Despite my love for conquest games I still like a good worker placement game. They don’t come a whole lot more worker placementy than Cavernia.
If you’ve played Agricola you’re in familiar territory. Very familiar. It’s like a different flavor of Agricola. If not then this is an economic engine game played out over ten or so turns
Each player starts with a Peurto Rico style player board which is split evenly between outdoor forest and indoor caves. As the game progresses you’re looking to transform the forest into farming land for raising crops and animals and expand the caves, adding improvements in the form of specialist rooms.
Each player starts with two dwarves each of which can be placed on the limited spots on the map to kick off some event or gain some resources and more importantly preclude other players from doing the same. As the game progresses more and more powerful actions open up to the players, in a semi random order so each game plays out a little differently. There isn’t the same variety of options as there is in Agricola. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is your call. To me this seems like a streamlined Agricola with a few bits bolted on
The game is big. It has a large footprint but because it’s made up of lots of smaller A4 sized boards rather than a single humdinger of a board you can find space to accommodate it. It’s also got a lot of pieces, thankfully most of them wooden. There’s sheep, dogs, timber, ore, stone, pumpkins, wheat, pigs, cows, other stuff. There’s cards for actions, farms, caverns, room improvements and all points in between. Despite the amount of bits it doesn’t take that long to setup or get a game going. You will need to bag this game up well.
The game rattles on with actions being taken, dwarfs to be fed and harvests hopefully reaped. It’s a slow game insofar as getting resources can be a pain and there’s never enough actions in a turn to do everything you want. That’s ok. Everyone is in the same boat. Like most worker placement games once you’ve gotten your motor really running the game ends. Again that’s ok we expect this.
I do like an in your face, making deals sort of game. Cavernia is not that. You’re only interaction with others is in taking actions from a limited set and possibly pissing off another player who wanted to do the same action. It’s rare (well in the game we played) that you’ll deliberately try and ruin another players moves and in reality you can’t really. You’re all about yourself and too invested in getting your grand scheme up and running to look at anyone else
It’s not overly complex, we picked it up pretty quick but it does demand multiple plays to understand the intricacies of it. Will we play it multiple times? Nope. There’s far too many shiny things out there still to be played to make us return in a hurry to this one. But that’s us
Cavernia is a fine game. If you don’t have a worker placement game it’s good. Like you’re rifle there are many many more like it. I see the attraction of it and I’m sure I’ll play it again but I couldn’t say when