Author: William Attia
Publisher: Ystari Games
It has been a long wait for me. After hearing about Caylus’ release in early 2004, I had been anticipating the second game form the makers of one of my favorite games, Ys. After numerous, yet not surprising, delays from the original release in mid-2004, finally, two days before Christmas, I get my copy. Needless to say I only got a chance to play this past weekend.
The wait was however worth it. Caylus is one of those games where there is a lot to manage and not enough of anything to do what you want. Also, with everyone else fighting for the same things, each move by an opponent changes what you had planned to do.
As you read the instructions, you will surely notice that there is a lot to remember. However the board is so well laid out and full of little pictures, that it becomes almost intuitive. The game plays as follows: Each player has six workers that he must place on the board. Each worker can activate a building or build in the castle. But there is so much more to it. Each building has a different function and at the start, there are very few buildings, so there is a lot of fighting for resources and money. As you gain both, you are able to build more buildings, but once again, you cannot just build as you please. Not only do you need the right resources, you need to activate the right building and since everyone wants to be the owner of the buildings, there is more fighting on who can construct first. There is also a limitation on what you can build, since to be able to build the prestige buildings, you must fist construct a residence, which needs an architect and so on.
As the game progresses, you will not make friends, since each move is at the expense of another player. As in games like Puerto Rico, you cannot just stick to your initial plan, but must adapt as other players place their workers. You also need to earn income, but to increase your income, especially at first, you must destroy older buildings to build houses and then, on top of your houses, can you finally build a prestige building, which are worth a lot of points.
Two other aspects of the game are the castle building and the royal favors. In castle building, each player must donate resources to the different sections of the castle, which are constructed in order (dungeons, walls, towers). The king will reward you for this, but also punish those who do not help. The royal favors come from helping to build the castle and from certain constructions. This is a great bonus, however, you must make a choice as to what to take as a favor (money, points, resources or exclusive use of buildings). Finally, the length and scoring of the game are also controlled by the players. By moving the Provost token, you decide how fast the castle scoring will occur and when the game will end. Since the Provost control what buildings will be activated, there is a tendency to move him backwards or forwards depending on what buildings you placed your workers on. However, by moving him forward too quickly, the came will end and since all players have a chance to move the Provost and buildings that can also move him, you must make sure you have enough time to do what you plan.
The thing that struck me about this game is that even with so many different things going on, after only one play can you remember everything. The only part that takes some thinking is what building to build, since you often have to rummage through them before deciding and it kind of gives away your plan, but I am sure after a few more plays, I will remember the building.
I have only played once, but I can see how each game will be very different. In our first game, of three players, we did not even build a prestige building and the game ended quickly (90 minutes). But it could have been slowed down by any player, should they have chosen to. Also, many mistakes were done since future actions were not taken into account.
This is one of the best games of 2005, without a doubt. And I am only sorry that it was not released earlier, since it could have run for Spiel de Jahres. If you like Puerto Rico, Goa and Princes of Florence, this game is for you. And don’t be turned off by the instructions, which even though they are very well done, it is hard to remember what each building does even after two reads.
I have not played at two players, but the instructions indicate some minor changes. It would seem though that it is much better suited for three to five and that as you increase players, everything becomes scarce. As to whether it slows the game, I cannot comment yet.
Feel free to send me questions, this is my first review on this site, so feedback would be appreciated.
i must say i'm impressed. very nive review. i tryed to read few reviews that were ranked highly here but i just didn't understood nothing they were to complicated/long/hard language. but after reading your review i got general picture of the game, thank you for making the review!
i also hate very long reviews... your's was a big help to me .