Anatomy of a Revision: Caverna

This blog has long focused on the design of games, investigating how and why they work (or don’t). Usually, it’s picked apart existing games. However, there’s one sort of work that can offer particularly interesting insights into design: the revision. A revision can allow you to delve into a game, see what was there before, what was there afterward, and thus see how a change in design made a change in the game.

That’s why I’m going to be looking at Caverna: The Cave Farmers (2013) this week. Though it’s essentially the same game as Agricola (2007) in the big picture, it’s been revised, polished, and expanded rather thoroughly — providing lots of insight into the design process.

Please note that this article doesn’t try to be a complete list of changes, but rather is a look at the ones that are the most interesting.

The Furnished Rooms

Caverna: Furnished RoomIn Agricola, each player gets a hand of occupation and improvement cards that he uses to specialize his farm. A very small set of just ten major improvements are available for all players. Conversely, in Caverna there are no individual cards. Instead furnishing tiles are available to all players, first come first serve.

Result: The change was probably a reaction to the randomness of the card draws in Agricola. If a player got lucky and got a nicely matched set of cards he could do very well, while an unlucky player with no synergy amidst his cards could lose the game before he even started to play. Obviously, having all the cards (tiles) available to everyone makes the game less lucky.

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Brawl of Cthulhu — A Lovecraftian Gamopedia

Some time ago, I wrote an article discussing many of the Cthulhu games on the market. Six years later, I’ve decided to return to the topic by looking at some of the major Cthulhu games that have appeared since. However, rather than just creating a partial list of new games, I’ve also reprinted (and revised) all my previous mini-reviews, to make this a comprehensive look at Cthulhoid games.

The one limitation is that these are just the games I’m familiar with. Most I’ve played, but for the one where I just read the rules, I’ve noted that. There are still a few notables missing, such as Eldritch Horror, The Hills Rise Wild, and Munchkin Cthulhu. I may add them to this article with a quiet edit some time in the future. (And, if you’ve got a Cthulhu game that you’d like me to play and add to this list, drop me a line in the comments.)

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New to Me: Winter 2015 — The Season of Feld

This is my quarterly listing of games that I played for the first time ever. As usual, I’m offering my own thoughts on these game, not a more general assessment of whether they’re good or not. If you like euros more than American games; if you prefer things on the casual-to-medium side of the spectrum; and if you don’t mind controlling some randomness, you might agree.

As you can see, I’ve labeled this the Season of Feld. It’s not that there were a lot of Stefan Feld games out this quarter; it’s that Christmas was just past, and I got Feld for Christmas. So, I got an opportunity to try out some older Feld games that I’d missed … and La Isla finally showed up in local stores too. Mind you, my Great games for the year were Feldless (but I liked the Feld I got).


The Great

Roll for the GalaxyRoll for the Galaxy (2014). While we first played this dice-game variant of Race for the Galaxy (2007), one of my friends asked, “Which is better, card play or dice play?” My answer was that dice games tend to be more viscerally exciting (when done well), while card games tend to allow for more depth. That suggests that a dice game could raise itself up to the next level if it combined the raw excitement of dice rolling with the depth of a game with more components … and Roll for the Galaxy is that game.

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Co-Op Interviews: Matt Leacock — Thunderbirds

ThunderbirdsMatt Leacock is well-known as the designer of Pandemic (2007), Forbidden Island (2010), Forbidden Desert (2013), and related games. I interviewed him about his designs a couple of years ago, following the release of Forbidden Desert. Now that Modiphius Entertainment is Kickstarting his newest co-op game, the Thunderbirds Co-operative Board Game, I was thrilled to talk to him again, to see how it fits into his evolving design philosophy.


Shannon Appelcline: Between the Pandemic series and the Forbidden series, you’ve become one of our industry’s definitive co-op game designers. What led you to create this new Thunderbirds game for Modiphius?

Matt Leacock: Chris Birch approached me at Spiel in 2013 and pitched the idea of a Thunderbirds game. Growing up in the States, I had never seen the show but agreed to check it out. Chris is good at making a pitch and there was such enthusiasm and excitement in his eyes — I could tell he was passionate about the project. I went home and watched some of the shows and immediately understood the appeal. I also thought Thunderbirds and the world of International Rescue was a natural fit for a cooperative game, so I signed on. Continue reading

Return to Pathfinder Adventure Card Game — The Campaign

Pathfinder Adventure Card GameI’ve enjoyed watching the deckbuilding genre emerge over the last several years. However, only a few of the deckbuilders have caught my attention enough to become regular members of my gaming catalog. Dominion (2008) and Ascension (2010) were both early members of that club, racking up 100 and 21 plays to date respectively. However more recently another one has really caught my eye: the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (2013). Though I’ve only been playing it since last April, I’ve already recorded 23 plays of the game, which has put my group almost halfway through the Rise of the Runelords campaign.

When I first played Pathfinder ACG, I wrote extensively about its interesting elements. With many more plays under my belt, I’ve decided to return to the topic — to talk about what else makes the game fascinating (and very replayable).


A Revised Opinion

The Cards Quickly Become Manageable. When I wrote my original article, I said that you could easily get lost in your hand. Because the cards are all quite unique, it’s hard for a first-time player to track everything that they can do. However, I found that this problem resolved itself within several plays. Now I can sit down with my familiar deck of cards and instantly know what everything does. Continue reading

Deckbuilding Interviews: Eric B. Vogel & Don’t Turn Your Back

Don't Turn Your BackLast year, I talked with my friend Eric B. Vogel about his first published deckbuilder design, Zeppelin Attack! Now that he’s got his second deckbuilding (and first worker placement!) design, Don’t Turn Your Back, on Kickstarter, I couldn’t resist talking to him again, to see how his ideas about deckbuilding have evolved in the last year.


Shannon Appelcline: Don’t Turn Your Back is your second deckbuilding game, following Zeppelin Attack! Why did you return to the genre?

Eric B. Vogel: For me it didn’t feel like a return to the genre so much. That’s because when you’re playing, the worker placement element feels most prominent. You really only shuffle every turn or two, buy one or two cards a turn, but you place 4-7 workers every turn. You also have the area control elements. I would say this game is 1/2 worker placement, 1/4 deckbuilding, and 1/4 area control. So to me, I felt more like I was creating my first worker placement game, instead of my second deck-building game.

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The Alea Analysis, Part Six: Palazzo (M#2), Augsburg 1520 (M#3), Rum & Pirates (#10)

Over the last few years I’ve slowly been updating, expanding, and revising my series of articles on Alea games. If you’d like to catch up, you can read about: Ra, Chinatown, and Taj Mahal in Part One; or Princes of Florence, Adel Verpflichtet, and Traders of Genoa in Part Two; or Wyatt Earp, Royal Turf, and Puerto Rico in Part Three; or Die Sieben Weisen, Edel, Stein & Reich, and Mammoth Hunters in Part Four; or San Juan, Fifth Avenue, and Louis XIV in Part Five.

This article brings Alea past the mid ’00s and through the rest of what I think of as its lowest peak. After Palazzo and Rum & Pirates, following on the heels of Fifth Avenue, I was wondering if I should give up on the series … and then the good Feld games started appearing (in part seven!). I think it’s notable that I haven’t played any of these three games since my alea-thon of 2009, though two of them remain in my collection.


Medium Box #2: Palazzo (B-)

Author: Reiner Knizia
Publisher: Rio Grande (2005), out-of-print
Alea Difficulty Scale: 3
Other Articles: Knizia-Thon Part 2: Palazzo & Obscurity (11/07)
My Plays: 6

Palazzo ThumbnailThe object of Palazzo is to build Renaissance palaces composed of multiple floors. You bid for those floors in auctions and/or purchase them. Each floor is made of a specific material, has 1-3 windows or doors, and bears a number from 1-5 (which must be placed in increasing order as you build). The final value of each palazzo is dependent on how many floors it contains, whether it’s all made of one material, and how many doors and windows it has.

Strengths: Auctions & Options

Both the auctions and the options in Palazzo include some clever design.

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