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Subject: Caylus - good enough to be my only micro-badge rss

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John G
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Though I've been playing Caylus for a long time, I have avoided reviewing it until the initial hype had worn off (at least to a large degree) and until I'd played it enough to know if my assessment that it would always be a top game for me would change. I think the hype has diminished (at least the rating has dropped and the game shows up fairly low on the Hot Games list). I have played it quite a bit over the last year. In fact, it is the top game in my games played list despite the fact that it is a pretty long game. I am convinced that this is a great game and will continue to be for me.

Rather than rehash the details of the components and the gameplay, I would like to focus my review of this game on what games it compares favorably with and what makes it unique. However, I will give a brief overview of the game itself.

Components
I feel I have fairly broad tastes in games in that I really enjoy Euros and ATs and am also beginning to branch out into war games. If you are an AT fan, the components are not exciting. They are very Euro and compare favorably with the bits in games like Power Grid, Settlers, etc. In other words, the board is large and of high quality, the pieces are of painted wood or thick cardboard, and the buildings are of thick cardboard, a la Puerto Rico. Good, not great. I did not buy this game for the bling.

Gameplay
The idea of the game is that the players are master builders that the King of France has sent to the hamlet of Caylus in order to build a castle. In order to do so, they will also need to build up the town to have the resources to complete the castle.

The game is played over three phases of building in the castle (dungeons, walls, towers). The game moves to a new phase or game end as these sections are filled or the Bailiff reaches a specified point down the Caylus Highway (he moves forward each game round). At the end of each game round players are granted victory points and royal favors based upon how much they have built in the castle.

During each game round, each player in turn pays to place workers either in the different buildings on the highway or in the castle. Working in town is how one earns resources, money or builds additional buildings. One must spend resources to build in the tower.

What games does it compare to?
I see why Caylus is commonly called the "next Puerto Rico". It reminds me a lot of Puerto Rico for a few reasons:
1) Multiple resource management - each player has to deal with different resources (cloth, wood, stone, gold, food), money, and victory points. Similar to the resources (corn, indigo, etc.), money, and victory points in PR (and colonists).
2) Balance of approaches - PR requires a balance (or lack thereof) of building and shipping. The balance in Caylus is similarly - building or castle-improving. OK, that sounds more lame than it is - building vs building.
3) Left- and right-player dynamics - this is less than in PR, but a good player in Caylus is constantly looking for not just what he needs, but what others need.

I think one reason that Caylus has been getting more plays than PR at our table is that it also has the confrontation of ATs or T&E, primarily with the provost. The provost determines which workers work, and can be blatantly bribed. This creates a nice meta-game. Usually. Unless you play with someone fairly thinned skin. In this way it compares a bit to the tension of A Game of Thrones, though far less so.

Finally, I like the thinking ahead required in the game. This reminds me quite a bit of Power Grid. Of course, the potential for AP follows this.

What makes it unique?
It seems like most people that don't like Caylus cite three things:
1) Too much going on. A hodge podge of every Euro mechanic known to man.
2) Too long to do the same thing over and over.
3) Some imbalance - not clear some favor tracks are horribly useful.

I agree with #3, though it doesn't bother me too much. I haven't had the other two issues. I think the balance of mechanics, though perhaps not as well balanced as PR, is really very good. I like the balance of different resources that need to be managed. I fully disagree that you just do the same thing over and over again, unless that's how you would describe any other game. The early game builds to a mid-game which prepares you for a high-scoring end game. I've never looked at my watch in this game to see how long we've been playing and always want to play one more.
Finally, like Puerto Rico, it seems like every game is new. Some go very quickly with the provost sprinting ahead and others build tensely as the provost stumbles forward. Sometimes someone is able to rush the castle and win; other times someone wins through favors; regularly someone wins through heavy building and rents. Generally it is a subtle combination of these that best play against what other players are doing. I think it is that subtle interaction that really hits it for me for this and games like it.

Who will like it?
I really like some of the medium/heavy weight Euros such as PR, T&E and Power Grid. This game feels like them. But it also has a bit of the tension and meta-game of ATs I enjoy like A Game of Thrones. If you find yourself enjoying both Euros and ATs, I think you'll like Caylus. If you don't like Puerto Rico or Power Grid, I wonder if you'd enjoy this.

Who wouldn't?
I don't enjoy it with three types of people. They don't like it much either.
1) Thin skinned. I've literally been screamed at in this game. It's the only time it has happened to me. Someone got totally ripped at me and my brother for conspiring to bribe the provost.
2) Analysis Paralysis Prone (APP - the opposite of ADD). You can surely optimize your decisions in this game if you spend enough time thinking about it. I'd much rather lose a game in 90 minutes than win in 4 hours though. Some of the fun of the game (at least for me) is realizing I made a dumb move that I should have noticed.
3) Light gamers. An example should suffice. I love the Cities & Knights version of Settlers. Some people see no reason to move beyond the basic game. In my experience they like to keep things simple and enjoy replay more than learning new games. These are the people that generally scoff at learning a game like this. If your favorite games are Settlers and Carcassonne, I suspect you wouldn't enjoy Caylus.

Finally, I can imagine AT purists really hating this game. No bling. Fairly weak theme. Relatively long for the choice made. Little direct confrontation.

Conclusion
So despite a real PR fettish, an addiction to T&E and the fact that A Game of Thrones is on our table constantly, the Caylus micro-badge was the first I chose. It is fun, makes me think and always makes me want to play again. I've enjoyed it and hope you will, too.
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brian
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You should have got a nicer microbadge. This one looks like a bloated tic tac!

Of course I may be biased since I made the other ones.
 
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Adrian Larson
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My first micro-badge and only one.

Caylus!

Adrian
 
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Robert G.
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Why not collect them all?
 
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Chris Rudram
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I am saving my GeekGold for a Caylus badge Good review.

Only point, what hype? Personally, I think this is the best eurogame I've played
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Luis Dominguez
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As you can see, my only microbadge is based on Caylus too.

I think it is a superb game. Maybe a little big complex for newbies, but nothing that cannot be fixed with a couple of plays

The game is very intense and sometimes I finish a game with a little headache.
 
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John G
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BrianMola wrote:
You should have got a nicer microbadge. This one looks like a bloated tic tac!

Of course I may be biased since I made the other ones.

Dang! I really like the first one. I wish I would have seen that one when I bought this silly Certs. Of course, having the provost as my microbadge is not so bad metaphorically, only aesthetically.
 
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Mr Hen
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rooboomr wrote:
If your favorite games are Settlers and Carcassonne, I suspect you wouldn't enjoy Caylus.

Interesting. My current favorite is Carcassonne, but I enjoy heavier games. I just have a hard time finding people that would be willing to learn them with me.
 
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Ururam Tururam
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There's also a badge of the Caylus Premium Limited Edition (with Mike Doyle's art):
 
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John G
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OK, I have more microbadges now, but Caylus will always be my first! (I think my certs is getting jealous)
 
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