The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

There’s no good movie with a “3” at the end of the title.

Maybe not be strictly true, but I mean “Saw 3”, “Tremors 3”, “Iron Man 3”, “Rocky 3” (fun? Sure. Good? No), “Alien 3”  (I happen to think Alien 3 was a noble failure, but a failure nonetheless). Listing it on and on is just inviting tragedy. By the time you get to the third movie in a series, if it didn’t have a title and you are just making it up as you go along, then the temptation is “Well, let’s just do what worked, but more.

That’s how you get a bad movie. Or in the case of games, a JASE.

I went to my FLGS. (I wasn’t actually sure it had re-opened). I called first. So I felt like I should be a game. And, given the nature I felt like a hefty game that could work as a solitaire or 2 player game. So I got Caverna. At the time, I thought it was similar to Agricola, but I didn’t realize how much DNA they share. So, is Caverna“Agricola 3: The Dwarfening”

There’s much to like, but like any 3rd movie so much of this title is just a lot more of what worked.  That’s not necessarily a good thing.

But the box is so stuffed and heavy that $100 price tag didn’t seem outrageous. Caverna is chock full of animeeples, vegimeeples, so much cardboard to punch. It doesn’t fit well into the box. There are no random cards, the family growth always appears on turn 4 (which is kind of a big randomness in Agricola, do you set up for it on T4 and then it doesn’t show up until T6 …). The weapon mechanic is interesting and clearly is intended to be a (mild) punishment for have more dwarfs, so there’s that. There are enough buildings to feel overwhelming on the first play, but I suspect it becomes manageable. (We followed the Alan Moon rule of “True Gamers do not play introductory games”)

Now, losing the development and occupation cards means Caverna may wind up feeling samey from game to game, but I’ve definitely played games of Agricola that were over after the initial deal. (I respect that it may be better as draft, but I just haven’t played it that way). So, when I lose Caverna (and losing is what I’ve been doing) I can’t blame the cards. Agricola — by contrast — seemed much more straightforward: grow your family, do all the things. For some reason, Caverna’s slightly more things seems much more daunting. In particular, the slight variability of the harvests, when/how to spend rubies (basically wild cards), the slightly more complex layout rules, they trip me up.

That’s good.

My first problem with Caverna is that I bought it for 1-2 players, and it doesn’t shine with two. The spaces scale with # players, but I felt like there are too many buildings. I think the upper limit of seven is super ambitious (and its a fixed fun game, so …. no), but thee or four seems reasonable.

And solitaire (which I haven’t tried) …. well in that case Agricola’s occupations seems much more interesting.

Now, to be fair. I bought and sold Le Havre (“Agricola 2: Shipping Boogaloo”) because it felt like there was a dominant strategy, which I suspected after two games. If a dominant strategy exists in Caverna, I have no earthly idea what it would be. So, its likely a better game.

So, its a “Good for a  3rd title.” It suffers from the “but I’ve played Agricola.” I knew I was getting some of the game, but I didn’t do my research and didn’t realize just how much of it there was. It was my first time in a game store in six months, I was going to buy something, and its not like Caverna is bad, but it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped.

RatingIndifferent plus.

Written by taogaming

August 23, 2020 at 4:51 pm

Posted in Agricola, Reviews, Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

9 Responses

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  1. Toy Story 3, that is good (did I cry, well maybe, but probably about the same as at the end of Dirty Dozen, when Jim Brown’s character…).

    Have you played Fields of Arle?

    Joe J. Rushanan

    August 23, 2020 at 7:10 pm

    • Yeah, I figured Toy Story 3 is the best counter example. And no, I have played Fields of Arle …. if the store had it, I probably would have bought it instead. I’ve been almost pulling the trigger on that for years.


      August 24, 2020 at 8:03 am

    • I’d add Back to the Future 3 and Naked Gun 33 1/3 to the decent pile.

      Mark Delano

      August 24, 2020 at 7:15 pm

  2. Alien 3 actively wrecked the two (quite good) movies before it. It is one of the worst things I have ever been subjected to in a movie theater.


    August 23, 2020 at 8:31 pm

    • Sure, but it did it without going “A lot more.” In many ways, it went less. That’s what’s noble about it. Tonally, each of the first 3 movies is quite different. Alien Resurrection was also terrible, but it in pretty standard ways.


      August 24, 2020 at 8:07 am

      • And if that’s one of the worst things you’ve seen in the theaters, consider yourself lucky (or maybe get out more. Next year). “HIghlander 2”, “Wax, or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees” are two that jump out at me (the latter is admittedly an art film, which have a much much higher variability than standard movies)


        August 24, 2020 at 8:11 am

      • Highlander 2 is indeed higher on that list. I definitely see fewer movies in theaters now than I did during that period, and never saw many art films or other genres which lent themselves to painful experiences.

        The only reason I didn’t walk out on Highlander 2 is that I wanted to be able to never need to see it again. For Alien 3 I was too shell shocked to even think about leaving, but of the two it was the better movie. I watched Alien 3 again recently, opinion did not change.

        Geoff Speare

        August 24, 2020 at 8:19 am

      • I wish Alien 3 was among the worst I’ve seen in a theater.

        Mark Delano

        August 24, 2020 at 6:57 pm

      • I was looking it up on Wikipedia (to try and find an obscure piece of internet history) and did discover that Ebert called it “among the best looking bad movies.” (or some such).


        August 25, 2020 at 4:18 pm

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