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Shawn Woods
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baconcow Reviews… Caylus

This review is my first attempt an in-depth review of a board game. My previous reviews were fairly short. I wanted to add some commentary to my reviews to make them different and (hopefully) interesting. I wrote this review with a word processor and then saved the portions as images to preserve formatting. I enjoy reading formatted works as opposed walls-of-unformatted-text. I am not sure how this will be received by both the fans of Caylus or BGG community. Whether you enjoy Caylus, or cannot stand it, or do not know anything about it, I hope you enjoy my review…



Edition Reviewed: Caylus - 2nd Edition
Designer: William Attia
Artists: Cyril Demaegd, Arnaud Demaegd, and Mike Doyle
Publisher: Rio Grande Games / Ystari Games
Year: 2005 (1st Edition)
Players: 2 - 5
Length: 60-150 minutes
Ages: 12+ years
Game Category: City Building. Economic, and Medieval
Game Mechanic: Worker Placement

Online Play
BrettspielWelt (BSW) - http://www.brettspielwelt.de/Spiele/Caylus/?nation=en


1.0 - Introduction

According to Wikipedia:
(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caylus)
Wikipedia wrote:
Caylus initially gained public acclaim when it was rated the number one game of the October 2005 game fair in Essen, Germany by a public vote conducted by Fairplay Magazine. [2] It quickly rose to become one of the most discussed and top-rated games on BoardGameGeek, a popular online board gaming forum.

Since I did not join BoardGameGeek until early 2009 (having only played Carcassonne before this), I had no knowledge of either Essen or Caylus. To me, the board game world was made up of 1500 versions of Monopoly, The Game of Life, Battleship, and a couple other games which lived nearly-permanently underneath my bed (honestly). However, once I became a regular at BGG, it didn’t take long to realize these games were indeed among a small amount of available board games out there. I also realized that the games I owned were not part of what many would consider a good collection. So, with limited resources, I began my small step into the world of board gaming. One of my initial purchases included Caylus, a game that was then standing in 8th place overall. I had also picked up the 5th place Tigris & Euphrates and 10th-place Race for the Galaxy, as well.

Despite Caylus being an early choice, I did do my research. I had played Carcassonne enough and even with four of the major expansions, there just wasn’t enough meat on it for me. I needed a game that couldn’t be taught to blind flees on a hot day (?). The day it arrived, I opened it alongside Tigris & Euphrates. The Eurogame similarities (having read about them several times), of using mainly thick cardboard and wood for most components were definitely true. Now looking back, I wonder if the same woodmaker created most of the components for Caylus, Settlers of Catan, and Agricola (among countless other Eurogames). They are essentially all the same.

Instead of explaining the rules and gameplay, in-depth, therefore giving myself the opportunity off messing up a handful of rules, I will just refer readers to the links for the two Official websites (that I know about) with links to rules, as well:

Rio Grande Games
http://www.riograndegames.com/games.html?id=65

Ystari Games
http://www.ystari.com/wpe/?cat=5

Rules
• English http://www.ystari.com/caylus/Caylus72E.pdf
• French http://www.ystari.com/caylus/Caylus72F.pdf
• German http://www.ystari.com/caylus/Caylus72G.pdf

For those wondering what the game is about, I will let the games description speak for itself (source: Rio Grande Games / back cover of the box) do the job:
The Back Cover wrote:
1289. To strengthen the borders of the Kingdom of France, King Philip the Fair decided to have a new castle built. For the time being, Caylus is but a humble village, but soon, workers and craftsmen will be flocking by the cartload, attracted by the great prospects. Around the building site, a city is slowly rising up. The players embody master builders. By building the King’s castle and developing the city around it, they earn prestige points and gain the King’s favor. When the castle is finished, the player who has earned the most prestige wins the game.

My non-historical simplified description of this game would be:
Quote:
You are stuck in France near the end of the 13th century. Be the most efficient builder and/or the most effective screwage-bringer. Succeed in (this portion of your life) either by making the King happy while building his castle sections or by developing the village of Caylus into a productive town. The player with the most prestige (Victory Points) at the time when the final section of the King’s castle is completed wins.


2.0 - Component Overview

I will be honest; games that look awful are just not appealing to me. I also like a game that has quality components. As many, who have read some of my other posts might have noticed, I am a storage and protection nut (sleeves + Plano cases anyone?). Caylus has a lot of components, but they are easy to manage. The tiles are all laid alongside the board, the resource cubes and denier (money/coins) can be thrown in a pile on the image of the castle (what I do) or left in separate piles along the board. There are only five resources (food - pink, wood - brown, stone-gray, cloth - navy/purple, and gold - yellow), one (gold) of which is not used until around midway through the game (and even then, not as often as the other resources).

Let’s take a look at some of the games components for those who either don’t feel like surfing through the image gallery or those who just want to enjoy my low-resolution, non-professional, photographs. If you’ve seen these components enough, feel free to skip this section of the review as I probably won’t tell you something you don’t already know.


2.1 - Mapboard

full mapboard

semi-folded mapboard

As can be seen, the mapboard is fairly nice and the layout is well done. Looking closely, the canvas-styled painting of the mapboard can be appreciated. The mapboard is also fairly small, compared to other Eurogames. With no hidden aspects in this game, players can sit next to one another, if desired. This is useful if playing on huge tables that would leaning over and reaching. With a worker placement game like this, it is nice to be close to the board.


2.2 - Rules and Contents

Caylus (2nd Edition) comes with a short rule booklet that I found very good. I had read that the previous edition had an awful set of rules. If this is true, it appears that they have been upgraded considerably. There is a newer special edition (and possibly a newer printing/edition of the regular version) of this game out. I am unsure of the contents of the game and rules.

According to the rule booklet, the following are the contents of the game:
Caylus Rule Booklet wrote:
• 1 board
• 1 white ‘bailiff’ cylinder and 1 white ‘provost’ disc
• 30 one denier coins and 10 five deniers coins
• 30 ‘worker’ cylinders (6 for each color: blue, red, green, orange and black)
• about 100 houses (about 20 for each color: blue, red, green, orange and black)
• 35 marker discs (7 for each color: blue, red, green, orange and black)
• about 140 resource cubes (about 30 pink, purple, brown and gray cubes; about 20 yellow cubes)
• 40 building tiles (6 neutral tiles, 8 wooden tiles, 9 stone tiles, 8 residential tiles, 9 prestige tiles)
• this booklet


2.3 - Resources and Money

Like many other Eurogames, the resources in this game are little wooden cubes (or pseudo-cubes). For the most part, they have been well-cut and evenly painted. They are of colours that allow for fast and easy identification.

food
wood
stone
cloth
gold


storage solution

1 & 5 denier coins

actual denier

The money is this game is in the form of 1 and 5 denier coins. For those of you (including myself, originally) who do not know the origin of a denier, it is a;
Wikipedia wrote:
French coin created by Charlemagne in the Early Middle Ages.
(source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_denier).


2.4 - Player-Specific Components

player components in 5 basic colours

People usually enjoy choosing to use their favourite coloured game components. Personally, for this game, mine is blue. The choice of component colours, while basic, is probably a good thing. There is green, black, orange, blue, and red. Among these components are houses, marker discs, and worker cylinders. They come player-specific components individually-packaged in their own plastic bag which should be adequate for easy organization.

houses

The house components in this game have a couple uses. They are used both to mark having placed resources in the castle and to mark ownership of a tile after having placed (built) it. The house pieces are made of wood. Some of them have minor variations in their cut quality, but it does not impact their purpose. Overall, they are fairly solid components. They somewhat resemble the plastic green houses from some versions of Monopoly.

marker discs

There are seven marker discs for each player. They are also well-cut. They are used for various accounting purposes on the board:

• keeping track of prestige points (x1)
• to show turn order (x1)
• for placement on the bridge (x1)
• along each of the four royal favour tracks (x4)

worker cylinders

Another main game component is the six worker cylinders. They are the heart of the game and will be used by each player to determine which tiles or other board locales will be used by each worker. While being ordinary to look at, they are easy to pick up and place and tend to sit in place rather well. There is nothing worse than a component that tends to be hard to stand up (thinks about the tall player markers from Pandemic (non-expansion releases).


2.5 - Building Tiles

In Caylus, when a player is given the opportunity to build (via a builder tile or royal favour), they can lay down a tile corresponding to the building type allowed; brown (wood), gray (stone), green (residential), or blue (prestige). Also, in order to lay down these tiles, the proper resources and/or deniers are required (shown in the upper left-hand side of each tile). In some instances, royal favours can be used to reduced the required resource/denier amounts. The tiles are made from thick cardboard. They are approximately the same size and shape as a Carcassonne tile (if not identical... I never compared them directly). They feel of high quality and should not wear out easily.

neutral tiles

Neutral tiles are the only non-fixed tiles that are played at the beginning of the game. Unlike all other tiles, they do not have build costs as they cannot be built. They also represent the only random aspect in Caylus (that I am aware of). During setup, the six neutral tiles are placed randomly along the first six spaces, after the bridge. Although their location does not have a large impact on the entire game, it does impact the start as the players may be more apt to place workers on earlier tiles for better protection from having their turn skipped. This is especially important when playing with a greater number of players as there is more possibility for movement of the Provost.

wood tiles

The first tile that is usually built is the wood tile. They are brown tiles and offer expanded worker placement possibilities beyond the castle, neutral tiles, and fixed-tiles (printed directly on the board). As can be seen on these tiles (along with the stone, residential, and prestige tiles), there are numbers written on their top right within a red shield. These are the prestige points (VP’s) that are scored for building these tiles.

stone tiles

Once you have access to the stone building royal favour or tile (wood), you will be able to build the grey stone-based tiles. These allow many more advanced building opportunities than with the wood tiles. For me, this is where the options and decisions really expand. Based on your current strategy, you may take many different paths to attempt victory. The slightly brighter-coloured (intentional or not…) grey tile, in the top-left of the above picture, is the expansion tile called The Jeweller. It was included in my 2nd Edition copy of the game. The Jeweller allowed for a player to use their accumulated gold to obtain a decent-amount of prestige points without having to use them on prestige buildings (blue tiles).

residential tiles

Residential tiles are built using either the wood (brown) lawyer tile or the lowest royal favour track. They are all identical to one another. Aside from giving the player one denier when collecting income, they are used to build pretige tiles off of.

prestige tiles

Along with building sections of the castle, I find building prestige tiles one of the best strategies in the game. However, they require more planning and valuable resources (gold) than just building in the castle. Building prestige tiles early allows players the first choice for selection. Some tiles are valued considerably higher than others, but generally cost a considerable amount of resources more. However, with a game as tight-scoring as Caylus, every prestige point matters.
Bailiff and Provost

Some games have a set amount of turns and others play until a specific resource of component runs out. With Caylus, the game ends when one of two things occurs:

• The Bailiff reaches the file section scoring space on the board (between 9-18 turns)
• The final section of the castle is built

Both of these situations end the game upon the end of the turn, thus triggering final scoring. Based on the location of the Provost, the Bailiff will either move ahead one (Provost at or behind the Bailiff) or will move ahead two (Provost is ahead of the Bailiff).

Provost (left) and Bailiff (right)

The two components are cut from wood, along with the houses, marker discs, and worker cylinders. While the components are painted white, I found that they only had one thin layer of paint and that the wood could easily been seen through it. Because of this, the paint job on the components is not very appealing, yet functional.


3.0 - Gameplay Overview

The gameplay of Caylus is where the game really shines. If you are not a fan of the art in this game, or of the Burger King mascot on the cover, don’t let that detour you from playing the game. As I mentioned before, awful-looking games are not as appealing. While I find Caylus a nice-looking game, others may not. However, it is harder to argue against the gameplay (yet some and their arguments are valid from their point-of-view).


3.1 - How Random is the Game?

Some games are nearly completely random (Yahtzee) while others have next to no random aspects at all; Caylus. As stated in the component overview, the only random aspect of this game is the initial order of the six neutral (pink) tiles. Another random aspect would be the initial turn order. However, I try not to look at that as a random aspect of a game, but as a necessary variable found in nearly any game (except ones like Race for the Galaxy, that play out almost entirely simultaneously... that is until, of course, the VP chips begin running out and order may matters for various reasons). Beyond the order of the neutral tiles, every other decision is based upon the actions of every other player.


3.2 - (Ir)Relevant (long-term) Strategy

Just when you thought you had everything figured out, you find yourself short one measly, yet incredibly important denier. Now, all of a sudden, your entire strategy and plan is destroyed. Without that denier you cannot place a worker to obtain that needed piece of stone, which means you cannot build enough batches in the castle, which leads you to not having enough resources to out-do your opponent to get the royal favour, which means you won’t be able to get the prestige building opportunity from the building royal favour track. You begin to panic or lengthy AP (analysis paralysis). What will you do? You feel like you’ve been set back an entire turn. Maybe you have been. However, with multiple paths to victory and an incredible amount of choices, there is usually always an alternative (whether or not it is better or worse, is another thing). In Caylus, it seems that one of the most important skills is knowing when and how to modify a strategy. Choosing to just focus on one thing may work for a few turns. However, if the other players evolve their strategy in attempts to counter yours, you may find yourself in trouble. As frustrating as games can be, Caylus is challenging without being brutally unfair.


3.3 - Down-time?

There are several games, that I have read reviews for, where people stated the downtime killed the game. I have never played the game with more than 3 players (including myself). Whether playing the game with 3-players or only 2-players, I found the games to pass quickly. Alternating worker placement (for as long as a player can afford to place a worker), there are really only a handful of seconds between each placement (barring players with AP). Any game prone to AP can have a lot of downtime between games, no matter whether they are heavy or light. If a player keeps the game flowing, plays very smoothly. I am sure, however, that the game could become fairly chaotic and possibly unfriendly with five players. Resources-taking would become fairly competitive and screwage moves with the Provost could become overwhelming.


3.4 - Major Paths to Victory

To give you an idea of the different paths to victory, I will list the ways to get prestige points (VP’s) in this game (this list is, of course, based on my own limited experience and understanding of the game):

Building sections of the castle
• Each batch of cubes earns 5/4/3 VP’s based on which section of the castle is currently being built
• During the scoring of the 3 sections of castle, having more batches contributed will allow for bonus (possibly multiple) royal favours to be received

Laying tiles will achieve prestige points (VP’s)
• Wood (brown) tiles: 2, 4 VP’s
• Stone (gray) tiles: 3, 6 VP’s (and possibly 1 royal favour)
• Residential (green) tiles: 2 VP’s
• Prestige (blues) tiles: 7-25 VP’s (and possibly 1 or 2 royal favours)

Using royal favours to directly get VP’s
1/2/3/4/5 based on favour track position
• Royal favours can be obtained from castle 1st place in castle building, castle sectional scoring bonuses, the jousting match fixed-tile, some stone tiles, and some prestige tiles

Obtaining gold pieces to trade/cash-in for VP’s
• Using The Jeweller, 1 gold piece = 5 VP’s, 2 gold pieces = 9 VP’s
• At the end of the game, each gold piece = 3 VP’s

Obtaining VP’s through other users “renting” your owned tiles
• Every time another player puts their worker on a tile you placed (and therefore own), you receive 1 VP

Although not an efficient way to get VP’s, at the end of the game:
• 3 resource cubes = 1 VP
• 4 deniers = 1 VP


4.0 - Conclusion

4.1 - Replayability

As can be seen, there are several ways to achieve prestige points, in this game. Because of this, there is not one sure way to win. What may work one game may not be effective in a subsequent match. One of the greatest aspects of Caylus is having the game that is enjoyable to explore the different paths to victory and experimenting with ever-evolving strategies. For me, the replayability of this game is excellent. Every time I play, I find myself continually attempting new combinations and optimal strategies. However, the other player(s) always seem to throw a wrench into the mix. Mistakes can be costly. However, one on its own are not usually game-threatening. Unless you’re playing against extremely experienced players (something I have no experience of), you should be okay making some mistakes.


4.2 - Is this Game Right for You?

Pros:
• No hidden information
• Fast game setup
• Plays excellent with 2-players
• Very deep gameplay
• Multiple paths to victory (high replayability)
• Evolving strategy
• Short time between actions
• Nearly no randomness (only neutral tiles setup)

Cons:
• Can induce analysis paralysis in some gamers
• Some players may find the game has too much screwage
• May become too chaotic and lengthy with 5-players
• Experienced players will leave inexperienced players well-behind


4.3 - Final Words

Cayuls is one of my favourite games. Being a fan of low randomness (I don’t mind it in card driven strategy/wargames), I like the challenge that Caylus brings and the strategy required to succeed. Despite having a low random factor, there is high replayability due to there being many choices per action. As long as players do not over-AP, the game should play smoothly. For a worker-placement game, Caylus has a very quick setup. On the other hand, people who do not like screwage and chaos may want to think carefully about this game before choosing to purchase it, especially if they intend to play it with 4 or 5 players. The game can be unforgiving to new players, especially if played online against experienced players. I highly recommend Caylus to anyone who wants a deep, enjoyable, thinking game.

Overall: Highly Recommended
Grade: A+

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Nattakorn Vuttichaipornkul
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Re: [Review] baconcow Reviews... Caylus
Amazing review! an interesting read from start to finish. I also like the layout. Looking forward to read more review from you in the future.
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Steve Duff
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Re: [Review] baconcow Reviews... Caylus
It looks nice, but it's not really needed to do all that. It's not searchable, for example.

The fonts, large headings, formatting bullets, images, wikipedia and box quotes can all be done with standard bgg markup and text.
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Ryan
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Re: [Review] baconcow Reviews... Caylus
A nice review. I am one of those ultra-experienced players that most people don't want to play :o) I will say that Caylus is one of those games you likely won't fully appreciate until you've played it dozens of times. I thought it was a really good game from having played it occasionally face-to-face, but it wasn't until I started to play it online that I realized how great it truly is.
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John Earles
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Re: [Review] baconcow Reviews... Caylus
UnknownParkerBrother wrote:
It looks nice, but it's not really needed to do all that. It's not searchable, for example.

The fonts, large headings, formatting bullets, images, wikipedia and box quotes can all be done with standard bgg markup and text.


I agree with Stephen. While the "document" looks nice and allows for slightly better presentation than native BGG markup it ends up losing a lot in usability. You have a lot of embedded links, that I can't click or even copy/paste.

I appreciate the effort you put into the review and the content is good, but rethink the use of an image.
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Branko K.
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Re: [Review] baconcow Reviews... Caylus
One more vote for "nice looking.. yet unnecessary".

While reading this is admittedly easy on the eyes, you can't search the text, you can't quote for comment and perhaps worst of all you must transcribe the links instead of simply clicking on them. So I would to suggest re-thinking of using images instead of trying to make do with "regular" BGG forum format.

As for the review itself, I rather enjoyed it, especially since it has just the right mix between rule explanation (read: almost none) and subjective opinions. I simply detest when I open a review and see that the "reviewer" simply transcribed the rulebook (which is especially irritating with RGG games which have their rulebooks available for free download). It's nice to read someone talking about the game and his "relationship" with it instead of describing it in painful detail.

Still, rethink this image-for-text deal, please.
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Shawn Woods
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Re: [Review] baconcow Reviews... Caylus
It took me quite a bit of time, but I re-formatted the review to be BGG-friendly. My original method was an experiment to gauge reaction. I am glad that everyone, that responded, were both honest and critical. I hope that I did not miss out on any images or material when reformatting it.

To those of you who did not see my original review, and are curious what it looked like, it still lingers in my personal gallery, here:
http://boardgamegeek.com/image/632540/baconcow

(it is a 584 x 10966 pixel image, scaled down to 35% of original source at 1699 x 31332 pixels)
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Steve Duff
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Re: [Review] baconcow Reviews... Caylus
Phenomenal review (of a fantastic game).

The new text version looks awesome too, you did a great job on the re-format.
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Michael Sosa
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This is an excellent multimedia effort from a new member of the boardgaming hobby! I am happy that our efforts to bring the pleasure of quality boardgames to more people is leading to results such as this.

I'd like to ask though how did you move from the cheap Toy's R Us boardgames to quality designer games? My trigger was playing Settlers of Catan with some CCG friends of mine. It immediately occurred to me that here was a good boardgame (not monopoly, Parchesi, etc) that I could enjoy with my family. Later I discovered BGG. This was back in 2004 or so.

Anyway I bought Caylus special edition and it looks fantastic to me. I never cared much for the art in the original, which I did not play until 2009. While reading up on the game I learned about the special edition, done by Mike Doyle, a favorite artist, and immediately bought it.

PS Your collection reminds me of mine for several years! I started with some of those games too, but it exploded over the last two years. I love most of the games in your profile pic, but I did trade Ingenious away, I don't think it was nearly as good as Blokus.

PPS And I see you are also giving decimal ratings! Ha. I started doing the same before eventually realizing (once more games were acquired) it was silly and went by the BGG rating guide.
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Shawn Woods
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Once I had bought the original Carcassonne, I ended up looking for the expansions. I learned, then, about small board game (carrying) stores. Mostly they had things like Carcasonne, Settlers of Catan, Blokus (and it's many variations), Magic, and a lot of other board games like Star Craft and such (things with miniatures). At the time, I had no interest for miniatures as my mind only associated them with painting and Dungeons & Dragons. I had seen other board games, too, but didn't recognize them.

Having Carcassone and other (non-Euro) game Blokus (which to me was original something not available in regular stores, at that time), I found myself no longer having any interest in older games.

Then I began searching for more Carcassonne expansions and found this site. Initially, I never registered (in 2008), but used the information about the names of the games. Finally, when the economy died and I had no job, in 2009, I found myself bored with a lot of free time. So I bought some board games, an inexpensive way for entertainment (per dollar, possibly the best entertainment value, these days, compared to movies, dining out, and even most video games).

I decided that, while I am not in the best position to donate my money to BGG,I could donate my time. Recently, I was accepted to school (since I could not find a job), but still give what time I can to update my Geeklist of Canadian retailers, and do reviews. I owe a lot of thanks to many people at BGG who have created some of the content that help fill my days and to those who have shown their enormous generosity to me.

Board games and BGG have become an integral part in my life as a major hobby/interest of mine.

I am glad that you and other appreciate the effort I put in for this review. It is the least I could do in return.
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Michael Sosa
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But you can't buy Carcassone at a regular retailer. How did you find that one? Carcassone was my second euro style game purchased after Settlers.

Regarding analysis paralysis, I don't understand the constant fascination gamers have for this alleged flaw in games. There is nothing wrong with analysis, the paralysis happens only because people don't want to use a clock to time slower thinking players. As someone who has been playing chess for a long time, using a clock is just a natural necesity for any serious game. It is how I play Battleline and Lost Cities for example (10 minute counter, with 2 second delay). For multiplayer games such as Caylus just agree to a maximum amount of delay for each action, let's say 2 minutes, and have the clock reset after each play. So anyone who is concerned about time merely needs to hit the clock at some point during a player's turn.

Oh and you do have to agree to a default action however!

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Shawn Woods
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Toys 'R Us, back in early 2008, sold Carcassonne.

Today, you can buy Carcassonne at Toys 'R Us, Chapters (our largest retail bookstore), and Scholars Choice (education toy chain). Last January, I picked up The Settlers of Catan at Toys 'R Us. A few weeks ago at Chapters, they had Carcassonne, Settlers, Pandemic, and Agricola (their website also carries Caylus, the main Carcassonne expansions, and Puerto Rico!).

I picked up Agricola immediately. It was $80 with 35% off (came to about $55, about the same as the cheaper Canadian online stores which have it for around $50-60).

With analysis paralysis, some of my friends are bad with Race for the Galaxy. They sit there, literally minutes and minutes, deciding which of the action phases to play.
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Michael Sosa
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I do remember Toys R Us here in Miami, Florida selling Ticket to Ride. And today they do sell Settlers. I've never seen Carcassone though. I'm hoping that one day I can walk into Toy R Us (there is one a few blocks from my house) and find a wall of Euro games.

Regarding AP, I have a friend who is slow too. And some of us occasionally do take too long to make a move. A few have chess clocks and we use it when we play a game that everyone knows how to play and is complex. RftG can involve difficult decisions! The expansions add more complexity, man I love that game. It fills several niches for me: competitive multiplayer card game, CCG like, and space theme. I do prefer it over Dominion.

I'm looking forward to reading your other reviews, although I've played or owned most of those games. Have you tried Caylus Magna Carta? I feel compelled to buy it because I enjoy Caylus so much. Then again I never purchased San Juan....
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Shawn Woods
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I probably won't buy Magna Carta. Only because I have read that, while it follows the same gameplay as Caylus, it is shortened due to cutting out some of the depth. Caylus is deep; I wouldn't want it any other way. I have many games that I plan on doing reviews for, but not enough plays of them yet.

I have recently been playing Twilight Struggle and hope to do a review of that soon. Many of my older games can wait. I wanted to do a review for Caylus, as I pulled it out and have been playing it a lot recently. I felt like reviewing it while it was fresh in my mind.

I have a short review for Carcassonne: Abbey and Mayor, but I don't really consider it a full review (just a small one).

I also am in the process of learning Agricola (and waiting to receive the expansion in the mail) and will do a dual review cover those two, separately.

I also plan on doing a review of Race for the Galaxy, but I think that I might only do tiny overviews (or thoughts) for the expansion and do the review on the entire base plus two expansions. It is hard to review the Race for the Galaxy expansions since they are just cards and components mixed in with the full game. I played Race for the Galaxy with all the expansions, since the beginning (I waited for them to come out).
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Michael Sosa
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Well you are taking up quite the challenge there, as you are reviewing some of the top games on BGG. But waiting to play the game a few times before writing the review is obviously a good idea! I think the most challenging articles on BGG are strategy reviews. You really need to understand the game at a competitive level to create those. Although I play a bunch of games, most are so complex that writing a good strategy article seems monumental. Your reviews though do serve a legitimate purpose- introducing the game to new players.
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Shawn Woods
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I write articles in a way that would be the most interesting for myself. Since a review is mainly written to introduce people to a game, I believe it should not be complex and confusing. I also enjoy seeing pictures that help me visualize the game. If I read a review, I enjoy more opinions and brief explanations. Overviews of components is always useful for getting the basic flow of the game. Beyond that, the average reader will begin to lose the connection with what the reviewer is talking about. I think that the most difficult games to review would be war games which tend to be a lot more complex than most Eurogames/Ameritrash (even the lighter war games, like Combat Commander: Pacific, include a ruleset that is far more complex than that of Caylus).

However, being a Mechanical Engineer now pursuing a M.A.Sc., I have to be careful to not stray into making my articles too technical. I think I have been able to make them effective and well-structured, while keeping the content understandable (hopefully).
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Steve Duff
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I don't think there's such a thing as "too technical" for this crowd. laugh
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Shawn Woods
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Being an abstract game with no luck (excluding setup of the 6 neutral tiles), Caylus can be solved. If not with a perfect solution, it can be given ideal algorithms calculated after exhausting every option with a computer.

I always thought of writing an algorithm to exhaust every action in a 2-player game and the path required to achieve it. It would be interesting to see the top 5 scores that are theoretically obtainable and what the difference (if much) between their paths for. It would be a great way to "learn" strategic opportunities to a "chess-like" game. There are reasons the greatest chess players rarely lose, they know all the strategic moves perfectly.
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Michael Sosa
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I have not looked much into this subject, although I share your interest in programming and in solving games! I know that an Excel program was created for Puerto Rico that is good, and I saw a discussion about Race for the Galaxy AI. I think we may share the interest in attempting deep understanding of favorite games. I've found that the best boardgamers (in terms of ability to win) are typically people who like to explore a few games deeply than continually play new titles. Unfortunately the cult of the new dominates the scene.

Anyways I have had this discussion with some of my friends: how deep is Puerto Rico really, compared to classic games like Chess and Go? Although Chess appears complex, in reality centuries of study have narrowed down opening theory to a limited (although still extensive for human minds) set of moves, deviation from which should result in an advantage to your opponent. I have heard it say that programming a computer for Go is more challenging, perhaps because opening play is much more varied.

I would love to see a group of people take a challenge to create a computer program that is as close to unbeatable as possible in a top euro game like Puerto Rico (which can be played two player) or even Caylus. Both games lack auctions, which would probably be harder to program, and have minimal random elements.

PS Found an organization dedicated to this topic: International Computer Games Association
http://ticc.uvt.nl/icga/
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TICC is incredible. If you really want to see an excellent formulation, look up their method of ranking changes after a win/loss. It was utilized and slightly modified for use with the Nintendo DS game Tetris DS. This was one of the first WiFi online games available for the DS and this ranking method was very well done. Along with being used in chess, it is very popular in the game Go for their international rankings.

It is known as the Elo ranking system, and is worth reading about if you like this stuff. Wikipedia, as it often does, provides an excellent place to start.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elo_rating_system

An auction is no different than a regular decision, except that it is one that generally has no upper limitations. However, given limitations based on maximum resources, it would be no different than the player choice of how many batches to place in the castle. The thing about Caylus is the branching choices. To design a computer program to test ever available possibility would take an incredibly long time. It is true that the game is limited to a maximum of 18 turns (minimum of 9). Also, there is a maximum amount of brown, grey, and blue tiles. A maximum amount of resources available to a player to use (given by how much they have). Due to this, most of the options would just end up dead and never branch any further. Still, decisions where a player goes to the Castle would balloon as they also have the choice of Royal Favour track, if 1st. Within that, they have the choice of up to 5 different slots from 4 rows. And, within that, some of the slots provide multiple decisions such as resource choices or tile building opportunities. Now, if a computer AI was made to choose realistic choices, it would be much easier. A realistic choice would be: choosing 7 denier instead of the 3, 4, 5, or 6 that are also available.

Etc...
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Shaun
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"I am a storage and protection nut (sleeves + Plano cases anyone?)"

LOL, I just started playing and buying Eurogames (just bought 10 of them over the last couple of months) and I spend a ton of time trying to find ideal storage solutions to my various games. I'm the butt of a lot jokes because of it, but whatever makes me happy, right : )

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