The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Caylus at the Game Ranch

Moseyed on up to the game ranch. Played Caylus, twice. Wrote up my thoughts last night. Noticed that they weren’t posted this morning. Apparently I just closed the browser before posting. That’s what you get writing at 11pm.

Played two games of Caylus and one of Gemblo. Gemblo is nice … Blokus but harder to visualize (at least for a few games, I imagine). I personally like Blokus, but not enough to spring for a game that is an interesting variant.

Onto Caylus. There’s plenty online, and it’s a good game. It’s been compared to PR, mainly because it’s a no luck game (apart from seating order and initial building order) that’s got a ton of supporters (it’s #1 on BGG, and the average rating is around 8.5!). Both games mainly deal with tactical resource management.

Like PR, Caylus a tactical game with almost no long-term planning. And that’s something that doesn’t bother me. In my Caylus games, I could visualize how my turn would affect the next turn (or two), and some plays don’t payoff for a turn, so I suppose you could count that as long term planning, but it’s really just an evaluation issue, I think.

In every other comparison, I think Caylus stands the better game. It’s a bit early to be making that pronouncement, but I’m hardly the first person to make it. Let’s see —

  • A player can still leave the player after him openings (by missing good plays), but the turn order isn’t just around the table + a governor jump. Players have to spend workers and money to affect turn order.
  • The initial setup means that the games have much higher variability from the start, with less luck!
  • I think the initial setup of Puerto Rico has proven unbalanced (in favor of the first corn player in 3/4 player gmaes. Not sure about five). Too early to tell for Caylus.
  • The player conflict is often direct with less ‘accidental’ differences. I’m thinking about the Craftsman here. In a game where the player behind you often takes it, you are at a minor disadvantage. The only time I saw one of these ‘second order’ effects was when a player dropped early (raising the cost for other players) while I had control of the Inn (letting me ignore the extra costs). There are also some issues with players who could end a phase by building out, but don’t.
  • Caylus has really crappy money.
  • I suspect that there are more viable roads to victory than PR, but it’s early.
  • And it has official two player rules.

The one issue that I noticed was that both games I played had the winner sewn up about 15 minutes before the game ends. That’s often true of other games, but with completely open information it’s easier to spot in Caylus. This can be a good thing (if everyone agrees, you can call it).

I’m rating this a seven; it’s too early to rate it higher. But I suspect it will gain a point, or two, or three. Apparently the first edition is sold out, (I’ve been by the local store twice this week). There’s a second printing on the way (around February) that should fix the money.

Can’t wait to play again.

Thanks to Ed and Susan, (and Marty, for the Pie).

Written by taogaming

December 18, 2005 at 11:02 am

Posted in Caylus, Reviews

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8 Responses

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  1. Well, I STILL haven’t played Caylus yet (seemingly the last person in America who can make that statement), so I’ll just comment on the issues you’ve raised as they apply to Puerto Rico (which I HAVE played a few times):

    * The turn order complaint. I guess I’m lucky that most of my games are with good players who know the game pretty well, so this just doesn’t apply to me. It also seems true of many other very good games as well. I suppose a design that doesn’t feature this is somewhat superior, but I always felt the real solution to this is to keep playing with the weaker players until they get better (and offer a little game-time advice until they do).

    * Even without playing Caylus, I’ve heard enough about it to recognize it has a big advantage in variability.

    * Brian, you say the initial setup in PR has been *proven* to be unbalanced. That’s a pretty strong statement. Are there any records that support it? I don’t mean to be a smartass, but it sounds a lot like the early claims we heard about the game (e.g., the Hospice strategy is unbeatable, whoever gets the most Corn wins, etc.), all of which proved to be groundless. It also doesn’t match my experience with the game, which is that all the positions seem pretty well balanced. I’ve actually had a lot of success in the (supposedly inferior) first position (using the Factory strategy).

    * Finally, as far as two-player rules go, PR also has an official two-player game–the rules just aren’t included in the box. But the game plays remarkably well with two (using the rules released by Alea).

    * One point you didn’t mention. Experienced players can play PR in as little as an hour (actually, I played a 40 minute game once, but that was pretty exceptional), and even slower games shouldn’t take longer than 90 minutes. Caylus seems to be hitting the La Citta rule of “30 minutes per player”, although most games I see reported fall into the 2.5 to 3 hour range. To some groups, that will be no problem at all. For us, 2.5 hours might limit its table time and might easily put some players off it entirely. If the game is as good as advertised, I certainly won’t begrudge it 250 minutes of my time, but it does remain something of a concern with how often its duration will let it hit the table in my group.

    I am really looking forward to playing Caylus and hope it meets all its expectations. And if it does wind up being better than Puerto Rico, I will be unbelievably thrilled (since I will then have a new favorite game). But I’ll still be extremely happy if it’s *almost* as good as the mighty PR.

    Larry Levy

    December 18, 2005 at 11:46 pm

  2. The turn order complaint. I guess I’m lucky that most of my games are with good players who know the game pretty well, so this just doesn’t apply to me.

    It’s not a big deal, but it matters. It’s mainly an issue when bringing a new player into an extablished group. Plenty of games suffer from this, though.

    Brian, you say the initial setup in PR has been *proven* to be unbalanced. That’s a pretty strong statement.

    You know me, not for the namby-pamby. In additional to many anecdotes, I am relying on the WBC stats. I haven’t run a confidence test on them to prove statistical significance, but hey …

    http://www.home.earthlink.net/~jcw222/id41.html

    27 wins out of 74 games, and averaging 1 VP higher than any other seat.

    http://www.home.earthlink.net/~jcw222/id27.html

    6/22 (Seat #1 had 8/22), but still the highest average VP total.

    2004 stats here — mainly 5p games. http://www.home.earthlink.net/~jcw222/id21.html

    Finally, as far as two-player rules go, PR also has an official two-player game–the rules just aren’t included in the box. But the game plays remarkably well with two (using the rules released by Alea).

    I’ve been meaning to try them. Part of the issue is that I never remember which 2p rules are official. I seem to recall that I liked the look of Tom L’s rules more than the official rules.

    One point you didn’t mention. Experienced players can play PR in as little as an hour (actually, I played a 40 minute game once, but that was pretty exceptional), and even slower games shouldn’t take longer than 90 minutes.

    I’ve played 2 games of PR in 1:30 (using a board, not BSW). I suspect that Caylus will speed up a bit, I can see this being a 1.5 hour game in my typical groups (since we did 2:30 with the rules, that doesn’t seem unreasonable). But yes, Caylus is longer.

    We’re definitiely talking several standard deviations above average … these games are good. Whether one is slightly better than another is really nothing more than just arguing Best Movies or records … but it’s fun.

    Brian

    December 19, 2005 at 12:16 pm

  3. I’ve played two games of Caylus, and while its a great game, I still think I like Puerto Rico more. It’s faster, and while I’ve played it to death, I came away with a better feeling first time I played it.

    It is possible to make come from behind victories in Caylus, though. The first game I was behind, but saved up my cubes and was able to build one of the huge victory point buildings on the last turn.

    Chris Esko

    December 19, 2005 at 6:01 pm

  4. The 2nd edition of Caylus will have better money. Should be out sometime in January.

    Chris Esko

    December 19, 2005 at 6:02 pm

  5. I really like Caylus, but I’m wondering how the following will play out long term. This is based on 3 1/2 games played.

    Building buildings is huge and the builder spaces are probably the most important on the board (followed closely by the first turn space so you can get the builder space next turn). Particularly with more players you will almost always collect 1 vp per turn unless you play on it. This means each early building is going to rack up an extra 5-8 vp. You get those vps even if the provost drops below that point (best case for you). The grey buildings that give you an extra cube are also quite spiffy. Don’t forget the ability to play on your own buildings for 1 buck when you have an early passer.

    Buildings also let you decide what is available on future turns. You can set the long term pace for the grey, green and blue buildings, unless someone is pushing the bottom row of the royal favor track. With buildings costing two cubes, it seems obvious that they are a real bargain compared to the 3 cubes/5,4,3 vp and possible royal favor from the castle.

    Not that you should ignore the castle. I think it’s best to get there once, maybe twice if you can’t snag a builder, per scoring section. Go there too often and you won’t be able to build as many buildings though.

    The royal favor track is good but not all powerful. I haven’t tried pushing the vp track yet, but I’ve heard it can be quite effective. Right now I’m a big fan of the building track, for many of the same reasons as I like the building spaces. Cubes are ok, and money can get you out of being short on cash the next turn.

    frunk

    December 20, 2005 at 4:48 pm

  6. I really like Caylus, but I’m wondering how the following will play out long term. This is based on 3 1/2 games played.

    Building buildings is huge and the builder spaces are probably the most important on the board (followed closely by the first turn space so you can get the builder space next turn). Particularly with more players you will almost always collect 1 vp per turn unless you play on it. This means each early building is going to rack up an extra 5-8 vp. You get those vps even if the provost drops below that point (best case for you). The grey buildings that give you an extra cube are also quite spiffy. Don’t forget the ability to play on your own buildings for 1 buck when you have an early passer.

    Buildings also let you decide what is available on future turns. You can set the long term pace for the grey, green and blue buildings, unless someone is pushing the bottom row of the royal favor track. With buildings costing two cubes, it seems obvious that they are a real bargain compared to the 3 cubes/5,4,3 vp and possible royal favor from the castle.

    Not that you should ignore the castle. I think it’s best to get there once, maybe twice if you can’t snag a builder, per scoring section. Go there too often and you won’t be able to build as many buildings though.

    The royal favor track is good but not all powerful. I haven’t tried pushing the vp track yet, but I’ve heard it can be quite effective. Right now I’m a big fan of the building track, for many of the same reasons as I like the building spaces. Cubes are ok, and money can get you out of being short on cash the next turn.

    frunk

    December 20, 2005 at 4:48 pm

  7. Building buildings is huge and the builder spaces are probably the most important on the board (followed closely by the first turn space so you can get the builder space next turn). Particularly with more players you will almost always collect 1 vp per turn unless you play on it.

    Rest assured that I will be posting strategy thoughts once I’ve played more, but one thing that strikes me about this is … if everyone is building every turn, there are two building spaces, plus the “build a grey” (when built), and the favor track (which you say you like). So a minimum of 2 buildings per turn, but the bailiff is only moving 1-2 a turn, so you’ll outrun the bailiff. People won’t want to outrun the bailiff, so the later buildings shouldn’t earn 1 pt/turn.

    Also, the early castle things are 5VPs, plus you don’t lose 2. And you can easily get two favors. (Wait a turn, build 2 in the dungeon … get a favor now and one later). That seems pretty respectable. If you have to take the building or a stable (alternating), but can just take the castle, that frees up one work (and doubloon) going to the stables every 2nd or 3rd turn as well. (Obviously, you’ll still need to go there sometimes, but ifyou aren’t fighting to build as often, you’ll need it less).

    Buildings may prove better overall; I’ve won both ways. Still, we’re in the early stages, and it certainly looks like a tight decision here.

    Thinking about this is why I feel that buzz with this game.

    Brian

    December 21, 2005 at 1:30 am

  8. I did note getting into the castle at least once is worthwhile (if just to avoid the penalty), but it doesn’t seem a good idea to overdo it.

    The later buildings won’t earn 1 pt/turn, but they are worth more (6 vp or 3 vp+cube when activated). When the game goes slow the vp advantage of building increases. Those early buildings pay more vps, more turns mean more placements on them. If the builder can get the green placing building in play early that forces people on to the vp earning buildings as the start buildings are covered. This is even better for the heavy early builder.

    If the bailiff is going as slow as possible (1 space/turn) the game tempo will most likely be set by the castle filling up. The heavy builder has even less interest in filling up the castle at that point, as each extra turn is earning more vps from buildings.

    frunk

    December 21, 2005 at 7:38 pm


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