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Caledea: The Epic Strategy Game» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Surprisingly Deep and a lot of Fun rss

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Caledea: the Epic Strategy Game is a self-published title from Eliot Brown and Vincent Milosevich. It is a strategy wargame with roots in several other games. The playing time is about 45 minutes and the game is a lot of fun.

Components
There’s no way around it – Caledea does not have the best components on the market. It is self-published and the components are good, but not great. This is not the latest release from Days of Wonder. The components consist of two boards which are foam core with paper, a number of wooden blocks, some sides of which have lines drawn on, 9 cards (one for each empire), plastic gold tokens, bingo chips in various colors, dice, and some printed tokens to mark fortifications. The rules are printed on 8.5 x 11 paper.

The components are of decent quality, but if you are really into bits, you will probably be disappointed with this game.

For those who aren’t obsessed with bits, the components are fine and the game is very playable as is. It would be nice to see it with nicer bits, but I think that would take a major publisher.

Setting/Theme
The setting is a fictional empire with warring factions. Each game can have as many as 9 factions by adding additional game boards to accommodate them. The setting is ahistorical, but it is fun and the empires seem well-balanced and interesting.

Rules
The basic game rules are pretty simple. Each player controls 1 of 9 empires, which gives him some specific attributes. Empires start play with a capital and a number of starting armies.

The board is divided into territories, each of which has two resources. Each empire also has two key resources and capitals must start on a square with both their key resources.
Throughout the game, players attempt to take their own resource squares and/or remove other players from their resource squares. The squares provide gold, which allows players to build or upgrade their armies.

On a turn, players get a number of actions based on their empire. Empires with lots of actions pay more gold when doing things than those with fewer. Players can move their armies to take resources or to attack other plaers. They can also improve armies, add armies, or build defensive structures.

There are three types of units, infantry, cavalry and the general. Each is worth 1, 2, or 3 dice respectively. They also move that many spaces when activated. Troops also get bonus dice if they are in regions with the resource favored by their eempire. The dice are compared and high roll on a single die wins (you don’t add them, just compare the highest single die, with ties rerolled and the low roller destroyed).

Players can also take over resource squares, when they do, they get a new army and a gold piece. If that square is later taken from them, they lose a gold pieces. They can reclaim the square, but don’t get another army.

Players can use their gold to build new armies, upgrade existing armies, or build defensive stuctures.

The complete game rules are available online at http://www.caledea.com/rules.html

When I first read through the game, I have to admit I thought it was going to be little more than advance Risk, probably because of the die-rolling mechanic After 5 plays, I can say that there is more going on here than that.

The rules are well-written and we were able to play the game without consulting any faqs or additional information. The only question anyone had about play was basically an attempt to weasel extra uses of their powers.

The factions are well-balanced. There are 9 in all, with 3 different sets of stats and 3 different powers. The empires are balanced using a mechanic where each empire can take a number of actions per turn, but the more actions an empire can take, the more costly each action is. We used all the empires over the course of several games and each player came away convinced that a different one led to an unstoppable strategy – usually a good sign that they are balanced.

The game can be won in two different ways, either by capturing all enemy capitals or by creating a fortified city, essentially allowing a win by either military or economic means.

Observations
We played several games and had wins in several different ways. The first game was the most surprising – all the players were very aggressive in trying to conquer new territories and did a poor job of defending their capitals. One player recognized this and using the wraparound of the board (exiting the top causes you to re-enter at the bottom) pulled off a surprise win.

The second and third games saw much better defense and were somewhat longer (still under an hour). Both were military victories but they were much tighter. The fouth game saw our first victory by walled city. It was not easy as everyone was engaged in trying to destroy all his resources on the final two turns, but he held onto just enough gold for the win. Our fifth game was another military victory.

Over time it would be easier to get the strategy of winning with a walled city to be more reliable. I also think it might be easier with fewer players or more boards. One of the neat features of the game is that you can add more players and more boards as the boards are repetitive and modular.

Recommendation
Caledea: the Epic Strategy Game is a great game. It is well-balanced and allows for a variety of different tactics to lead to a win. The systems of the game are simple enough to teach to an experienced gamer in a few minutes, but allow a variety of strategies to work. The game also has that just simple enough feel to make you think you can tweak it or add some variants of your own and make it even a little better.

I think the only people likely to be disappointed are the serious bit hounds, and to be honest, they’ll be missing out on a great game.

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Allen Park
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I think it was $25 when I got it, but the price has come down to only $15. I'd say it's a very worthwhile game at that price.
I don't know if the components are the same, but I think they've revised the rules.
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Russell
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I pretty sure you got the first version. The version I have is professionally produced. Reading the threads on this game I hemmed and hawed and eventually traded for it.
Sure it's not Queen game standard but then what is? Well, Queen games is, but that's not important right now.

I'm really looking forward to playing it next week.

 
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