will soon have to expand with animals pens and barns outside of the cave. Donkeys can be placed in your mines, sheep can be herded by dogs out in the open. 

Dwarf expeditions reward players with loot and construction of unique fields and mines. The downside of equipping dwarves in armor/weapons for expeditions is that they become slow and lose their turn initiative. Lower level dwarves with less armor are placed on action spaces before high level dwarves with heavy armor. However high level dwarves sent off on expeditions can divide the expedition reward in smaller pieces as long as the combined total does not exceed the level of the dwarf. Expeditions are not a highway to victory on their own, but players should try not to allow a single player to be the single user of the expedition actions.

Despite the extreme amount of components (I highly recommend sorting everything into separate bags for convenience and saving time during gameplay) the game is not hard to learn. It is also relatively fast paced and takes roughly 30 minutes per player from start to finish. A 4 player game would thus take roughly 2 hours. I would also rate this as a family/kid friendly game. Also if you want to scale down the complexity/choices the boards that show which rooms are available for purchase come double sided. One side has a reduced number of furnishings, for beginners, and the reverse side has the full amount of rooms.

Caverna the cave farmers is a very nice and enjoyable Euro style game for players that like worker placement, resource management and base building games. 8,5/10
If only the dwarf pieces were a bit more exciting than being wooden disks though...

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