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Subject: The Settler-Quarry of Caylus rss

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Seth Jaffee
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Let's talk first turn strategies. In Caylus, the 2 main strategic plans seem to be buildings (we'll call that Building), and contributing to the Castle (we'll call that Shipping). There are essentially 3 spaces on the board where you can get a third resource (Gray or Purple) in order to build in the castle - and one of them costs $2 and is precariaously perched right near the bailif. Is this an indication that the first player will often place his first worker in one of those, and then the second one in the castle? If so, what does this leave for the other players? The answer to that is likely the Carpenter. The goal here is to determine if there is a "best" first play, and if so, what it is.

I imagine all of this depends on how many players there are. Here's a possible 3 player scenario. More players simply exacerbates the issue:

P1 takes the Gray producing building, P2 takes the Purple one, P3 takes the Brown/Pink building. Second worker for P1 goes in the Castle, since noone will be able to out-ship him and he'll get the favor. P2 probably takes the first Carpenter, so as not to get shut down by the Provost. P3 is probably looking at either Income, Moving the Provost, or either 1st turn or the Inn at this point.

3 player another way: P1 takes the Gray cube, P2 jumps into the castle to get ahead of P1. P3 takes the Purple cube, and P1 can then place a worker in the 'buy a cube for $2' space - thus preventing P2 from shipping anything. So that's clearly not the right play for P2.

If P1 has no intention to Ship in the first turn, then his workers could be allocated to the Carpenters, or the purple resource cube for future Shipping or for the Jousting Field to buy a favor.

I am increasingly of the opinion that 1st player, first turn, first worker should go on the Purple producing building. This allows the flexibility of potentially Shipping a batch on the first turn (for 5 VP and a favor), or using the Jousting Field next turn (for a favor), and still allows for building... which buildings to build is another Strategy thread of it's own.

So what opening plays do you see in this game? We're talking about first turn or two, or just the first few workers. Where to place them, and what's the plan...

- Seth
 
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Tom Hudson
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Very good post. I agree that the purple cube is the best first play, However due to the variable setup, that tile may be near on under the bailiff. The variable setup of the pink buildings adds enough variation so as to mitigate against an absolute best opening play. But if the purple cube is fairly safe (one brown building will be perfectly safe), then that’s my play.

After numerous plays I’m satisfied that the “Shipping” strategy as you call it is best in a game in which the lawyer and architect are late to appear or do not appear at all, or has meager resources. One such game is described in this session report:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/93486

If you plan a building strategy, ensure that the lawyer and architect get built along with sufficient production buildings.

EDIT: brown to pink
 
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Jeff Knox
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sedjtroll wrote:
There are essentially 3 spaces on the board where you can get a third resource (Gray or Purple) in order to build in the castle
...
I am increasingly of the opinion that 1st player, first turn, first worker should go on the Purple producing building. This allows the flexibility of potentially Shipping a batch on the first turn (for 5 VP and a favor)


Your comments seem to imply that you need to obtain a resource before you can build in the castle. IIRC, all players start with two food and a wood cube- that's all you need to build in the castle with the first worker of the first turn. In our games, if your first worker doesn't go in the castle, someone else's is, and you aren't getting the favor.

sedjtroll wrote:
So what opening plays do you see in this game? We're talking about first turn or two, or just the first few workers. Where to place them, and what's the plan...


So far what we've seen in our games: 1st player either goes to the castle or the carpenter. The 2nd player always picks the other. Remaining players do random stuff. Nothing else seems to give an early advantage like those two plays (yet).
 
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Phil Alberg
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FortKnox wrote:

Your comments seem to imply that you need to obtain a resource before you can build in the castle. IIRC, all players start with two food and a wood cube- that's all you need to build in the castle with the first worker of the first turn. In our games, if your first worker doesn't go in the castle, someone else's is, and you aren't getting the favor.

Not quite. You must have three different colored cubes, one of which must be a pink one, in order to build in the castle. Having two pink cubes and one brown cube is insufficient for castle-building, as all cubes must be different colors.
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Alan Kwan
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The best play depends heavily on the random shuffle of the neutral buildings. If the Carpenter is the first on the road, I'll always play there as first player. If the first building on the road is the Farm or the Quarry, I'll always play there too.

I think it is unadvisible to Joust so early in the game. It is much more profitable to use the cloth to build the Castle or (build or use) the Lawyer. An early resource is more valuable when used to build, while an early favor is less valuable: you may hit the low ceiling, it brings a smaller immediate benefit, and you are committing to choosing a row before seeing the game develop more.
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Jeff Knox
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Spielfreak wrote:
Not quite. You must have three different colored cubes, one of which must be a pink one, in order to build in the castle. Having two pink cubes and one brown cube is insufficient for castle-building, as all cubes must be different colors.


Different. Ah. How did we miss that one word in the rules. Wow. That changes things. Ignore anything I've said previously about strategy. blush
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jbrier
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This is actually a very interesting topic I had been thinking about and discussing with some others on BSW (Caylus was implemented there about a week ago).

For a while I was of the opinion that the "settler-quarry" of Caylus was to go on the first carpenter. The argument is that an early brown building (which imho should be the 2cloth/1food if its still available) will get hit many many times throughout the game, so that the value of that move is actually around 10-15 VPs. Building in the castle (which first requires acquiring a purple or stone) generates a one-time payment of 5 VPs, and costs an additional cube. By this logic, it would seem that going on the carpenter grossly outweighs anything else.

But of course things are not so simple!! As anyone reading this is surely already thinking, there are some implicit advantages and disadvantages that go along with each choice.

In the case of the carpenter move, there is the added bonus of being able to go on the building you erected at a cost of only 1. In general, you would actually be trying to avoid this, since someone else going on it generates a VP for you. But early in the game when resources are so important AND people are passing early, you could: visit the guild hall, do some other stuff, and then after probably everyone else has passed you cruise your guy over to the 2cloth building (assuming you are like me and chose to build that one). Of course, this same advantage can be had simply by having moved a worker to the [building to the right of the bridge - don't know the name] the turn before, and in general this advantage isn't HUGE, but I just thought I'd mention it in order to be thorough.

The advantage (and raison d'etre, really) of going in the castle is that you make an investment in the acquisition of favors. Placing a house in the castle on the first turn means you'll get the favor for most houses built in a turn, and you'll be halfway to acquiring another favor when the dungeons get evaluated (all you'll need is one more build by that time).

So the question becomes - is the early favor, etc. worth the 5-10 VP less by game end? Well, I am beginning to think yes. And the main reason seems to be that the building track is so powerful that it compensates for not going on the carpenter altogether. In fact, you can build a wood building without even using the carpenter as your second favor (although it is unlikely you will be acquiring this by the second round). The real issue is that the earlier you advance on the building track, the earlier you can get to the position where you are spending 1 cube to get 6 VPs (this is from choosing the "build stone bldg without stone" action - in fact, this is the strongest action on that track, better than residence or blue building). once in this position, you can be the guy who is churning out all the stone buildings. Most importantly, you can cosntruct a stone production building before the gold mine without the vulnerability of having to go on the mason (if it has even been built!)






 
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Tom Hudson
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verandi wrote:

snip


Pretty accurate. But after 10 plays—all CLOSE—I’ve observed that the winner is the one with the most money during the last 2 turns. In about a third of our games, the leader in the penultimate turn failed to end the game and was unable to affect the outcome on the last turn due to lack of money, and so lost.

In our last game, we failed to stop the leader in his bid to end the game by a single denier. If the game had gone one more turn, any of three players might have won.

I think the best favor track is prestige followed closely by building, with the best position being a combination of the two (enabling you to gain pps on both tracks during castle scoring). But don’t overlook the money track. In our last game, the winner maxed the money track.
 
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Alex Bove
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I think Caylus will resist this sort of analysis precisely because of the randomness of the pink buildings. If geeks like us determine that a certain tile or strategy is the ideal first play, smart opponents will use the Merchant's Guild and their money early to deny any player that tile/action (just as strong PR players try to deny early coffee monopolies, e.g.).

I also think people are overlooking the value of hording resources. I often avoid going to the castle or building a building for the first two turns of the game, grabbing all the resources and money I can and trying to get to (or near) the top of turn order. If I can get two batches in the castle dungeon on turn 3, I will almost certainly earn the favor, plus the 10 VP, plus I've guaranteed myself a favor on turn 4 or 5 (most likely, unless the bailiff is outrageously slow). I should also have plenty of money and a cube or two leftover (preferably for jousting on the following turn).

The main point is that in Caylus there's no real disadvantage to falling behind for a turn or two if you're preparing for a big push later. In fact, I prefer to make big moves followed by "restocking" moves. It's very hard to earn a steady stream of VPs unless you're the only player playing a particular strategy and the other players do not fear you.

I've played almost 20 games of Caylus and lost 3, and I have no opening strategy. I take what is left for me and try to plan at least one (and usually two) turns ahead. Caylus is a game of timing and, to a lesser extent, psychology. Even though it is a perfect information game, I doubt it will lend itself to "best play" type analysis because of the unpredictability of building order, provost movement, etc.
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Alex Rockwell
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I've been playing a lot of 2 player and finding that most of the game is a battle over the favors, to enable you to utilize the building track (for the stone buildings).

I do think the carpenter is valuable, but it isnt a sure best thing. It provides tactical advantages to be able to use it for $1 after the other player has passed.

Here is what can happen when the provost starts near your building:

If they dont go to your building or to the provost-mover building, you wait for them to pass and then go there for $1. This is very good.

If they go to your building, you go to the provost-mover and push it back to deny them. You gain 1 pt and you trade actions.

If they go to the provost-mover, and are short on cash, and you did the most critical actions so far this turn, you can pass, and then they have to pay $3 to get on there so it breaks them.
Alternately, you can go to your own building, forcing them to move the provost back, and you just trade actions.

Winning these tactical battles requires cash. Cash is king, especially early. Another goal of the 2er game is to deny your opponent money so that they either must lose the tactical provost battle due to lack of money, or they must 'waste' their valuable favors on money instead of being able to advance the build track. Thus, any turn when there is not going to be a tactical provost battle, you want to pass first (but at the right time), so you get the $1 and not them, and getting the $3 building is valuable and should be a fairly high priority (higher, the more you or your opponent needs it, if you both have $7 its not as critical)


There wont be many buildings built in 2er due to lack of cubes. There are only 6 cubes in the game to start, with more players, there are a bunch of excess cubes that can be spent on making production buildings.
 
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jbrier
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montu wrote:


I also think people are overlooking the value of hording resources.


So true. I was actually going to talk a little about this but my lunch hour ended
 
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Jesse Mecoides
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I have only played about 6 times so far with varying degrees of success and number of players. I found one interesting open move in 3-player is to take the Stone Quarry then Carpenter for the Mason. You will most likely be the only player with Stone coming into the second round which will allow you to play on the Mason and start building the stone building producers and completely bypass the Wood Building Producer which are of little interest to you from the point of view of improving your game position (not just your points).

With Stone Buildings available in the second round of the game I imagine that nearly everyone will be clamouring to use your Mason, so you wouldn't even lose out on points from that building compared to building a normal wooden double producer.
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Seth Jaffee
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Alexfrog wrote:
I've been playing a lot of 2 player

You don't say.... heh. For every thread about Caylus I think I've seen an average of 2-3 posts from you advocating 2 player! I played 1 game of 2p, and we didn't realize that there were variant rules, so we played with 'normal' rules. We saw how it'd probably be better with the correct rules for sure. And I liked 2p pretty well. I have a feeling I'll like this game better with fewer players than with more, but after a while I think I'll figure out how to adjust my play to the number of players.

Quote:
Here is what can happen when the provost starts near your building:

If they dont go to your building or to the provost-mover building, you wait for them to pass and then go there for $1. This is very good.

If they go to your building, you go to the provost-mover and push it back to deny them. You gain 1 pt and you trade actions.

If they go to the provost-mover, and are short on cash, and you did the most critical actions so far this turn, you can pass, and then they have to pay $3 to get on there so it breaks them.
Alternately, you can go to your own building, forcing them to move the provost back, and you just trade actions.

All very good observations. Sounds like there's no reason NOT to build the building then, in the short term. However, it's probably important to note that the Provost only affects that builgind for one turn, maybe two. There are 10+ turns after that during which you can't count on the provost to stop someone from taking the action. Thus if you build a building, you WILL see it's effect later in the game. It's just right away that you might be able to play these tactical games.

I noted in a recent game that not much building went on in the first turn or two, so the bailiff got well ahead of the buildings. Any building built was 'safe' from the get go, until we caught up.

Quote:
Winning these tactical battles requires cash. Cash is king, especially early.

Another interesting observation. I wondered right away, before finishing my first game, whether income was going to be as important in Caylus as it is in other games like Puerto Rico. Chances are the answer is yes, because money is like action points. You need money to place workers, and then for some other actions you need additional money. So income is certainly important. More on money in a moment...

Quote:
Another goal of the 2er game is to deny your opponent money so that they either must lose the tactical provost battle due to lack of money, or they must 'waste' their valuable favors on money instead of being able to advance the build track.

I've definitely noticed the money-battle phenomenon, especially in 2 player, but also in larger games. However, I'd like to talk about your other comment here:

...or they must 'waste' their valuable favors on money instead of advancing the building track.

I see you've put the word 'waste' in quotes, indicating that it might not be an actual waste, but it's clear you'd rather use the building track than the money track. Later you say that the $3 income building is important because you need income. Here's my take on the income track vs the income building:

The $3 income from the building is timely, as it comes early in the sequence. Therefore it's a good pick in a game where you're spending all your money but still want to activate the Jousting Field, build a Residence, or buy cubes. However, let's look at the cost - 1 Worker, so 1 Action, and $1 to place it. The reward - $3. Net profit = $2 for 1 action. On the other hand, the Money track for favors nets you at least $3 - often more as the game goes on, and it costs you a favor. This favor might come from building in the castle, which costs 3 cubes and an action but also nets VPs; or from the Jousting Field, which costs $1, 1 cube, and 1 Action. Additionally, extra favors are earned during each scoring phase, so those cost you neither actions nor gold.

It's difficult to compare those costs to each other, especially considering the opportunity cost of advancing another track, so I prefer to look at it more like this: Consider using the Jousting Field in lieu of the $3 income, or one of the market buildings (sell a cube for $4 or for $6). In each case you're using 1 action, and paying $1 for the worker. the $3 income nets you $2, the $4 market nets you $3 for a cube, and the $6 market nets $5 for a cube. The jousting field nets only $1 for a cube if it hasn't been chosen before, but later in the game, if you push the income track up, you can be netting upwards of $4 for a cube. This is comparable to the markets, and in my opinion more worthwhile than the $3 income space, and it also denies opponents from using the Favor that turn.

Scoring phase Favors often come in 2s or 3s, so pushing the Money track for Income with each of those is not costly, you can do it in addition to the building tracks.

It's been my experience (or at least my opinion) that the $3 building even if used is insufficient income, and I always find myself pushing the income track to the end. I strongly suspect that any strategy I employ will include using the income track as a primary source of income. That's not to say I won't use the $3 income space, but frankly it's been several games since I've sold a cube for denirs...

So to sum up - I agree that income is very important throughout the game. I think the Income track is a good source of income as well, because you can often get big chunks of cash without using actions (scoring phases, building). And because you want those 'free' favors, that means you want to build in the castle anyway, which means you'll likely get some favors out of that. I often use those early favors for money.

I have yet to find a good use for the Resource track. Based on another thread I think it may be worthwhile in a larger game, especially if production buildings are not comeing out. However in almost any case I can imagine, it can't possibly be as good as any other track.
 
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Jeff Willis
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I agree with your tentative conclusion that building the castle may be more valuable than using the carpenter to build the two-cloth farm (CC/F wood building). But the main reason is not only "that the building track is so powerful that it compensates for not going on the carpenter." The expected VP values discussed here and in other threads for either building in the castle or building a farm are not accurate.

First, building in the castle is worth more than the 5 PP it earns immediately. It also earns one or more favors. (One favor right away for the player who provides the most batches this turn; one or more favors when a castle section is scored.)
Building the castle dungeon earns about 10 PP per batch.

Bunch of math:
How much is a favor worth? Let's try to come up with an approximate average value for each favor track, accepting that there are way too many factors to allow a precise determination.

Using the building track it could be worth 2 PP or 4 PP for a wood building; 3 PP or 6 PP for a stone building; 2 PP plus income for green building; 7 PP to 25 PP for a blue building. (Average value ~6 PP?)

Using the cube track it could provide a resource (estimated value 1.5 PP) or gold (3 to 3.5 PP). Reference Lucas Kruijswijk's "Rule of Thumb" thread. (Average value ~2PP)

Using the money track, 3 to 7 denier, equals approximately 1.5 to 3.5 PP. (Average 2.5 PP)

Using the prestige track 1 PP to 5 PP. (Average 3 PP)

How much is a favor worth? The building track might be the most valuable, but let's wrecklessly average all four tracks: (6 + 2 + 2.5 + 3)/4 = 3.375. Assume that building the castle earns 1.5 favors during the dungeon section (close to true for 2-3 players). Then 1.5 favors x 3.375 PP/favor = 5.0625 PP per castle build during the dungeon section.
Building the dungeon thus earns 5PP (immediate) + 5 PP (scoring) = 10 PP.
End of math

Second, don't overvalue the farm. The game will last 10-15 rounds, and your opponents may very well play a worker on your farm many of these rounds, possibly earning you 10 or more PP in addition to its initial placement value of 2 PP.

But here's the catch. Your opponent will earn more VP from using your brown production building than the 1 PP he gives you. His two resource gain is two-thirds of a castle batch if the other resources can be obtained or are in hand. If we accept that a castle batch during the dungeon section is worth 10 PP, then he gains around 6 PP off the resources from your production building while you gain 1 PP. If he uses the two cloth from your farm to joust twice he may gain something less than 10 PP to your 1 PP.

So is the carpenter/farm move really worth 2 PP + 10-15 PP? It depends. One of its main values is letting you play for 1 denier after an early pass. And of course its situational advantage depends on what resources are available and what you and your opponents are striving for.

Carpenter/production building: 2 PP + mini-inn advantage + resources (and thus PP) it generates for you - resources (and thus PP) it generates for your opponents + PP you get when opponents play there.

Is the early castle build really worth 5 PP? No, it's closer to 10 PP. An early castle build has its own disadvantages as discussed in other threads: for instance allowing your opponents to taylor their game to your choice of favor track.

Conclusion: A first turn castle build is worth about 10 PP minus the strategic disadvantage of an early castle build.

The first turn wooden production building is more valuable the more you yourself will get to use it, and less valuable for every time your opponent uses it. It is simplistic to say its value is 2 PP + 10-15 PP. Its value could be well over that if it helps you more, possibly an overall negative PP value to you if your opponents use it more.
 
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