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Subject: The Rules Lawyer (P)reviews Clans of Caledonia rss

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Kolby Reddish
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Clans of Caledonia (P)Review


All plays of this game were via Tabletopia during the KS campaign.


Setting Overview:

Clans of Caledonia (Clans) places players into the position of managing a clan (duh!) in Scotland. In short, players will manage building producers, profiting at the market, and exporting goods. The art for the game is done by Klemens Franz (think Agricola and Caverna) and is gorgeous. Players produce primary and secondary goods by building the correct buildings out onto the board. Some of these goods include Whiskey, Cheese, Milk, Grain, Bread, and more. The finished game also comes with impressive looking meeples for all of the buildings and resources which helps bring me into the setting.

Game Structure Overview:

If you have seen pictures of the game, it should come as no surprise that Clans is a euro game through and through. One of the most important thing to keep in mind about Clans is that scoring tiles are drawn at the beginning of the game (think Terra Mystica) to help form and guide your strategy.

Aside from a few reset/score type phases of each turn, all of Clans happens in an action phase where players take turns taking an action each until they pass. First to pass each round receives a bonus amount of money.

As the first action choice, players can interact with a dynamic market. This market board tracks the buying and selling prices of each of the different primary and secondary goods. To take these trade actions, players must use their limited merchant cubes (but players can gain more of these throughout the game).

One of the most used actions is to build a producer out onto the board. Players may expand only to adjacent hexes. When paying for expansion, each building costs a fixed amount and different spaces also cost different amounts, typically based upon their flexibility to hold different buildings and workers. Producers are built upon grassland hexes while workers are placed on forest and mountain hexes. Each different building or worker will produce a different good or amount of money in the production phase of each round.

Players can also take or fulfill an export contract as an action. These export contracts are tiles that require certain types of goods to be turned in to exchange for gold, export goods, and other bonuses. Export goods are interesting because they are tracking global and are worth different amounts based upon which has become the most common.

Lastly, players can upgrade different parts of their clan system, either technology, giving workers more income each round, shipping, allowing greater expansion, or merchant cubes for additional trade actions each turn.

The game plays through five rounds, with bonus scoring at the end of each round for various different things (you can play for these because they are available at the beginning of the game).

Ultimately the player with the most points wins the game.

Review:

I have been aware of Clans for several months now. After reading the description, knowing that the game was heavily influenced by Terra Mystica but also included a dynamic market, I knew I had to try this game out. I am so happy that Karma Games decided to create a Tabletopia module for this game because I could (p)review it this way.

Obviously, Clans is actively funding on Kickstarter right now. I rarely preview games, but decided to write this (p)review because of how much fun I have had playing Clans. I am writing this review after a few solo games and five multiplayer games through Tabletopia.

Clans is obviously inspired in many ways by Terra Mystica, which is one of my all-time favorite games. Similarities include the vastly asymmetrical player powers that players draft at the beginning of the game, fixed number of rounds with predetermined variable scoring each round, building an infrastructure, and some scoring concepts.

Wrapped on top of this, though, is an entirely interesting market game. So while in Terra Mystica you are building up an engine essentially for the sake of building a bigger engine in the end, Clans feels less obscure on some level because you can aim your strategy to capitalize on the market. For example, both bread and whiskey are produced by having grain, but if grain remains cheap at the market, you do not have to build your own grain fields, and can instead "skip" a step in the production chain. Additionally, money has felt tight in every game of this that I have played, which means that when you have two whiskey barrels in your stock and the price has reached $14 per barrel, you may just have to sell those barrels even if you originally had other plans for the whiskey.

The market is incredibly simple but also adds so much to the game. I would not say that I definitely like Clans better than I like Terra Mystica, but it is significant that I even have to ask that question. It is a different take on a similar engine and it does it wonderfully.

For the heavy strategy gamer the end of round scoring tiles being available at the beginning of the game is delicious. I enjoy mapping out in my mind what my path will be from the beginning of round one, but this may overload some players.

Another enjoyable aspect that I did not really pick up on until game 2 or 3 was the settlement scoring and how that interacts with the export contracts. At the end of the game, players are rewarded for having the most "settlements" (a group of buildings not separated by river that can be reached through shipping). This makes the decision of when to slaughter your milk and wool producing cows and sheep a huge decision that can give you a lot of bonus points at the end. Because of this, you have to be thinking of what you want your entire spread of hexes to look like at the end of the game throughout the entire game.

All of this is a good thing to me, but I can totally see how others may not enjoy it as much. The game rewards long term planning. It also rewards repeat plays because some of the subtleties only become apparent at that point. If you enjoy network and infrastructure building games like Terra Mystica, you will likely enjoy Clans. If those games are not your thing, realize that this is a huge part of this game, but it may still be enjoyable if you really enjoy market manipulation. Realize however that the market aspect of the game is secondary to the infrastructure aspect.

All in all, I really enjoyed my plays of this game. I feel like I would have enjoyed it more if playing it over a table instead of over Tabletopia, but ultimately I still was excited and unquestionably backing the kickstarter project. I think that, in itself, tells you enough about what I think of the gameplay.

Congratulations to Karma Games on the success of this project, can not wait to see the finished project!
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Kevin Flickner
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Thanks for the (P)Review. Great to hear thoughts from someone who has actually played it.
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Jari Kemppainen
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Thank you for the preview.

How deep is this compared to Terra Mystica in a analysis paralysis point of view? Also, how long is the game time in this vs. TM?
 
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Kolby Reddish
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jari58 wrote:
Thank you for the preview.

How deep is this compared to Terra Mystica in a analysis paralysis point of view? Also, how long is the game time in this vs. TM?


Two great questions - first game length. Clans is a fixed five rounds, which makes it shorter than TM at any player count (6 rounds). They are about the same length though.

As for depth, especially for AP potential, I think Clans is lighter. While the market gives it a very interesting system absent from Terra Mystica, there are less systems. You don't have the whole "power" mechanic that you need to manage and second guess what opponents are going to do. There are no end of round bonuses, no cult track, etc. So on the whole, this is lighter.

Additionally, I think it is likely more two player friendly.
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Juma Al-JouJou
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The rulebook of Clans of Caledonia is just 12 pages. The rulebook of Terra Mystica has 20 pages. Thus, I think Clans of Caledonia is a lot more accessible.

30 minutes per player is realistic but since Clans of Caledonia is for 1-4 players and plays much better at 2 players than Terra Mystica, I think Clans will be played with fewer players on average and thus be shorter in playtime.

I'd like to think that the strategic depth is very high nonetheless and comparable to Terra Mystica.
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Richard Ayres
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Thanks for the review Kolby.

VPs are gained from many sources. I'm wondering how a player gets a feel for their score relative to others as the game unfolds, and, whether it's intuitive enough for strategy to be adjusted accordingly?

Thanks.

Edit: better words
 
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Kolby Reddish
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Machinista wrote:
Thanks for the review Kolby.

VPs are gained from many sources. I'm wondering how a player gets a feel for their score relative to others as the game unfolds, and, whether it's intuitive enough for strategy to be adjusted accordingly?


Well, based on how the scoring tiles are laid out, you might know that you've chosen not to capitalize on some of the earlier scoring tiles to really focus on later ones. A large percentage of your points can be obtained from the export goods as well. So some parts of your ongoing score may be difficult to measure relative to other players but all of the information is out there for you to make those decisions and adjust accordingly.

 
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Kolby Reddish
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Innovatormentor wrote:

I'd like to think that the strategic depth is very high nonetheless and comparable to Terra Mystica.


Yes, I would agree. I do think Terra Mystica has a little more depth, but I think Clans is a really great competitor for the same level of strategy in the choices that you make.
 
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