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Choubi Gogs
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(photo by ColtsFan76)

Previously entitled: "Take a good game (Caylus) and mess it up (Pillars)"

Disclaimer

Ok, just so you know where I come from and how the review will go. I'll start by an introduction so you know how I came to know the game and what my expectations of it were, then a little summary of how the game plays and what it looks like, you can skip that part if you're already familiar with it and the rules as I won't go much into detail here. I'll finish by my own opinion and my rating of the game. After that, I'll summarize what my playing group feels about the game.

About me, I started playing and fell in love with heavy games (Serenissima and Caylus). I began to play lighter games later like Odin's Ravens and Kahuna. I like mostly all types of games though I like when these are tense. I also usually don't like heavily luck-dependent games.
My favourites are Through The Ages, Race For The Galaxy, Imperial, Caylus, Dungeon Twister, Monster Mash.
Games I didn't like: Pillars of the Earth, Mykerinos, Caylus Magna Carta, Aton.


Introduction

Back when I had only played Settlers, Serenissima and Puerto Rico, I received The Pillars of the earth by my parents for christmas.

I didn't have any à priori before trying this game. I also happened to have it right at the moment when I was introduing all my friends to boardgaming.

Note also that I've played the game only 3 times, but I feel it is enough to tell you what I think of the game.

What is the game about

The game is based on Ken Follet's novel, since I haven't read it, I won't mention it anymore and won't tell you if the game really brings you into the world of the novel or whatnot, because I simply dont know.

The goal of the game (apart from gaining the most victory points) is to build a cathedral.

The game is divided in 6 turns, at the end of which, one part of the cathedral is built.


The finished cathedral
(photo by Nodens77)

Each turn is divided in 2 phases. A first phase where players, in turn, will pick cards. 2 of these will be craftsmen and the other possible cards will give you resources. Basically there are 4 craftsmen available each turn, 2 will come out in this phase (you'll need to pay them), the other 2 will be available in the other phase. These craftsmen will enable you to exchange your resources with victory points at the end of the turn, they are in fact helping you build the castle. You start each turn with a number of workers. When you pick a resource card, you need to block these workers in order to get the resources.


A resource card, for instance, to take 3 rocks (left card), you need 8 workers
(photo by vekoma)


Late game craftsmen, the upper right card allows you to exchange 1 metal against 4 points, twice each turn.
(photo by dougadamsau)

After this first round comes a second round. This second round uses a worker placement mechanism. Every player has 2 master builders. These will then be played in variable locations of the board.

First though, the first player of the turn will randomly pick one master builder and put it down on a small rondel (see picture below). The player whose master has just been picked will then have the choice between paying 7 gold and placing it right away or passing. The price will go down as masters get drawn. Once every master has been drawn, we start placing the masters that were declined for free. Meaning, if player A refuses to place his master for 7 gold, he will be able to place it for free after every master has been drawn.


Master builders being drawn. Red player has declined to place his 7-cost master, then the master picked at 6 cost has been placed. Yellow player then chose to decline to place his master for 5 gold... Every master has been drawn, either placed at price or passed, now we go back to red player who can place his first master for free.
(photo by pigeoncamera)

These masters are placed on the board at various locations awarding several advantages. For instance, remember when I said 2 craftsmen were available later in the turn, well there is a space where your master can go to enroll him freely. You can also protect yourself from paying taxes by courting the king, go to the market to buy or sell resources...
The idea here is that every possible action is fixed and won't change from game to game, nor will they change during the game. Once every master has been placed, we start by resolving all actions one by one in a fixed order.


The beautiful board. We resolve actions in a clockwise manner starting in the upper right corner.
(photo by Werbaer)

At the end of the turn, a part of the cathedral gets built as players exchange resources for points with their craftsmen.


Random Musings

First of all, let me say that I didn't like the game, at all... I started playing Caylus at around the same time and this was clearly felt like an inferior version.

The theme feels very pasted on, perhaps even more so than Caylus, at least in Caylus, the castle gets built when players actually spend resources to do so. Here, even if no player used resources, the cathedral will still be advanced...

Too much luck. There is ton of luck in this game. First, the way resource cards come out each turn, you draw 7 from a 9 card deck. This isn't much, perhaps as important than the plantation drawing in Puerto Rico, it doesn't have a big impact. Second, the craftsmen, you cannot plan on getting a particular craftsmen. To be sure to get one, you'd need to take first place, hope that the craftsman comes out in the first phase. If not, you'd better hope that your master will get drawn or someone might take it before you... Also, each turn, there is a "chance" card that is drawn. These cards can have big repercussions and this is entirely luck dependent. Sure, a spot allows you to protect yourself from the effect of the chance card, but still, you may not know what will happen before you take that decision. This seems way too random for me. The way you pay your taxes is also random, you roll a dice which will tell you whether you have to pay 2, 3 or 4 gold... And finally, the order in which masters will get placed is random. Sure, the first player is allowed to redraw once in the turn but still, no real way of countering this.

There are some stuff I liked though, the way players have to choose to pay a lot to place its master first or place it last freely, this is a nice touch, too bad the masters are drawn randomly. Also, the game is gorgeous.

Basically, this game is way too luck dependent for me, I don't have much experience with it but out of my 3 plays, it just seemed that everything was too random and the only thing you could really prepare was make sure to have enough money every time... We didn't really have any feeling of strategy. Also, the game is too long for just so much randomness.

I rated the game a 4 and I'm not likely to try it again. I do like some random games, but not when I am under the impression that the game is trying to accomplish something. Here, it seems like the game tries to be intelligent but it just fails as in the end, luck is what will decide the success of your strategy. I am aware that this game is only medium weight, but still... too much luck even for that. As I said, it should be a very light game (considering the amount of randomness) but it is too long for that.

Also, the fixed actions each turn and from game to game makes me think that the game lacks replayability. I'm sure people will disagree with me but after 3 plays, I had already had the impression of playing the same game every time, with no difference whatsoever.

What my game group thinks

Matthieu
Matthieu likes mostly any kind of game, except the really heavy ones. His favourites are Settlers, Puerto Rico, Lost Cities, Serenissima, Agricola and Princes of Florence but isn't keen on games like Caylus or Imperial.
Matthieu, who is usually a lot more open-minded than me in regards to randomness in games, didn't like the game either. He agrees that there just seems to be too much random elements to build any kind of strategy, just tactical choices which aren't that interesting to begin with.

Bassem
Bassem came to gaming through me, he played Caylus and this is to this day his favourite game, he really wants brain-burning games with absolutely NO luck. Now, he is a bit more open and has started to enjoy games like Shazamm! though his preference still go to heavier games. He is a very competitive player (he's the only one with me capable of getting angry over a game). To him, games are a kind of sport. He's in it for the competition.
Need I really point out that he didn't like this game at all?

Grégoire
Grégoire is my cousin, we started playing together with Settlers, Power or Armada. He likes to play a lot but won't really come near brain burners, he enjoys middle weight games usually. He never liked Serenissima and imensely enjoyed his only play of Puerto Rico
Grégoire played this once and I think he is the only one who appreciated it, althoug he didn't seem that surprised when I told him I traded the game away. I suspect he enjoyed the game more because it had been a long time since we had spent time together than because of the game itself...


Thanks to ColtsFan76, Nodens77, vekoma, dougadamsau, pigeoncamera and Werbaer for the photos

I've created a geeklist for those interested in following my reviews [http://boardgame.geekdo.com/geeklist/49821/multiple-player-r...]here[/url]
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Dan Poole
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Re: Take a good game (Caylus) and mess it up (Pillars)
Though I like Pillars of the Earth, Caylus has always been my personal favorite of the worker-placement genre
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Jim McCarty
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Re: Take a good game (Caylus) and mess it up (Pillars)
Different strokes. I can't abide Caylus and love this game.
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Snowball
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Re: Take a good game (Caylus) and mess it up (Pillars)
Ok both are worker placement games, and both have a middle age construction theme. That's were the similarity stops.
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Gordon Stewart
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Re: Take a good game (Caylus) and mess it up (Pillars)
Though I disagree with you (I even like Pillars better than Stone Age)
it is very interesting to read your insights into its weak points.
Since the book is one of my favorites, I was pre-disposed to like it.
The expansion balances out some of that problematic luck by placing each
person's last master builder in reverse order of those placed.
(the 1st shall be last, etc.)
Now I always play POE with the expansion, even for 3 players.
Keep up the honest, thoughtful reviews.
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Choubi Gogs
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Re: Take a good game (Caylus) and mess it up (Pillars)
HavocIsHere wrote:
Ok both are worker placement games, and both have a middle age construction theme. That's were the similarity stops.


Actually I believe there is a bit more than just that:
-actions are always resolved in an order
-actions are resolved after players have positioned all their workers
-money is mostly used to place your workers

For instance, I think it has a lot more similarities to Caylus than would Agricola for instance, I wouldn't even think of comparing agricola to Caylus but here, it feels right to compare them...

Anyway, that's how I felt it... But note that I didn't refer too much to Caylus in my review, just in the title and at my conclusion...
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Jason Wiebe
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Re: Take a good game (Caylus) and mess it up (Pillars)
While Caylus is fine - Pillars is more FUN.
But I notice most of the games you don't like I enjoy immensely. Hey, to each his own.
Happy gaming!
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Bill Eldard
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Re: Take a good game (Caylus) and mess it up (Pillars)
I actually like this game, but I'm generally not opposed to reasonable amounts of randomness. I'd give it a 7.

Choubi wrote:
First though, the first player of the turn will randomly pick one master builder and put it down on a small rondel (see picture below). The player whose master has just been picked will then have the choice between paying 7 gold and placing it right away or passing. The price will go down as masters get drawn. Once every master has been drawn, we start placing the masters that were declined for free. Meaning, if player A refuses to place his master for 7 gold, he will be able to place it for free after every master has been drawn. . . Basically, this game is way too luck dependent for me, I don't have much experience with it but out of my 3 plays, it just seemed that everything was too random and the only thing you could really prepare was make sure to have enough money every time...


Though I haven't tried this myself, consider a different method for placing masters to replace the random draw from the bag.

1. Determine the First Player before the start of the game. All players are given the 3 masters of their color.

2. Beginning with the First Player and proceeding clockwise, each player places one master anywhere on the track, and pays whatever the cost in gold on that placement (0-7 golds). For example, the First Player places one of his/her masters on the spot that costs 4 gold, and 4 gold is substracted from his/her account. The next player places a master on the 7 spot, and adjusts his/her account accordingly. The third player places a master on one of the 0 Spots, etc. etc.

3. Once all players have placed all their masters, allocation to the board is resolved in sequence as in the original rules.

4. After the turn is over, the First Player designation passes to the left (clockwise), and the next turn begins the same way.
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Hahn Arama
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Re: Take a good game (Caylus) and mess it up (Pillars)
I guess the American version is more fun.
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Choubi Gogs
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Re: Take a good game (Caylus) and mess it up (Pillars)
Eldard wrote:
I actually like this game, but I'm generally not opposed to reasonable amounts of randomness. I'd give it a 7.

Choubi wrote:
First though, the first player of the turn will randomly pick one master builder and put it down on a small rondel (see picture below). The player whose master has just been picked will then have the choice between paying 7 gold and placing it right away or passing. The price will go down as masters get drawn. Once every master has been drawn, we start placing the masters that were declined for free. Meaning, if player A refuses to place his master for 7 gold, he will be able to place it for free after every master has been drawn. . . Basically, this game is way too luck dependent for me, I don't have much experience with it but out of my 3 plays, it just seemed that everything was too random and the only thing you could really prepare was make sure to have enough money every time...


Though I haven't tried this myself, consider a different method for placing masters to replace the random draw from the bag.

1. Determine the First Player before the start of the game. All players are given the 3 masters of their color.

2. Beginning with the First Player and proceeding clockwise, each player places one master anywhere on the track, and pays whatever the cost in gold on that placement (0-7 golds). For example, the First Player places one of his/her masters on the spot that costs 4 gold, and 4 gold is substracted from his/her account. The next player places a master on the 7 spot, and adjusts his/her account accordingly. The third player places a master on one of the 0 Spots, etc. etc.

3. Once all players have placed all their masters, allocation to the board is resolved in sequence as in the original rules.

4. After the turn is over, the First Player designation passes to the left (clockwise), and the next turn begins the same way.


I've actually considered implementing this variant as I really like this part of the game, however I finished thinking that I didn't see why I should house rule a game when I had perfectly good games already waiting for me!
 
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Re: Take a good game (Caylus) and mess it up (Pillars)
canucklehead wrote:
While Caylus is fine - Pillars is more FUN.
But I notice most of the games you don't like I enjoy immensely. Hey, to each his own.
Happy gaming!


Well you could add me as a geekfriend and at least you'd know that if I don't like a game, you probably will!!

Actually, I do like games fun, I mean I LOVE games like Imperial, Caylus or TTA which aren't "fun" per se but to me, Pillars wasn't even fun... This was my problem with randomness, I have no problem with chaos in a fun game (Galaxy Trucker...) but here... It didn't even work... I tried to explain that in my review but I realize I didn't manage to really get that through... oh well...
 
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Antti Karjalainen
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Re: Take a good game (Caylus) and mess it up (Pillars)
I love Pillars of the Earth - It has a nice mix of luck and planning, and is fast playing for a euro game.

But the review is spot on: If you dislike elements of luck in your euros, you'll dislike this game.
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Evan Stegman
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Re: Take a good game (Caylus) and mess it up (Pillars)
Choubi wrote:
HavocIsHere wrote:
Ok both are worker placement games, and both have a middle age construction theme. That's were the similarity stops.


Actually I believe there is a bit more than just that:
-actions are always resolved in an order
-actions are resolved after players have positioned all their workers
...


Those two are pretty much covered by saying 'worker placement game'.

While there are exceptions, that is the most common way worker placement games work.
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Re: Take a good game (Caylus) and mess it up (Pillars)
EvanMinn wrote:
Choubi wrote:
HavocIsHere wrote:
Ok both are worker placement games, and both have a middle age construction theme. That's were the similarity stops.


Actually I believe there is a bit more than just that:
-actions are always resolved in an order
-actions are resolved after players have positioned all their workers
...


Those two are pretty much covered by saying 'worker placement game'.

While there are exceptions, that is the most common way worker placement games work.


Not that I know of all worker placement games but it seemed it was more than just exceptions:
Agricola has none of these two
Stone Age lets payers choose in which order they resolve their actions
Neuland has neither
Dungeon Lords also uses the mechanic in a different way (simultaneous placement of workers)
It seems Le Havre doesn't have these either (though I might be wrong, I haven't played it)...
Stronghold is another thing altogether...

I don't know how others work though, Vasco da Gama, Kingsburg, Cuba, A castle for all seasons... So maybe you are right and I'm overemphasizing this...
 
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Evan Stegman
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Re: Take a good game (Caylus) and mess it up (Pillars)
Choubi wrote:
EvanMinn wrote:
Choubi wrote:
HavocIsHere wrote:
Ok both are worker placement games, and both have a middle age construction theme. That's were the similarity stops.


Actually I believe there is a bit more than just that:
-actions are always resolved in an order
-actions are resolved after players have positioned all their workers
...


Those two are pretty much covered by saying 'worker placement game'.

While there are exceptions, that is the most common way worker placement games work.


Not that I know of all worker placement games but it seemed it was more than just exceptions:
Agricola has none of these two
Stone Age lets payers choose in which order they resolve their actions
Neuland has neither
Dungeon Lords also uses the mechanic in a different way (simultaneous placement of workers)
It seems Le Havre doesn't have these either (though I might be wrong, I haven't played it)...
Stronghold is another thing altogether...

I don't know how others work though, Vasco da Gama, Kingsburg, Cuba, A castle for all seasons... So maybe you are right and I'm overemphasizing this...


While I didn't actually count, it may be neck and neck between 'board resolves in order' and 'players resolve all theirs then move to next player'(unfortunately, because of the brackets in the URL, I can just do a regular URL link. If you don't want to cut and paste that, do an advanced game search just checking off the worker placement mechanic):

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeksearch.php?action=search&ad...[]=2082&B1=Submit

Regardless, when both games emphasize the worker placement mechanic, it is not really that big of a revelation that they both also resolve it similarly in one of the two most popular ways worker placement games use for resolution.
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Re: Take a good game (Caylus) and mess it up (Pillars)
I actually felt the exact same way about Pillars after my first few plays. I thought there were some cool decisions to make here and there, but the overwhelming influence of luck seemed to really detract from whatever else was going on.

Thankfully, I played it a few more times and my opinion totally changed. With a deeper understanding of how well-balanced the different actions are in the game (especially the true power of the market), the role of luck (particularly in the master builder draw) is significantly reduced. Now, I see it more of being a game where you have to be flexible, make tough choices, and take advantage of what chance and the other players give you.

The game still may not be for you, and the extra time spent getting to where I am may not be something you want to invest, but I just wanted to counter with the fact that there really is more to the game than what you apparently have seen so far.
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Joseph Cochran
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Re: Take a good game (Caylus) and mess it up (Pillars)
Choubi wrote:
What is the game about

The game is based on Ken Follet's novel, since I haven't read it, I won't mention it anymore and won't tell you if the game really brings you into the world of the novel or whatnot, because I simply dont know.

The goal of the game (apart from gaining the most victory points) is to build a cathedral.

The game is divided in 6 turns, at the end of which, one part of the cathedral is built.


This is one of the things that I think is a trap people fall into when describing the game that sets false expectations. This game is not about building the cathedral, it's about gaining VP while the cathedral is being built. It sets a weird expectation for people to think that they're actually influencing the build of the cathedral when the cathedral is mechanically just the game clock.

In the novel it's true that there was doubt as to whether or not the cathedral would be finished, but the game players know that it is and know exactly WHEN that will be. It's perhaps a symptom of "pasted on theme"-itis, but I do feel like people ding the game for it when I'm not sure it's really merited.

Choubi wrote:
Too much luck. There is ton of luck in this game.


This, I think, is the heart of the stylistic differences between the games. While the PoE expansion does a lot to give players better tools to work with the luck, PoE at its heart has a luck element built into its base mechanics while Caylus does not. If you don't like luck there's very little chance you'll like PoE more than Caylus.
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Judit Szepessy
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Re: Take a good game (Caylus) and mess it up (Pillars)
An interesting review. We love the game and have played it quite a lot, It always feel differentso for us it gives a good amount of replayability. Jsciv summed up the main differences very well. We do not mind that much luck in a game that PoT has. For me one of the challenges of the game is to mitigate the luck. This only adds to the fun. The theme is pasted on but for those who read the book this pasted on theme is still an extra.
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Re: Take a good game (Caylus) and mess it up (Pillars)
Although I do not agree with the outcome of your review I enjoyed it very much.
The thing that makes Pillars a great game for me is that the amount of luck is nicely distributed across the players and therefor let's the players focus on their strategy.

Although i'm a big fan of games like Agricola & Le Havre, where strategy can be destroyed by the other players, with pillars you know what to expect and you can focus on getting what you want.

Furthermore the speed is a lot higher than with most worker placement games, which makes it easier to play on the fly (visiting friends etc..)

Cheers, Haring
 
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Jack Francisco
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jemccarty wrote:
Different strokes. I can't abide Caylus and love this game.


I agree. I've played Caylus a few times and I just can't stand it - or any game for that matter - where an early mistake dooms you to defeat. Caylus might easily be my most disliked Euro.
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