Caverna: The Cave Farmers

Caverna

  • Fun factor –  7/10
  • Replay value – 10/10
  • Components – 8/10
  • Learning Curve – 3/10

 

Fun Factor: Caverna is quite a game, it is huge in concept and scale and really has lots of stuff going on all of which are fun. I like this game more than almost any of Uwe Rosenberg’s other games personally. I love that food isn’t as big a deal in this one, it’s still required but it’s much easier to get and deal with on the whole. The game is always compared to Agricola and for good reason it’s basically a sequel and it’s much better in every way. The theme is way better, the gameplay is more streamlined, everything.

Now for the problems, first and for most if you find yourself competing for a resource with another player you both lose for it. I really dislike this because it means that me and another player who want to use the same strategy are going to be in a world of hurt while the 3rd player just cruises by. That just rubbed me the wrong way. Felt like a 1v1v1 match of StarCraft or something where 2 players lose and the last just mops up. I also found that adventuring was a little weird because of the “catch up” mechanic in it. I was the first player to get an adventurer and because of this my adventurer was the worst one of them all for the rest of the game. At some point there are enough adventure spots (in 3 player games) to allow everyone to go adventure and “level up” their family member, this makes it difficult to stop players from constantly making their adventurer better. All in all I think this was the feature of the game I was most excited for and it turned out to be my least favorite part of actual gameplay.

Replay Value: Man so many options here. I can’t begin to even imagine how many times I would have to play this game to have a “repeat game” and by that time I wouldn’t mind a repeat game anyway so it’s pretty awesome. This is also one of my favorite ways to have replay value in a game, it’s not from having random cards or random dice rolls or anything random really. It’s purely from having so many different strategy options that you could play 100 times with different strategies and they would all most likely work really well. I have utterly no complaints about the replay value here, some people will not like the lack of 100s of randomly drawn cards or a lack of dice but I love it.

Components: The good side here is going to be quick, all the components in this game are great! It’s just that simple. Sadly, there is a downside, if you plan on organizing this game with anything other than like 2 dozen baggies it just doesn’t fit in the box nicely. I was very sad about this because this box is so large. I had to basically let the box not quite close all the way to make it so that I could keep everything nicely stored and organized in a way that makes playing actually work well.  If you put everything in baggies it will all fit but setup and cleanup of the game are going to be hellish. My box it unclosed by just a little bit (1/2 inch maybe) and it works nicely enough but this is the reason that the components aren’t 10/10.

Learning Curve: This game is huge, it has so much to learn and honestly almost memorize. It’s pretty easy to wrap your head around the basic worker placement idea of the game. But if you want to ever win you need to have so much more knowledge of each and every piece of the center board and have a pretty clear strategy right out the gate. After my first play through I made 2nd place thanks to a single wrong placement (costing me a total of 10 points). The time it will take you to get even pretty okay at this game is going to be huge. It’s worth it but it does bring this score down for me some. I like a game to take a bit of effort to master but to be this much just to really be at the ballpark much less playing well hampers this score for me.

Russian Railroads Review

Russian Railroads

  • Fun factor – 9/10
  • Replay value – 7/10
  • Components – 8/10
  • Learning Curve – 6/10

This weekend we got two games in so I am putting up two reviews this week. My group has played this game once before and we really liked it the first time we played and have been really excited to get another session in with this one. After finishing Tzul’kin a little early we decided to go for it. 

Fun Factor: This game is one of my favorite euros because it’s just purely an engine builder. You start the game getting a very small number of points per turn (5-20ish) and by the last turn of the game get numbers around 150 if you did well. Last night my last two turns were 154 points followed by 167 points. It was awesome, I love this kind of thing in games. That slow build to a grand finale. I also really like that while I have found the strategy I enjoy using to attempt to win there are several other ways to go about getting the points needed to win games. There are 3 different railroads to build up and an engineering track you can build up. Any two of these I feel will work to get you a victory if you are playing smart. There are of course a couple things that I think would make some areas a little more appealing, like the engineering track just never appeals to me while I am playing. It does not seem to offer quite enough bang for my meeple as building up your roads. However, one of the people in my group thinks he can make it work to win so next game he is going to try it out. 

Replay Value: This game is like many other euros in that the replay value comes from getting better and better at the game and building a better and better engine with each play through. Every time I finish a game of this I find myself going “man next game I need to try doing X instead of Y and I bet I would do even better”. If that does not appeal to you as replay value than I doubt this game would have much of a score here for you but for me I love it! I would love to see some expansions for the game so that I could get even more out of it but honestly I don’t know how they would do that without just adding little things. Possibly new player boards with new “routes” on them to change up the game would be loads of fun. 

Components: Not too much to say here. The parts are great but Z-Man games always does good components. If you have a game from this company on your shelf you know what to expect here. High quality thick game pieces and nothing flimsy. Nothing really extra awesome though either. There are a couple of pieces that have some odd art on the back, namely there is a set of upgrades that you can choose from as you pass certain parts of different rails but the first time we played we thought you had to randomly select them based on the backing that these have. Which is a question mark. Why would you put the question mark there and then make it just something you get to choose. Don’t get me wrong here I really like that you get to choose these things and that its not random but it’s a bit of an odd art choice. 

Learning Curve: So this game is definitely a heavy euro game. The game really clicks nicely once you get going but going through the rules for the first time can be time consuming and even after learning the rules I found that we still had the rule book out and in pretty constant use on the second run through of the game. However, compared to some other games in the same “class” as this one it’s rules are pretty good. 

All in all I really like this game. It’s easy to keep organized and plays quite well in about 2-3 hours. It’s one of the best games I have played this year and I am excited to play again. 

Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar Review

T'zolkin

  • Fun factor – 4/10
  • Replay value – 3/10
  • Components – 4/10
  • Learning Curve – 4/10

My group played this game during our last game night and for one member of the group it was a first play through while my wife and I have played a few times in the past. Just enough to know the rules pretty well but not enough at all to really have a grasp on the game. Game ended up with me winning by a large margin namely due to a very poorly understood rule. Though the consensus was that I would have squeaked out a win over the 2nd place player either way.

So lets start with something I like about the game, it’s pretty to look at. Every part of the game really fits with the theme here and the parts are all solid. I love that the game just feels Mayan with every little detail.

Sadly, for me personally that’s where the good times end. Since I was just saying how nice the parts were I am going to talk about why I only gave it 4 out of 10, it’s the board. I enjoy spinning the wheel but the way you have to put this game back in the box is horrible. The pieces do not fit good in the box at all. With the spinners permanently attached instead of being removable it means that the board takes up a huge amount of space in the box. Also, we found out when playing this time the other evil of having them permanently attached, the board warps under its own folded up weight. In our game in order to not damage the game board (further) we had to prop one corner up with a pencil under it, otherwise you could not spin the gears without it bumping another section of the board. This is just bad, whoever designed how this game would be stored utterly failed at it.

As for the gameplay itself, I find it more frustrating than fun. Everytime I play this game I find myself extremely frustrated at the beginning because I just can not wrap my head around the way that the dial spins and changes what I want my action to be. Please understand that this is not necessarily a failing of the game more of my ability to wrap my head around it. Though my wife also was frustrated with this process throughout the game and we have both played in the past. The new member didn’t seem to be bothered by it. Beyond that the game is okay, I really dislike games with a food requirement personally because it makes me feel very trapped into taking my actions because “**** I MUST get this” instead of “oh man I want/need this for my strategy”. This game really builds on that trapped feeling, I never put a worker down going “this is what I really wanted to do here”, its always “well I guess I have to do this thing because otherwise I am screwed”. It’s not a good feeling for me.

As for replay value and learning curve for me they go hand in hand. I end up feeling like I am relearning the spinning gears every time I play and thus never feel like I am improving at the game. Making me not really want to replay it, which in turn means that we go longer without a replay, which makes it harder to pick up again….it’s a bad cycle.

All in all, While this game has a great theme and can have moments where it’s amusing, I just am not a big fan. If my wife wants to pull it out I will play but it’s never going to be my personal choice for a game night.

Splendor

photo

Splendor @ 3 players

  • Fun factor – 9/10
  • Replay value – 7/10
  • Components – 10/10
  • Learning Curve – 8/10

My wife and I picked up this game on a whim to help get more games during a buy one get one free sale and man was it a good choice. In a nut shell this game is perfect as a night starter or closer. The game takes between 20-40 min to play and about 2 min to teach.

Thanks to its quick play time and ease of setup and tear down this game has been one of our most played games. Every weekend we play this at least once and I have yet to get anything resembling a repeat game. While there is a limited number of cards and a very limited number of nobles there is still plenty of opportunity for replay value here.

One of my favorite parts of this game are the components. Everything in the box is top quality but it’s the poker chips (the gems) that stand out the most. Every time I play the game I just want to constantly fiddle with these. They are real poker chips with weight, not that plastic stuff you get with most poker sets.

I think that the biggest flaw of this game is the theme, it’s just non existent. Technically you are a gem collector or something like that but you also mine the gems? There is just not much here so if you really need theme to enjoy a game I doubt you will like this one.

Robinson Crusoe – Chris’s Review

 

  • Fun factor – 7/10
  • Replay value – 4/10
  • Components – 8/10
  • Learning Curve – 5/10

My group of 3 dedicated board gamers really enjoyed this game. I play with these same 2 people every single Saturday and most every time we are trying to defeat each other so it was very refreshing to play a fully co-op game that we weren’t entirely bored with after 1/2 a single play through. I have never honestly been challenged by co-op games and thus don’t find much enjoyment out of them.

Robinson Crusoe on the other hand was very fun and refreshing. It was first off a little more challenging than others I have played in the past. While we still won pretty thoroughly we enjoyed the trip the entire way there and didn’t KNOW we had won until the 2nd to last turn. But winning or losing wasn’t really the enjoyment that I think we got out of this one, it took us beyond that, which is rare for a game in my group. I found myself wanting to tell the little story of the island we were on. Reading some of the flavor text and then mangling it into the story of our journey on the island. My group normally is not this way with games, we are very mechanical and tend to save the story telling for our RPG sessions.

I also have to say that almost every component this game has is awesome. With the exception of one (well 3 kinda) set of cubes that were made out of plastic instead of wood for no reason at all that I can think of. Several other sets of cubes are wooden but these were randomly plastic and poorly made plastic at that. The shapes were shifted badly on some of the cubes and they just feel so cheap next to the wooden ones in the same box. I gave this game a 4/5 for components instead of a 5/5 entirely thanks to these pieces. Everything else is very well made.

My biggest complaint about the game is going to be replay. The game comes stocked with 6 missions, each of which I would assume would take about 1.5-2.5 hours. The game clearly seems to think that you will enjoy replaying these missions over and over again but I just don’t see it happening. I suppose that many many things will change between different playthroughs but I really don’t think that any of them will amount to a vastly different experience. One of the key reasons for this is a lack of veriety in other things. There is exactly 1 unused island hex, meaning that if you fully explore the island in your playthrough you will have seen all but a single hex that the game has to offer. I think that my group will really enjoy playing the 6 missions but after that the game will most likely stay on the shelf almost entirely.

I am hopeful that well priced expansions will come out and give me more missions and tiles and stuff but I would not be excited to pay too much for these kinds of expansions.

Lastly, I want to discuss learning the game. My group had a little trouble with this but we had some one who normally doesn’t explain the game doing the explanations for it, which I don’t think went too well. The player who normally does this claims this would have gone better for us if it had been explained better. Hence the 3/5 right down the middle with that one.