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Subject: Mt Pleasant Gamers Take on Clans of Caledonia – Session Report rss

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Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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Our regular gaming group from Central Michigan University in Mt Pleasant, Michigan gathered to play a new release from Essen, Clans of Caledonia. Seated around the table were Jacob, Neil, Scott and myself. I had read the rules and played the game a few times solo to get a feel for the game mechanisms in order to teach the game. Scott and Neil had both read the rules.

Setup and rules run through took about 45 minutes as I explained the clans, port tiles and player actions. There were a few questions about the merchant leeching ability if you build next to another player’s hex and the way the game scores for most settlements within shipping distance of each other. Since we were very familiar with Terra Mystica’s end game scoring for largest group of settlements, I had to make sure they understood, this was different. The superficial similarity of Terra Mystica to Clans of Caledonia can get in the way of players optimizing their game.

We used a setup of game map pieces of A2, B1, C1 and D2. No rhyme or reason to this one; just worked out that way. Our port tiles were A) gain $10; B) gain $5 and perform the building bonus of taking 3 contract tiles and choosing 1, paying the cost; C) gain 1 mutton or 1 beef; and D) gain a bonus upgrade and 3VP. Initial turn order was me, Neil, Scott and Jacob. For clans, Jacob chose Clan Stewart (+$1 when you trade plus some extra merchants and ship upgrade to start the game), Scott chose Clan Campbell (discounts on factory building), Neil chose Clan Buchanan (extra export contract box) and I chose Clan Robertson (discount for building on loch deltas). Clan Cunningham was left unchosen.

We discussed initial meeple placement as a group looking at the various places on the map, their cost and proximity to the port tiles. We were also cognizant of not letting a single player dominant a large section of the map. After all that and paying for our first placements we commenced play.

The first three of us chose contracts as our first action to give us something to work towards and gain $5. Neil took another contract as his second action, gaining another $5. Jacob went to the market to sell some of his initial goods (whiskey, I believe). The first round bonus was 2 VPs for dudes on the map, so most of us got to work placing those. I went to the market a couple of times to buy goods for my contract, but no one completed a contract on the round. Neil was crowding the NE section of the map and Jacob was headed to the SW. Scott and I went NW and we both got the $10 port bonus.

The second round saw us completing our contracts and then looking to expand. My contract allowed me to upgrade my miners ($5) to get more money and I paid to upgrade the woodsmen ($10). Each of us also worked our way towards the center body of water realizing you needed a beachhead to have a chance of getting the EOG bonus for most connected settlements. Jacob was aggressive in defending the SW corner of the map. I moved from the center of the map towards the SE since I wanted that port bonus of a mutton or beef to complete a contract. Scott drove heavily into building bakeries and gathering wheat, paying less for each factory with each go.

It was in the third round where we saw a lot of market movement and market leeching. All of this was towards completing contracts without having to pay for the factory and not having to wait for it to deliver the goods. Jacob continued to use his market power to gain more money and use that to place cattle on the map. He was invested in contracts that required beef. He was able to corral his cattle in the SW corner and we weren’t close enough to him to take those spots when he slaughtered the cattle, so he could rebuild. Scott and I got in each other’s way quite a bit as we were strung out across a diagonal of the board. We all saw the need for increasing shipping and having more merchants, but were frustrated (in a good way) about having to take them as an action and to spend money to do it.

We had more of the same in the fourth and fifth rounds and each player had quite a bit of money. The market was played extensively and spots on the board were at a premium – very tight. With contracts costing $15, you needed to make sure the contract would pay out handsomely for VP. Even with a bucket of money, it doesn’t go very far when you’re paying that kind of cost.

At the end of the game, we tallied VPs and the scores were 173, 154, 142 and 120. Playing the game took about 2.5 hours for the five rounds.

Final Thoughts

All players enjoyed the game and it is well-designed. Jacob commented that the game has so many interlocking parts it could drive a high level of AP trying to min/max each case. Others have commented on this as well. Certainly, each player is pulled in many directions at once and the timing of their actions can be critical. You want to have placements near the corners of the board to take advantage of the ports, but you absolutely need placements on the center body of water to not get closed out to vast areas of the map. Another consideration is the cost of the hex as the low cost ones are highly desirable. It is also fairly hard to disguise your intentions of your expansion and each of us were blocked at numerous times of the game by other players taking a tactical expansion to slow us down. It’s just part and parcel to how this game will play out.

The game components are excellent, but will be a bit wanting in a 4-player game. Neil purchased an upgrade set of components and we combined those with the original game pieces and had plenty. The export board fulfills several functions in the game. I made a separate VP board for tracking those and did not use the 30 VP track on the export board for player VP totals. We used that for tracking cotton, sugar and tobacco imports. Trouble is, the board gets jostled quite a bit during the game what with contracts and turn order and all. Having the VP off to one side helped a bit.

The game play is quite good and tight with four players. I played the game solo and found that helped in my approach to the game. By the way, it is an excellent solo game. I spread far and wide and went for early money. That helped, but the others are all accomplished gamers and proved their mettle during the game. The game is compact in design, but not so small as to negatively affect the play of the game (see export board comment above). Everything you need to know is plain and obvious. The artwork is pleasant as you would expect from Klemens Franz.

Overall, this is a fine game and will see repeated play at future game nights. I’m interested in playing it with other player counts. I think a 3-player game will be “easier” and more wide open, so not sure how that will feel.
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Neil Christiansen
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Mount Pleasant
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I think I prefer the 4 player count. There were definitely times someone (e.g., Joe) built where I had been planning to, but just hadn't yet been able to. This added tactical and strategic depth that would be absent in lower player count.

There almost needs to be overlays for 2 or 3 player games blocking out some hexes.

I did feel like the neighborhood bonus(that is not gained when building next to lumberjacks and miners) wasn't quite good enough. Something like $2 and the resource, and adjacent to workers just yields $2.

I definitely liked it a bit more than Terra Mystica.
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Joe Pastuzyn
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chris1nd wrote:
I think I prefer the 4 player count. There were definitely times someone (e.g., Joe) built where I had been planning to, but just hadn't yet been able to. This added tactical and strategic depth that would be absent in lower player count.

There almost needs to be overlays for 2 or 3 player games blocking out some hexes.

I did feel like the neighborhood bonus(that is not gained when building next to lumberjacks and miners) wasn't quite good enough. Something like $2 and the resource, and adjacent to workers just yields $2.

I definitely liked it a bit more than Terra Mystica.

Neil: The 2-player game uses a reduced sized board (takes away the edge spaces), so it might be as tight as 4-player. The solo game uses the same setup and the game disallows you from building in any 1-value hex, again, making it very tight (and expensive).

I think the neighborhood bonus isn't overly terrific, but can be used in a tactical way. I built next to Scott's distillery to gain one whiskey just to make a contract work. It was faster than building my own. I also turned down the bonus on a couple of occasions due to lack of money.

I will point out that Scott and Jacob cut me off quite a few times, but I will admit to encroaching into your board space and snipping some of "your" spots. All's fair, you know.
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