So, back on a recent trip to calgary, a friend picked up this and I grabbed Arkham Horror.. and then I went and bought Caylus a few days later.
First.. the board, rules and peices.
These get at best a C+. There's nothing really amazing here to write home about. The peices are wood but this is an abstract strategy game - not particularly eye catching. The board kind of reminds me of a really simple snakes and ladders game, but it wasn't falling apart. The rules I sort of got, but I really had to set up the game to get an idea of how to play.
What is truely remarkable about this game is the sheer number of special mechanics and innovative ideas it throws into the game. I can't recall ever seeing a boardgame with so many little tweaks and inoovative rules in it.
(By the way, we played two 5's and 1 4 player game)
Once we started playing, we were amazed at the depths of strategy involved. Everyone quickly found there own little niches and quickly took over and started building like mad. There was a much gnashing of teeth as turn order was altered, inn's were stolen, and players accumulate resources like crazy. Once we were finished we agreed to play this again the next morning.. and then later that night.
The first time we played, the game was all about the inn. The second time we played, it was about the mid level buildings (all three of which were built by the winner, who must have acumulated something like 30 points from us). The third time we played, I won by constantly bribing the provost to do as little work as possible.. until I had a single power turn when I built 6 castle pieces. (I also made a lot of enemies, but then again, so did everyone else.. it was a very cutthroat game)
It's kind of hard to convey why I like Caylus soo much, because it would take so long to explain all of the little rules which Caylus employs to make the game fun, or the individual strategies players take to ensure victory. You can bribe the provost. You can turn all the good production tiles into cash producing rental properties. You can concentrate on acumulating gold so you build the high value prestige buildings. You can just do your damned job and build as much of the castle as quickly as possible. You can win through control of the inn, make players lives more difficult by passing. You can control the provost for fun and profit. You can acumulate money so you'll be able to control the flow of the game better. You can try a pure building strategy and make sure you build as many buildings as possible. You can even try and destroy all the carpentry and masonry buildings so that noone can build any stone buildings (great if you can monopolize the early building phase!).
The best part is simply that these are all fairly viable strategies. You have tons of options in Caylus, and unlike most games, alot of them are actually viable.
All in all, this game is probobly my second or third favorite board game (I still think Puerto Rico and Railroad Tycoon give it a run for it's money, but that's about it)