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Subject: Once You Get Past That Learning Curve.... rss

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Dick Hunt
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The biggest complaint about Caylus that I hear is that all these language-independent tiles make the game much harder for us lazy Americans to learn. I've taught Caylus to maybe a dozen people since Christmas 2005, and the first problem it runs into is the constant comparisons to Puerto Rico, since both games involve purchasing buildings that give one advantages during the game. From there, it's a small leap for people to point out how much easier it was to learn Puerto Rico because its building tiles are printed in English rather than all these dark, hard-to-see-from-any-distance hieroglyphics. Of course, these Puerto Rico veterans are all forgetting how much more complicated Puerto Rico's rules were to learn, but that's cold comfort when they're trying to see the graphics on a Caylus tile from the other end of the table.

Of course, Europeans are used to language-independent graphics on street signs and the like. But Americans used to playing Puerto Rico are awfully tough on how hard it is for them to learn Caylus. It's just a lot more work memorizing all the symbology. Of course, here again these Puerto Rico vets are forgetting how many times they had to be reminded what the heck an Office does, or a Construction Hut.

We've printed out all the helpful player aids people have posted here on the 'Geek (and they are very helpful), but that means that we have to lay all the tiles out on them, and that means the game takes up the entire table. Compare that to Puerto Rico's handy layout where the buildings all stack up neatly on one small board that can be moved or rotated for convenient reading, and Caylus takes a beating. I've taught several different groups how to play Caylus because I love it so, and I'm teaching another bunch of people how to play it on Saturday. So far, the criticisms of the English-free tiles has been absolutely universal, and I think it's mostly due to the obvious comparisons between Caylus and Puerto Rico. I even considered writing all the building names and effects on the back of each tile, but the fancy graphics there would make my handwriting even more unreadable than usual, so I didn't do it.

Once taught, however, everyone I've taught this game really likes it. Before the game, and during the early going, they're complaining about how tough Caylus is to learn. Afterwards, the only complaint is the two-hour playing time. I remind folks that two hours for their first game of Caylus is actually pretty good, but some remain skeptical. Most, however, really like the game and want to play it again.

Personally, I prefer Caylus over Puerto Rico. When you put up a building in Puerto Rico, it only helps you--no one else can use it. That means you have to mentally update what buildings and abilities everyone possesses every five minutes. In Caylus, however, all the buildings (except for Residences and the Big Blues, of course) and their abilities are available for anyone to use. The race to "get there first" adds a ton of competitive strategy to the game, and the Provost shenanigans provide much of the rest. Caylus also twists and turns delightfully for each number of players participating, so it's wonderfully different for 4 players from the way it plays with 5 or 3, and yet all the combinations (even 2!) are a blast to play.
 
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Gary Bradley
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Interesting post. Being European myself I have not had a problem with the symbolic nature of the tiles. My only complaint is that the resource cubes could have been better coloured. As it is they are all pretty similar in colour, other than the gold and stone. [I don't mean the wooden cubes themselves, but the pictures of them on the tiles].

 
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Luca Iennaco
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I like language independent bits (besides, they're usually easier to understand for my friends than English words, since English isn't our first language ).

My friends are usually more worried (during the first games) by the sheer number of buildings (and options) rather than by their appearance (or lack of words on the tiles).
A few games later, everyone know them all (more or less) and everything is fine. meeple
 
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Jeanie H
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I think the trade off is a fair one. It may be a little bit more challanging to learn, but by keeping games bits language independant, no one is excluded.
 
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Rod Spade
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I thought the symbols on most of the buildings were very intuitive, though they are hard to discern from a distance.
 
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Alex Churchill
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rodspade wrote:
I thought the symbols on most of the buildings were very intuitive, though they are hard to discern from a distance.
I agree. The mnemonics are very helpful and mean you generally don't need to refer to the rules.

One subtlety that some people might not realise is that the tiles do have the names printed on them! ...In very faint lettering and about 8 languages Behind the mnemonic diagrams and the picture, there's faint lettering, including the name of the buildings.

People still generally refer to "the Provost-mover" and "the two stone one cloth", though
 
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