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iOS Review: Caylus

Brad Cummings
United States
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From gallery of thequietpunk
The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch Universal

Current Price: $4.99
Developer/Publisher: Big Daddy’s Creations

Version: 1.0
Size: 58.2

Multiplayer: Online Multiplayer, Local Multiplayer

AI: Yes, varying difficulties.
Itunes link: Caylus

The Good:

- Caylus may be the best implementation of a heavy euro-game on iOS thus far.
The Bad:

- Some of the in game menu design choices seem a little clunky and more complex than needed.

-Building descriptions and other information are not as accessible in game as they should be.

From gallery of thequietpunk
Caylus is one of the most respected games in the board game community. As one of the early worker placement games, it is a pillar that newer games are compared to. It is definitely a step above casual game fare and players must rely on calculations and planning in order to achieve success.

Caylus is quite a complex game and as my rules summary will not be as detailed as usual, I recommend you head over to game page here on BGG and check out some reviews and videos. In Caylus players are trying to score victory points by gaining approval from the king. Players do this by placing workers on buildings in order to gain goods and money which they will then use to build more buildings or parts of the king’s castle. As players construct new buildings they will score victory points and they and their opponents will have more options of where to place their workers. In order to build parts of the castle players must trade in batches of three goods (one of which must be food) and players are rewarded with victory points and sometimes favors (one time special rewards). Buildings are built along a winding road and along this road walk two figures, the bailiff and the provost. Only buildings that are behind the provost on the road will actually carry out their actions that turn. The bailiff acts as a timer for the game and will slowly move down the road. When he reaches certain markers one of the three castle sections will be scored. The game ends when the bailiff reaches the last marker or when all sections of castle have been completely constructed. The player with the most victory points is the winner. This has only been a brief look and there is much more to the game that makes each decision weighted and interesting.

Selecting the right game to port is essential for iOS development. Big Daddy’s Creations made two great starting choices, Neuroshima Hex and Army of Frogs. They both fit well on the system and were overall well done apps. Caylus on the other hand is a game that should not work on iOS. The game is heavy, long, and requires your full brain to play. There are micro turns and complex strategies that may not be easy to recall. The miracle is that Caylus by Big Daddy’s Creations manages to surpass all of these worries and overall impress. It is the finest example of a complex euro-game on iOS thus far.

Two major obstacles to euro-games on iOS are visual appeal and visual comprehension of what is actually going on in the game. Caylus manages to create a graphic style that is attractive and interesting while still allowing for a very strong interface and information management design. The graphic design in Caylus treads a fine line between cartoony and dry to create a style that is appealing. The board looks and feels similar to the board game but with added touches like a flowing brook and grazing deer. These minor animations do not blare or get in in the way, they simply tie things together in a pleasant thematic unity. The graphic touches do not end there, for example as you build sections of the castle you can see your progress tracked through a simple animation of a wall, dungeon, or keep growing. Apart from the extra touches, the graphic design is crisp and clear. The menus are presented on hanging tapestries a la Carcassonne. Whether homage or straight ripoff, one cannot argue with how good it looks and fits the theme of the game. The icons used to define various parts of the game such as building abilities are well done overall and you will quickly be able to identify each function. The graphic design is a great blend of smart new additions while maintaining the look of the board game.

The interface design in Caylus also manages to impress overall. It is no small challenge to accurately display great amounts of information on a single screen. To place workers players simply drag and drop. On the side of the screen is a menu that shows your current resources and if you tap it will show you resources for all players. From this view you can also access other menu screens such as available buildings, the castle sections, and the kings favors. This menu system actually works fairly well considering the amount of information contained within. Overall the interface is very well done. The information is generally there when you need it. There are some functions that work but could be improved. For example, when selecting any action with a choice, such a choice of two resources or which batch to build, you must scroll through a list of choices. It would be easier if all choices were shown and you could tap to select as sometimes especially with castle batches you can miss the correct combination by accident. There are other small complaints such as this but overall the game manages to do well at providing easy access to information.

From gallery of thequietpunk
Many heavier board game adaptations have struggled to be accessible to new players. Caylus does not avoid this problem entirely, but manages to provide a gateway for new players through its tone (graphic and interface design) and some satisfactory tutorial elements. The tutorial in Caylus is administered through a series of pop-up text boxes. These boxes always pop up in context. Each time a players attempts a new action or enters a new phase of the game a tutorial will pop up explaining that event. These pop-ups can be quite lengthy but perhaps necessary in conveying the amount of information in this game. After one game most players should have all the information they need to play Caylus. The only barrier holding back complete comprehension for new players is quick access of information in context beyond the tutorial. For example, in order to reveal the abilities of buildings that you may not know the function of or recognize the symbol of you must delve in to the written rules. It would be much easier if there were a way to access that information by simply tapping on the building. This is an area for improvement and a fix will increase the ease of access for new players. However, overall the tutorial elements are well done and it is capable of teaching new players.

Catering to new and old players alike, there are several AI opponents of various difficulty levels. The large range of players and styles should offer a robust single player experience. The AI makes moves very quickly, but the screen does move to highlight the last placed worker. Thus far the AI seems to represent quite a challenge and I believe experienced players should find some decent competition here. However, if the AI fails to challenge you, Big Daddy’s Creations has applied an improved version of its asynchronous multiplayer system from Army of Frogs to Caylus. This system works well and includes the possibility to host multiple games and some basic chat features. This system seems to work well, my only complaint being that it does not replay the last moves of the players before you. Moves are pretty easy to track in this game making this less of an issue, but an improvement could be made here. In short there are many options available to keep both new and old players busy.

Caylus is a shining example of what can be done with complex board games on iOS. It certainly has room for improvement but in terms of accessibility it is far ahead of other apps of this complexity. If you are a fan of this game, pick it up now. If you are a new player, this is a great entry point in to one of the most respected games in recent history.
Rating: 4/4 One of the Best
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