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Subject: A notation system for Caylus rss

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David Chapman
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Wasn't sure where to put this, but it's of most interest to strategic gamers so I put it here.

I was watching a superb two-handed game between Coyotek4 and Socrates on BSW the other day (for the record, Socrates lost narrowly after a lengthy wife-related distraction caused an early error), and found myself thinking it would be a very good idea to have a notation system for Caylus. If people really want to compare this game to chess, it's going to need analysing in retrospect.

I took a look at the problem, and noticed two things:

1) There are a fixed number of possible moves each turn (obvious).
2) Very few things in Caylus duplicate (not so obvious).

With these in mind, I've devised the v1.1 Caylus Notation System. You can use paper for this, but it also translates perfectly into a cell database.

SETUP

The top line should give the initial order of the six neutral buildings.

LAYOUT

You will need one page/section for each turn. Each page will need columns equal to the number of players, and each column can be topped with either a turn order number or a player's name - your choice. The rows then run thusly:

PLAYER/TURN ORDER (whichever you didn't head the columns with)
INCOME (optional; if you're recreating the game on the board you'll be able to count it up for yourself)

WORKER 1
WORKER 2
WORKER 3
WORKER 4
WORKER 5
WORKER 6

PROVOST
CASTLE
FAVOURS

This covers everything that happens during a turn that does not happen automatically.


NOTATION

The best way to record a Caylus move is to record where the worker was placed and the outcome of the action (exception: the Castle). The briefest way to do this is with an acronym or abbreviation, as in chess. Now, there are a lot of different buildings in Caylus, but with the exception of residences, the Carpenters and the Architects they nearly all fall into three groups - unique buildings, production buildings which each produce a unique quantity, and non-production buildings which each have a unique name. We can therefore assign each building a code in a fairly intuitive manner, recording passes with "-".

Unique Buildings:

Gate - X (This represents the hourglass symbol, and ensures room for any possible move. Write the chosen move in after the X (e.g. a move to the Inn would be written as X-INN)
Trading Post - $3
Guild Hall - PRV (For Provost, of course.)
Joust Field - JST
Stables - STx, where x is the position taken. So first into the Stables is ST1, and so on.
Inn - INN
Castle - CSTL


Production Buildings are recorded by their production, using F for Food, C for Cloth, S for Stone, W for Wood and G for Gold. So the neutral Cloth farm is represented as F/C, the Park is WWF and so on.

The two Pedlars have different ratios, and are recorded by them - the fixed Pedlar is 2:1, the built Pedlar is 1:1.

The two Marketplaces offer different rates. Record them as :$4 and :$6, leaving space for the cube to be added.

There are two Carpenters. The Neutral Carpenter is NC, the fixed Carpenter is FC.

There are two Architects. Architects should be numbered according to the order they were built in - the first Architect is A1, the second is A2. If an Architect is razed and rebuilt, call it A3; the Architect nearest the Bridge should always have the lowest number.

Residences will only ever be referred to when a prestige building is built over them. Refer to them as REx, where x is the position of the residence in the set of residences the building player controls (e.g. if Red has two residences but Blue has one nearer the Bridge, if Red builds on his second residence it will be RE2).

All other buildings use the first three letters of their name.


CONSEQUENCES

The consequences of a worker action should be recorded in brackets next to the worker order. Thus, a Guild Hall move where the Provost was moved two forward would end up as PRV (+2), a purchase of Wood and Stone from the built Pedlar would be 2:1 (WS), a sale of Cloth at the $4 market would be C:$4.

Actions on other Buildings only need a consequence adding where a choice is made. Taking Cloth from the neutral Cloth Farm would be F/C (C); if you played on someone else's Park and they took Food, the order would be WWF (F). If the Provost's move prevents an occupied building from activating, list the consequence as a pass (-).

The only consequence not covered by this is when a player chooses to remove his worker from the Inn. When this happens, list (INN) as a consequence of that player passing.


PROVOST MOVES, CASTLE BUILDS AND FAVOURS

Provost moves should be recorded as the number of spaces moved, from -3 to +3.

There's no need to record the number of castle builds someone makes separately, as they must have built a number of times equal to the amount of Food used. Instead, just list the cubes spent (e.g. 3F 2W 1C 3S).

Favours should be recorded by track, followed by what the player took. Prestige and money favours will always be xP and $x respectively. Resource favours are R ( ); build favours are B ( ).

This all seems like a lot to take in, I know, but once you use it it's pretty intuitive. Here's an example first two turns for you to recreate:

1:$4, F/C, W/F, NC, S, W

1 2
PLAYER Bob John
WORKER1 F/C (C) S
WORKER2 W/F (F) PRV (+3)
WORKER3 $3 CSTL
WORKER4 - -

PROVOST 0 0
CASTLE - FWS
FAVOURS - $3
______________________________

PLAYER John Bob
WORKER1 F/C (C) S
WORKER2 W/F (W) W
WORKER3 NC (CC/F) JST ($3)
WORKER4 $3 CSTL
WORKER5 PRV (-3) -
WORKER6 -

PROVOST 0 +3
CASTLE - FWS
FAVOURS - B(-)



Beyond that, it's all pretty simple. The most complex action in the game is building the Monument using the Architect and using the two favours to claim a 1:2 Resource favour and a Build of a residence on the double-Cloth farm, which would be expressed as A1 (RE1:MON, R (C:WS), B (CC/F:RE1)). Fiddly, I know, but remember it's made simpler because it's not all done at once.


Any comments on how to improve or streamline this system are welcomed.

EDITS:

v1.1 - Voluntary removal of a worker from the Inn covered; Provost preventing building activation lists consequence as pass; reordered slightly for clarity.
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David Chapman
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Argggg, excess space compression!

Rather than reorder the data, you can select to quote the post. If you do, you can scroll down and the table will display as intended.
 
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Or you can edit it and put code tags around the tables...
[ c ] [ / c ]
 
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David Chapman
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Done, thanks.
 
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Retired Hurt

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"The most complex action in the game is building the Monument using the Architect and using the two favours to claim a 1:2 Resource favour and a Build of a residence on the double-Cloth farm, which would be expressed as A1 (RE1:MON, R (C:WS), B (CC/F:RE1))."

Delivering (or jousting) and getting a favour, with which you build the Monument, using one of its dedicated favours to claim a 2:1 resource exchange, and another one (perforce) in money or VPs, seems to use more characters.
 
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mike tauman

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Not bad. It made me a little dizzy at first but then I felt like I sort of understood it.

I wonder if it would be better to list the players in rows, and their workers/provost/castle/favors in columns? That would condense the data considerably and with the right font size you might be able to fit a whole game on just 2 pages, maybe even 1 if it fits portrait instead of landscape.

Also if I understand right, the Joust favor you put in () right near the Joust. But the Castle favor you put in the bottom Favor section, not near the Castle. This might be confusing when scoring a section of the castle, since you can get a favor for building the most that turn and THEN favor(s) for the scoring, which is a different phase allowing the use of the same favor track.

Also how would it work with buildings that come with favors? If someone uses the Mason to build the stone bldg with the favor (I forget the name... church?) and uses that favor on the building track to build a prestige building which comes with ANOTHER favor (or two) and then uses those favors on deniers and cubes, there would be a very, very long entry in that cell I believe. It is a complicated turn for sure so no matter what type of system you use it will be tough to make a notation for it.

Lastly, and for hardcore players this isn't important, but for newbies like me I wonder if a turn-end summary would help? After the last section (or under everything if you switch to a more horizontal system) you put the players names, their deniers at turn end, what cubes they own at turn end, their point total, and the bailiff position (assigning each square on the board a number starting with the bailiff's original position) so something like:

Andy: $3, FW, 4PP
Billy: $2, F, 5PP
Bailiff: 2

Anyone following your notations who can really visualize the game (as some do with chess) can read through it as is and really see the board and everyone's position in their mind. Many of us would get bogged down and lose track of these things so a turn-end summary would bring someone up to date on the results of that turn, and make it easier to understand and double check the notations to make sure they are reading things properly.

I'd love to see some transcripts on the game. I rarely get to play as I still haven't sat down to figure out BSW yet but the game intrigues me and reading transcripts of some close games by some good players might give me some real insight on what I am doing wrong and how I can improve.
 
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David Chapman
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Merrimac wrote:
"The most complex action in the game is building the Monument using the Architect and using the two favours to claim a 1:2 Resource favour and a Build of a residence on the double-Cloth farm, which would be expressed as A1 (RE1:MON, R (C:WS), B (CC/F:RE1))."

Delivering (or jousting) and getting a favour, with which you build the Monument, using one of its dedicated favours to claim a 2:1 resource exchange, and another one (perforce) in money or VPs, seems to use more characters.


Nope. Using the scenario from my example order, it would be JST (B (RE1:MON, R (C:WS), $3)). That's five characters shorter than the example.
 
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David Chapman
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blakjaks wrote:
Not bad. It made me a little dizzy at first but then I felt like I sort of understood it.

I wonder if it would be better to list the players in rows, and their workers/provost/castle/favors in columns? That would condense the data considerably and with the right font size you might be able to fit a whole game on just 2 pages, maybe even 1 if it fits portrait instead of landscape.


It may be. I used the column layout for a fair number of reasons.

1) It's done that way in chess notation. To aid comprehension I wanted to give the reader as much of a hook to something familiar as I could.

2) I find it easier to mentally order data points in time when they run from left to right than when they run top to bottom.

3) Some orders can be quite long (cf the complexity example). Having a maximum of six columns instead of 12 reduces the odds of squeezing or overlap.

4) Not every row is used every turn. You can condense the data by removing unused Worker rows. You can't do this in a column layout.

5) BGG forum posts are quite narrow - using rows for each player, line wrapping would destroy the clarity of the example turns.

All that said, there's no reason why it couldn't be done the other way, particularly when entering the orders in an Excel database.

Quote:
Also if I understand right, the Joust favor you put in () right near the Joust. But the Castle favor you put in the bottom Favor section, not near the Castle.


Yes. This is done to keep everything in turn order. The Castle is the one place you can put a worker where its action doesn't resolve during the two building activation phases. The only thing out of place is the paid Provost movement, which of necessity is placed after building activation.

Quote:
This might be confusing when scoring a section of the castle, since you can get a favor for building the most that turn and THEN favor(s) for the scoring, which is a different phase allowing the use of the same favor track.


I did think of that. It can be solved either by putting a vertical bar "|" between the castle and scoring favours, or by adding a SCORING line to the turn when section scoring occurs.

Quote:
Also how would it work with buildings that come with favors? If someone uses the Mason to build the stone bldg with the favor (I forget the name... church?) and uses that favor on the building track to build a prestige building which comes with ANOTHER favor (or two) and then uses those favors on deniers and cubes, there would be a very, very long entry in that cell I believe.


MAS (CHU (RE1:MON, R (C:WS), $3)). Not too awful, and I wouldn't expect a move like this to occur more than once a game, or in every game. Plus, it's still shorter than my complexity example.

Also, as I said before these orders are less complex than they seem because the notation occurs in stages. The order above would be written like this:

MAS
(CHU
(RE1:MON,
R (C:WS)
$3
))

Quote:
Lastly, and for hardcore players this isn't important, but for newbies like me I wonder if a turn-end summary would help?


Actually, I think it might be a good idea for everyone. With a EOT summary of where the bailiff was and a status report for each player, you could return to any position in the game without having to replay the whole game up to that point. All you'd need to do would be set up the scores, then run through adding building tiles and castle builds and advancing the favour tracks. It could be done within a couple of minutes, and would allow for pinpoint analysis of plays. Good call.

The only thing I'd clarify from your idea is that the Bailiff's starting position should be 0, not 1. That way you have a record of how many spaces the Bailiff has moved, which is easier to remember and less arbitrary.

Quote:
Anyone following your notations who can really visualize the game (as some do with chess) can read through it as is and really see the board and everyone's position in their mind.


I wasn't thinking in terms of visualision; I think there's too many variables to track mentally with any kind of ease. Instead, I was thinking of reconstructing the game on a board.

It also just struck me that I forgot one thing in the original system: players can voluntarily remove their worker from the Inn. I've amended the OP to include this (as a consequence of passing).
 
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mike tauman

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Horizontal or Vertical works. I was just thinking by going horizontal you can probably fit numerous turns per page (thinking Excel format more than BGG posts). If I could print out a whole game on 2 pages rather than 10, even though those pages might be busier, just seems like for me it would be easier but either way works.

Actually now that I think of it, under either system Provost movement might be a little awkward if the player passing first was not the first player in turn order.

A takes the Merchant Guild (right name? I still don't know the right names of buildings). B and A continue to place workers. A had gone first. B passes first, then A passes.

A backs the Provost up 3 spaces (to deny B some of his workers). B, realizing that any provost movement he makes on the Bridge will be countered by A, yet having a coin advantage over A, spends 3 Deniers to move the Provost forward 3. A has just 3 coins but does not want B to get to activate those 2-3 buildings he had placed workers on (foolishly since he didn't have Provost control) so he backs the Provost up 3 again.

I don't know how to line it up with Tabs here but it someone quickly reading the notations would look down and it would seem that A acted first on the Bridge and think to himself... A moved the Provost -3 at the Merchant Guild and then 3 MORE on the Bridge, moving the Provost behind his OWN workers??? And then B helped A by moving the Provost 3 forward, allowing A to activate his buildings and not helping B at all?

Obviously it is really just a misreading of the notation and not realizing what the passing order was, but I wonder if there is a way to list the passing order separately in the Provost section so as to paint the picture a little easier. So even if turn order was A-B maybe something like:

PROVOST: B(+3);A(-3).

It wouldn't fall under the same column as the workers which might make things look confusing, but now at a glance I can see who acted first and it makes sense.

I love the idea though and would love to see someone use it and post a transcript (or even better an excel file for download instead of a 10 page post) to see if I could follow the game.
 
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