I love returning to my favorite games and playing them in new ways. That means that I’m usually a fan of expansions, and I played a good number of them this summer. But, there were new games too, including a surprising number of variants on old mechanics — whether they be Poker resolution or classic deckbuilding. As usual, this is a listing of games according to how much I like them, as a medium-weight euro-gamer, and they’re new to me (although I was pleased to play a lot that were just flat-out new this time around).
Hocus (2016). I am not a fan of Texas Hold’em, which I consider a bluffing exercise with probability memorization thrown in. Sure, you can be better at it than other people, but I don’t find it a fun game, or even a game. And, Hocus uses Texas Hold’em mechanics … but I love it.
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
In 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.
Though my new gaming was light in fall (primarily because my gaming was light in fall, due to the holidays), I’ve opted to publish my short list of new-to-me games while they’re all still fresh. (And it looks like I still managed almost a dozen new games.) As always this is an assessment of how much I like the games, rather than whether they’re great or not. I tend to prefer light-to-medium euros that don’t make me work too hard.
Caverna: The Cave Farmers (2013).I thought Agricola (2007) was great the first time I played it, because it combined worker placement with scarcity and it also supported deep and thoughtful gameplay. It’s too long for me to play very often, but it’s still a great game that I love when I play. Caverna is essentially more of the same, but with fantasy theming, with some simplified game elements, with reduced randomness, and with an interesting new expeditions systems. Overall, it’s a great variant, that’s just (barely) far enough from the original that you might want to own both.