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Subject: A game of skill and variety rss

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Merric Blackman
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I bought Caylus based on the high rating it had at boardgamegeek.com, not really knowing what I was in for. This was in a month I also bought Puerto Rico and San Juan, so quite a good one for my game collection. However, of the games I have acquired recently, Caylus is definitely my favourite.

Caylus, at its heart, is about collecting resources to build King Phillip's Castle, and developing the town that allows you to collect those resources. As the game progresses, there develops a balance required between how much time you spend on each activity: collecting resources, building the town, or building the castle. The game changes greatly depending on which aspects of the town are developed first, making it a game with great replay value.

The game is won by the player who accrues the greatest total of prestige points. Prestige is gained by many activities on the board, primarily through building, but some of the locations also allow you to convert resources or money directly into prestige.

There is limited randomness in Caylus; the only two points is the order of the six neutral buildings on the track, and the initial turn order. After that, everything is determined by the players' choices. Your ability to choose the best strategy and to foil your opponent's moves is paramount. Caylus is a game of skill, with little luck involved.

The game plays in the following rounds:
* Each player plays workers to the various buildings, playing one worker and proceeding in turn order; this costs money. As people pass, the cost of playing workers increases, until everyone passes.
* Then, each building activates in order determined by how far it is along the road, with the player who claimed the building with a worker gaining its effect. Buildings produce money, resources, allow you to place new buildings, or have other effects.
* Finally, anyone who placed a worker on the castle may build sections of the castle. The player who built the most this turn claims a favour from the king (prestige, money, resources, or the placement of a new building).

A baliff moves along the road each turn. When he reaches the end of the road, the game ends; alternatively, the game ends whenever the castle is completed.

To make things more interesting, there is a provost that accompanies the baliff along the road. Players may bribe the provost (or use one of the buildings) to move up or down the road... and any buildings that are after him this turn don't activate, potentially making some of your opponents' workers useless this turn.

You can find the rules described in more depth in other reviews and sources; I've just tried to give you an overview of the game.

The result of this is a charming game, although one for the more serious and skill-based gamer. To play Caylus well you need a mind for detail and thinking ahead. Although there are some basic strategies that can be employed, it is the ability to react to the different layout of the town and the plans of your opponents that is important. Players tend to either love or hate Caylus depending on their taste in games.

Caylus looks and reads more complicated than it is with regard to the basic rules. In fact, almost everything you need is on the board and pieces (and language-independent). Once you start playing, it doesn't take long to pick up. The superior strategies of the game take longer to grasp.

I have been playing Caylus online at www.brettspielwelt.de quite a bit recently, and generally losing. (My score is 9 wins from 45 games, or 20%). Obviously, I'm not as skilled as I'd like to be. I find the games constantly entertaining, however.

I find the game more attractive than Puerto Rico in its appearance, and in its gameplay, primarily due to the changing nature of the game depending on how the town is built and the strategies that are chosen.

One thing that must be noted: Caylus can take some time to play. A two-player game on BSW can easily take 30 minutes, a three-player game 60 minutes or more! When played in the flesh, 60 minutes would seem to be expected for 2-players, and two hours or more is not unexpected for more players.

Caylus plays very well with different numbers of players - from 2 to 5. However, the character of the game changes remarkably depending on the number of players. In two-players, it is very skill-based, and the tactics of spoiling your opponent are more prominent. The more players there are, the ability you have to predict what your opponents will do, and thus your own course of action, is reduced. Various game elements also change in importance: in two-players, the building favour track is extremely important. In five-players, it diminishes accordingly due to the difficulty in achieving numerous favours, and the likelihood that the stonemason and related buildings will be played.

For those who like games of strategy and skill, I cannot recommend Caylus enough. It is not a game for the casual gamer, but is a rewarding game with enough variety to keep you entertained for a very long time.
 
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Joshua Noe
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Well thought out review. I couldn't agree more re: as the number of players increase, so does the importance of the building tract.

One comment: I see what you mean that as the number of players is LESS (i.e. 2 player) it can be more about "blocking" the other player, I think it can be a hard strategy to do effectively. Since the board is the same size no matter how many players are out there, there's more options for worker placement in a 2-player game. Not saying the Provost isn't effective in a 2-player game...it's extremely effective. Just saying in multi-player games, you can get more "denial" of worker placement as your usually only going to have MAYBE your first choice in worker placement before all the buildings you need get taken up.
 
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Tim Seitz
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schuwa wrote:
I couldn't agree more re: as the number of players increase, so does the importance of the building tract.

I think you meant to say the building track importance DECREASES as the number of players INCREASES. Since that is what the original poster said, and also what I have found to be true.
 
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Merric Blackman
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Quote:
One comment: I see what you mean that as the number of players is LESS (i.e. 2 player) it can be more about "blocking" the other player, I think it can be a hard strategy to do effectively. Since the board is the same size no matter how many players are out there, there's more options for worker placement in a 2-player game.


I'll clarify, as I didn't express it well in the body of the review.

In 4-5 player games, your opportunity to go on the buildings you want is limited just by how crowded the board is with the other players' workers. In effect, you rarely need to place a worker just to stop a particular opponent from doing it because someone else will do so first.

In 2-player games, it can become quite obvious what buildings your opponent needs to have their strategy work, and placing a worker on them can be quite disruptive even if it doesn't otherwise advance your position. Giving up your turn to do a "block" in 4+ players is likely to be suicidal, and quite possibly in 3 players as well.

Of course, there are blocking moves in 2p that advance your position as well, most notably when dueling over who builds the most in the castle... and who gets there first.

I hope that make sense and is somewhat like how the game plays for really good players. Thanks muchly for the comments!

Cheers,
Merric
 
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Merric Blackman
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CaribbeanWayne wrote:
Hello and Happy Holidays,

Just a quick question does it take a long time to read and understand the rules? Are the rules written in a clear and understandable manner?

Thanks!

Wayne


The rules are clear, and it doesn't really take long to pick them up.

Even better is this new rules summary from Ystari - it really makes them easy to learn:
http://www.ystari.com/caylus/adjE.pdf

Cheers,
Merric
 
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