Six thousand words about Caylus
This document contains all of my thoughts on Caylus Strategy. I use “strategy” as shorthand for tactics, evaluation issues, and long-term planning. Anything you use to win. I personally believe that tactics and evaluation dominate over long-term planning, but I may be wrong. My goals in writing this are: a) crystallize my own thoughts, b) provoke discussion and debate, c) educate, enlighten and entertain, d) be wordier than Proust. Many of the idea presented here are not originally mine, and are taken from various threads on BGG, as well as discussions with other players. In particular, see Wayne Ellis’s Jan 2nd article, Alex Kwan’s thread on comparing the 4 favor tracks, and Evertjan van de Kaa’s article on Building’s vs. Castles. Good discussions, all.
- I use the $ symbol for money (instead of typing “Deniers” everywhere).
- I have used “Resource” to mean “Money, cubes, workers, time, etc.” instead of just “cubes.” I use “Cubes” or “Commodities” to mean food, wood, stone, cloth and gold (the little cubes in the game).
Caveat Lector – I have only played six times. However, I actually have a pretty decent record when I started this. No doubt this will change. I have not played 2 players yet, but have played 3, 4 and 5.
Winning at Caylus involves managing scarcity: you could always use more money, workers, and cubes. Each step the city’s road can only hold one worker, leading to competition in time. The castle’s areas (dungeons, walls and towers) have a set capacity.
Whenever you make a play, you should ask yourself “What else can I do with this?” and try to evaluate the long term potential of each play. For example, if you build a building, how many VPs will it provide? In order to know that, you must estimate how often an opponent will select it for the remainder of the game. And you have to know what you are giving up. This is the “Opportunity Cost”. What you could have done with the resources if you had applied them elsewhere.
Victory Points aren’t time sensitive. If you end up with 80 points, it doesn’t matter when you earned them. The same isn’t true of resources. Timing matters.
You don’t have to have a lot of VPs, just more than everyone else. As the number of players decreases, you can focus more and more on hurting your opponents rather than helping yourself. In a 2 player game, they are equally as good. In a five player game, don’t bash people until the endgame, focus on improving your position (and getting lots of VPs).
Most resource types have diminishing returns. You probably want to have a nice mix of money and cubes, rather than be broke with dozens of cubes (or $15 with no resources). Focus on what you lack.
A game lasts between nine and eighteen turns. If the castle doesn’t fill (or fills on the last turn), then you’d expect 13-14 turns (assuming that the bailiff is equally likely to move one or two spaces).
Advice for first time players
The tiles are operated in order!
Think about what you’ll have to do to get a prestige (blue) building, or how difficult it will be for everyone.
The Royal Favor
I suspect it will be difficult (if not impossible) to win with no favors, but time will tell what the minimum is.
Favors will be more plentiful with fewer players. Outside of a few buildings, and scoring a section of the castle, there are only two favors per turn (Jousting, and Most Builds). If we assume 13 turns total, that’s 25 favors maximum. If you earn 3 favors from the castle, your “Fair share” is 8 favors in a 5p game, but 15 in a 2p game. [And, of course, it’s easier to put more in the castle with fewer players.] So in a 5p game, you may expect to max out one track, leaving room for an emergency favor or two. In a 2p game, you can expect to max out two or more tracks.
Note that you can’t advance the same track twice (or more) in a phase. This mainly applies to multiple favors earned during scoring, but also to the joust and a few buildings.
The Four Tracks
It’s still early to tell the relative value of the four tracks, but the construction (lowest) track is better than it first appears. One thing to consider is how much you’d get if you advance each track 3 steps, or 5 steps, or six steps. (I say six steps to emphasize that you aren’t limited to five. A sixth step is very valuable.
- VP – 6VP (3 steps) / 15 VP (5) / 20 VP (6)
- Money – $12 (3) / $25 (5) / $30 (6).
- Commodities – 3 cubes (3) / 4 cubes + a gold (5) / 4 cubes + 2 gold (6).
- Construction – Wood + Stone Building [at 2 cube discount] (3) / Wood, Stone, Lawyer, Prestige [2 cube + $1 discount] (5) / Wood, Stone, Lawyer, 2 Prestige Buildings [2 cube + $1 discount] (6)
Converting to VP is difficult. If the construction track lets you build a prestige building that you otherwise couldn’t (because the architect was always busy), then five levels could outweigh15 VP just from the blue building (to say nothing of the VPs from the intermediate buildings, or discounts). If the architect is built early, then the fifth level wouldn’t be as valuable, (you could just spend the $1 to get that prestige building). But if the architect is built early, the resource track’s gold will be worth more (as people fight to earn gold and then take turns on the architect …)
Money converts (at the end of the game) at $4/1VP, so assuming that you spend it at least that efficiently, it values at one-half to one-third as many VPs as the VP track. Given that money can be converted to VPs much more efficiently (by using it to place workers to harvest cubes and build), it seems reasonably to double it, putting it roughly on par with VPs.
To use the favor track effectively you should cater to the board situation (and use it to your advantage).
Victory Point track – This doesn’t really have building implications. Don’t take this too early (other tracks are better in the opening). With fewer players you’ll want to hit this track more often. The seventh advances on other tracks aren’t likely to be worth more than 5VP. (Can you really build a 3rd blue building? Or need that much money? The gold can easily convert well, if it lets you improve your prestige building). So, in a 2player game you’ll want to run this (hopefully so that you are ready to earn 5VP once the wall section scores).
Money track – If you are on this and nobody else is, don’t build the marketplace (and turn the neutral into a residence, if possible). Also, build the Church and Bank (which convert money into VP and Gold, respectively). If everyone else is poor, you can save these for final moves to convert to VP and get good bridge position. Be more aggressive with the provost, as well.
Commodity (“Resource”) track – If you are aiming for this, make sure that the Lawyer & Architect get built early, so you can convert your gold to prestige buildings. [And convert the neutral production buildings into residences]. This is probably (slightly) inferior to the other tracks. This track also lets you speed up castle building a bit, and may get you an early extra favor (by getting a second dungeon build, or win a 2nd favor early).
Construction track – If you start this you want to get your second advance early, so you get a good wooden building. Don’t be disturbed by the blank first space, if you use all five spaces, you’ll have made a tidy sum of VPs. The ideal use of this is to delay the Lawyer & Architect to force everyone else to scramble and compete for the brief time they are available, while you calmly use the 4th and 5th spaces to take an uncontested prestige building. (If the Lawyer was built early enough, you may be able to push to the ‘6th spot’ to get two prestige buildings, which is tough to beat). To do this you’ll likely want to build production buildings. The construction track requires the most ‘timing.’ It’s no good getting the 2nd or 3rd advance when you have no cubes. But you can always sit on money/cubes whenever you need them. [The 4th space of the cube track has a little timing, but you can always just grab a non-gold cube instead.] It’s also better early than late (buildings may run out).
Also note that the construction track gets worse the more players have already started it, since that means fewer (if any) buildings to choose from, and worse position when they are finally built.
Buildings vs. Castle
Should you build a building or build the castle? A non-prestige building provides 2-6 VPs, plus may earn 1 VP/turn for the rest of the game. Even better, that VP is earned at no cost to you. Assuming that the building is desirable, you should discount the VP by number of players (you’ll probably want it 1/n times). Also discount it if the buildings have outrun the bailiff. (This will also occur on the first turn).
Buildings provide some safety from early passes raising the worker rate (since you only pay $1 to go to your own buildings).
Castles return an inferior rate of VPs. At most five per space in the dungeon. (Even a 2VP building built that early should reasonably earn 6+ VPs). Not building in the castle at all, however, costs some VPs. So your first dungeon is worth 7VP (assuming you have VP to lose. Which you should). Castle building costs an additional cube, making it even worse. The favor provides the carrot. Most castles on each turn earns a favor, and reaching certain breakpoints earns additional favors. Another positive — it only takes one worker (and $1) to build multiple times. If you build twice in the dungeon (on a single turn) and win the favor on that that turn, you’ll score 12 VP (5 + 5, and not suffer the -2 penalty), at a cost of $1 and six cubes, and earn two favors. Two buildings will costs $2, 4 cubes, and earn roughly similar VP. (Assuming a building on the first and second turn).
If you built in the dungeon for two turns, (once each time), you’ll get the same 12 VP, but spend an extra $1. And you may have earned one, two or three favors, depending on how often you “build the most”. If you got three favors, you did quite well.
Given that the favor ‘tips the balance’ towards the castle, be aware of possibilities to steal the “most built” from another player who has already gone to the castle. If they can only build once and you can build twice (in the current section), you not only earn a favor, you deny it from someone else.
If you can build more than everyone (not just tie), you may want to be last at the castle. Then you just build as much as necessary to get the favor. [The gate is useful for this].
Note that the second favor (above) will be delayed until the section scores.
Single Turn issues
Of primary concern is whether all your workers will activate. If you place your people early (near the bridge) then you are probably safe. Placing near the edge of the city (the space the provost starts on) is riskier. You can even place past the provost, planning to move him.
Once someone has placed near/past the provost, you can usually place behind them fairly safely. They will certainly want to advance the provost. Safety grows as more players get involved.
However, if several players are at the outskirts, one of the non-involved players may grab the Merchant’s Guild (to move the provost three spaces back). The affected players order of passing can greatly effect the final location.
For these examples, number the spaces 1- 28 [Spaces 1-6 are the neutral buildings, space 7 is the basic marketplace, 8 is the basic wooden construction building, 16 is the mine, etc]. Suppose that the provost is on space 16, and the player going last occupies space 16. It’s probably safe to be in space 15 or 14 and go next to last on the bridge. If someone backs the provost up, you can put him on your space (and the last place player will probably pay to move him to 16). You may even be able to not pay, hoping that the next player moves the provost for you.
But if you go next to last and are on space 17, you are in a painful situation. If you move the provost just to 17, the player behind you may spend $1 to back him up. If you push him farther forward (to space 18 or higher), then your opponent can just pass. You’ve spent extra ‘for insurance.’ That money may have been better spent on another worker to go last. So the general rule – the higher you position on the tile track, the later you want to be on the bridge.
If you are running up the money track for favors, you can probably threaten with the provost more often. Cash poor people won’t be able to contest you for him (or will have to give up placing workers).
Remember that each player can only move the provost three spaces, if he moves back several spaces then you may want to position him where the last player can’t hurt you.
Finally, if everyone moves the provost so far back that the last player(s) can’t recover, they may keep pushing him back to hurt everyone. A turn where the provost gets moves back and forth isn’t wasted, even if the net effect wasn’t. Someone could ill afford that money.
Long term – The Bailiff
Apart from activating buildings (or not), the provost determines the bailiff’s move, and the speed of the game. In general, you want to speed the game forward if you’ve built in the castle at the cost of buildings. Less turns will mean less VPs for buildings to earn a VP for there owner. You will get your favors earlier. People may scramble to avoid the penalties. If you’ve got buildings on the board, you want a long game. More time for buildings to score, more money from residences.
On a turn where a scoring may or may not happen (bailiff two spaces from the scoring space), expect the provost to be moved by several players around the breakpoint. Or everyone may rush to the castle just to be safe.
There’s also an intermediate issue. If an important building is near where the bailiff will land, it may be worthwhile to advance the provost so that the building will be safer next turn. [This assumes that you will get access to it, or want someone else in it].
A fast game will also limit players from having time to build the larger prestige buildings. It may prevent them entirely.
Although going last on the bridge is nice, first is usually better in turn order. Suppose everyone valued each building in the same way (and assigned them a value 1-20, with 20 best). Player 1 would get 20, 16, 12, etc. Player 4 would get 17,13,9 etc. Since value depends on a number of factors (commodities, money, ownership) this isn’t quite true, but the idea holds. Early plays are valuable.
How valuable depends on the breakpoints. The above example has each building worth 1 point more than the last, but there can be jumps and then several buildings that are roughly equal. In the endgame, there can be huge jumps. Just consider the last turn with each player having a residence and gold, and only a single architect. The first player will grab it, pocketing around 15 points. The second best space may be worth six points. In the last few turns expect jockeying for position to get gold, residences, favors etc.
If the jumps match the number of players, then the 1st player may not have a large advantage. But the first player would still have a flexibility advantage.
It also matters who is going ahead of you. If you are 2nd and the player ahead of you will be grabbing cubes while you build, you aren’t in heavy competition. Similarly, if the player you will be contesting against this turn goes last then next-to-last may not be so bad.
If you are going later, your one advantage is that you’ll probably wind up with later position on the bridge. If you are going last then it’s also nice if you control the Inn, so that raised costs for people passing don’t affect you.
The game starts with two carpenters (buildings that allow the worker to construct a wooden building). The mason (a wooden building) allows for construction of stone buildings. The lawyer (wooden) converts neutrals (and owned) to residences. Finally, the two architects (stone) convert the residences to prestige buildings.
The construction buildings will determine the flavor of the game, as entire buildings may not appear. If the architects (or lawyer) are not built, only the Construction track of the Royal Favor will get you a prestige building. Prestige buildings earn 8-25 Victory points, so they are not to be scoffed at. While some games have no prestige buildings built, these are becoming rarer as players switch to the construction track.
The order of the buildings matters, but it is currently difficult to state how this affects things. Obviously the earlier buildings will get more use, so you can make general pronouncements. If the marketplace is the first building, and the mason the second, then the game will be tighter on resources than if the 1st two buildings were production buildings. The question of ‘what to build’ will be handled in a later section.
When converting buildings to residences (via the Lawyer), prefer buildings that compete with yours. Converting your owned buildings should be rare, but there are a few instances where it may be worthwhile:
- You free up a valuable (VP wise) building to be built next turn.
- You prevent anyone from using that building next turn. The mason is the foremost candidate for this. Note that you cannot convert the lawyer himself, and if you convert a building that has not yet been activated, the switch does not occur until after activation].
If you have a residence, ideally you convert it at the last minute, so as to keep the extra income from the residence (and build the biggest building possible). However, other players may build your preferred building (or take the architect), so don’t get too greedy. Also note that prestige buildings that provide favors may be worth more than similar cost buildings that provide VPs only. (If you own two residences, you can use the architect to build one, and then use the construction track to instantly build a second.)
Pay Attention to the order! (I repeat this, but it’s important). Pretty much every new player gets this wrong at least once, and sometimes experienced players mess up. Will you have money when you need it (for jousting or the lawyer?) Will you have cubes before the construction takes place? Will you have cubes for the castle? These calculations are required.
All other things being equal, place your worker early on the track of possible, to make yourself less vulnerable to the provost. [All other things are rarely equal…]
Placing a worker costs (at least) $1, a worker and an action. New players do not always consider the $1 and action. For example, one player placed a worker on the marketplace (sell a cube for $4), and a worker on a single cube tile as the first two actions. Net gain – $2. The same result can be obtained by placing on the trading post (Pay $1, Gain $3) for one less worker (and the money will be paid before the provost).
The action is important because each player will get to place a worker (or pass) before you go again, and that may thwart your plans. Just because no other player can use a space doesn’t mean they can’t deny it to you! So the order you place workers in matters. Try to place in the ‘scarcest’ spot available. Scarcity depends on what you are hurting for most. Sometimes the scarcest spot will be a particular resource (often Gold). Other times it will be building rights. Other times the favor. Sometimes it will be time (the stables). As a general rule, make the scarcest play first, assuming you can actually use the resource. However, if the resource is scarce for only you, consider grabbing hotly contested areas first, hoping that others won’t be willing to spend an action grabbing a marginal tile for them (but scarce for you).
Because the best position on the bridge is last (so that you can exactly control the provost without any wasted spending), sometimes you should be willing to spend $1 in the hopes that more players drop out.
In cases like that, you may want to temporize, such as the example above where you earn $2 using two workers instead of one. Players are compelled to move or pass (and are limited in workers), so this can be effective for securing the final spot on the bridge.
A final consideration is that the first player to pass gets $1, and raises the cost for the others. Additionally, you keep someone else from getting the denier (for passing first). Even if people have their own buildings (and so won’t pay more) you may encourage people to save $1 and use their own building, instead of giving someone else a VP and paying a dollar. A typical example would be when all of your opponents have a production building. If they don’t particularly care which cubes they get (often true if they are going to the castle), they may swap VPs. If passing encourages them to all use their own building, passing earned you $1 and a VP.
However, if one player has the Inn, the first pass may force everyone else out (particularly if the next player is short of cash and passes, which would raise the cost to $3) and leave plenty of juicy opportunities to the lucky Innkeeper.
Placing on an opponents building earns them 1VP. But, if it’s a good building, someone is going to give them that VP, and it doesn’t cost you anything. Odds are that you are benefiting more than they are.
The Castle – [Note that the Castle activates after other buildings]. A critical issue on each turn is “Who will get the Castle’s Favor”. If there are several players who could (in theory) build an equal amount, the first player to go there gets it. Also, every player can go to the castle, so it isn’t space limited. Typically only a few players will go, except on the turn where a section will be scored. Look at the possibility of going here before you have a full loadout of cubes (especially if there aren’t enough players to stop you). See “Buildings vs. Castle” section, above, for more details.
The Gate – The gate is more useful in a game with fewer players, as there will be more spaces to go to. It also makes for a nice temporizing play, to see if people are going to be pushing the provost forward before you commit. One other maneuver is to play here instead of the castle in a situation where you can’t beat a particular opponent. If he doesn’t go to the castle, you jump in and earn the favor. If he goes, you don’t build this turn, but make a larger build next turn (to win the favor and avoid the penalty for not building). In this situation, if you take any free space (even 3rd at the Stables) it’s a bonus. In the two player game, Alex Rockwell considers the Inn very powerful, particularly if your opponent has played near the provost.
The Trading Post – Effectively $2 ($3 – $1 for the worker), the nice thing is that the money arrives before the bridge. If you are just in it for the money, though, consider passing (as described above). You give up $1, but impose costs on the others. If one player has already passed, playing to earn a dollar (or break even) may be a good temporizing move.
The Merchant’s Guild – See the section on the provost, above. Moving the provost three spaces is powerful. You will likely need to go here if you build at the cities edge. The threat to go here if you haven’t built at the edge is also powerful.
The Joust Field – See the section on Favors, above. If you think a turn will end with no other player having clothe, grabbing a cube gives you a relatively ‘safe’ space next turn (as your final play). The Joust Field also favors the VP and Resource Tracks, as those can often use multiple plays at the 5th level. [Construction and Money have less use for multiples].
The Stables – See the section on player order, above. Don’t ignore taking 2nd in the stables, even if you are already second. (You’ll stay in second, but drop the current leader to third).
The Inn – Useful if you are going last, especially if you don’t plan on placing in the stables soon, or in a cash-poor game. Note that using the Inn requires one worker, so you’ll only have five actions.
Production Buildings – Cubes are hard to come by. The stone production buildings also provide their owner a cube (in addition to a VP) when an opponent uses them, making these powerful if built early.
Construction Buildings (Carpenter, Mason) – See “Building Progression” above. Note that the Mason is the only way (other than Construction favor track) to build stone buildings, so if it doesn’t show up early, the game will take an odd turn. However, if several players start on the construction track early, the Mason will not see as much use, so may not be worth early.
The Marketplaces – The marketplaces allow you to sell a good for $4 (or $6). The neutral marketplace should be avoided if you can get the trading post (unless you simply have a glut of cubes). The wooden marketplace is nearly twice as good (since you have to pay the $1 for the worker, it’s really $5 vs. $3).
The Peddlers – The peddlers sell one or two cubes. The wooden peddler will see particular activity towards the endgame (especially if it’s safely inside the city) as players jockey for the exact cube mix to build a prestige building and finish the castle. Buying two cubes (for an effective $3) compares well to taking two actions and $2 to get 3 or 4 cubes, only two of which may be useful. The neutral peddler is effectively $3 for one cube, which is expensive. However, it does allow for some insurance against the provost if you build at the edge of the city and may need one more cube for the castle (or next turns joust), if the provost retreats too much.
The Lawyer & Architect — See “Building Progression” above. Note that an early lawyer will “crowd the board” (as buildings are converted to residences) and will likely remove some (if not all) of the neutral production buildings, causing a (mild) resource crunch. This will help the resource track. An early lawyer will also add to the money of the game, decreasing the value of the money track.
The Church – The church allows you to convert money to victory points. It will certainly be used (if it’s safe) on the last few turns. The church also provides a favor, meaning it will be worth more (possibly quite a bit more) than it’s printed VP. A strong build if you are the only play on the “Money track.”
The Tailor – The tailor lets you convert cloth to VPs.
The Bank – The bank lets you buy gold, and will often be superior to the mine in the endgame. Paying an extra $5 for an extra gold can earn 5+ extra VPs, making it better than the church (assuming you convert the gold to a prestige building). Also, in the end game, actions are usually the scarcest resource.
The Alchemist – As with the bank, convert cubes to gold. Unlike the tailor, the cubes can be any material.
Which Tile to Build?
The ideal tile would be one that other players would land on every turn, earning you a VP, while providing them as little benefit as possible. However, if you build something truly worthless (like the architect on turn two), then nobody will land on it for a long time, depriving you of VPs. If you build something that greatly helps the player who lands on it (such as the production buildings), then you would hope that the other players rotate it, splitting the benefits of using it, while you get a steady stream of VPs. So I try to build something that will attract attention.
If you land in your own building, you cost yourself a VP if someone else was going to use it this turn. But that cost may be worth bearing. Landing in your own mason costs a VP, but provides you with another VP (a great trade). Using your own production building may let you grab the favor at the castle, etc.
Probably the biggest issue is – what buildings are already out there, and which favor tracks are you on. If the first buildings are all production, another production building won’t be that popular. It will be closer to the edge of the city. Also, avoid buildings that let your opponents make up for their weaknesses. If you are on the money track, avoid the marketplace. Build something useful, but not something that catches people up to you on money. If you are on the resource track, don’t put out alternate sources of gold. If you are on the construction track, you’d be happy if the lawyer and architect didn’t show up early. Beyond that, you probably want to make it as enticing as possible. And the stone production buildings, if built early, will provide a steady stream of VPs and resources.
Different Number of Players
There will be less favors per player as the number of players increases.
The Two Player Game
In the two player game, purely destructive plays are viable. The gate also becomes a major force. Consider a first turn where the neutrals are ordered stone, wood, food/clothe, food/wood, marketplace, and carpenter. [Then carpenter, peddler printed on the board.]:
- Player A – Place on 1st carpenter
- Player B – Food/Clothe
- Player A – Stone
- Player B – Wood
- Player A – Food/wood
- Player B – Gate! [Instead of castle]
Player A will likely have to place in the merchant’s quarter, at a cost of $1 and for no effect. If he takes the trader, player two can place on the merchant’s quarter, and then use the gate to move to the castle and back the provost up two steps. He’ll have enough to counteract A’s move either way (since each player can only spend 3), and will use the favor won to take money, if needed. If A takes the merchant’s quarter, B can take the trader and then move to the marketplace or castle, as desired. [If B moves to the Castle and A backs the provost up, he cuts off two of his tiles to stop the clothe, B doesn’t lose any VPs (having none) and starts turn 2 with a nice monetary advantage!]
Another consideration is that the 1VP per building use does not contend with opponents. If you have a mildly worse neutral building you can use and avoid your opponents, that may be reasonable. In a five player game, someone was going to use the better building and give the VP to an opponent. But here that isn’t true.
Don’t build something great for your opponent and useless for yourself. The 1VP is worth it, when split between all your opponents. If a single opponent gets the bonus, that’s a net negative. A building that is great for you and doesn’t help your opponent may be nice, and effectively gives you a mini-Inn without tying up a worker (if your opponent will never take it, you can always play there for $1 after he’s passed). And to block it, your opponent gives you a VP.
Play to maximize resources (buildings, cubes, favors and money). Don’t worry about VPs too much (except as side effects).
Unlike Puerto Rico, investing money (via worker’s wages) generates you VPs, but doesn’t provide a return of money. Money is tight, but more constant (since everyone has an income of $2/turn as a base). Pay attention to money, but don’t fixate on it in the early game. If a play has marginal utility, consider passing to drive up costs. Consider it strongly if it earns you money.
That being said, it’s much better to start a turn without cubes than with only $2. An investment of cubes presumably generated VPs or Favors. Money is invested indirectly, via workers actions, and a shortage of money restricts actions. If you only have two actions, you are falling behind other players and need to get a shot of income so that you aren’t limited to 2 actions per turn for the next few turns. This is the time to spend a favor on the money track, to prevent or recover from this.
Stop to consider the prestige buildings situation. Is the architect built? The Lawyer? How many players are on the construction track? What’s the gold situation?
Now is probably the time to start on the VP track, if you have a spare favor or two, so that if you get 2+ favors at the endgame, you’ll have a good place to put the second (the first would be in your ‘main’ track, assuming it isn’t VPs).
Note that two favors for three wall sections is nice deal (assuming you win the favor the turn you build three) for a single action.
Turn order will probably matter more than cubes or money for everyone, although some players will likely be flush (money or cubes, probably not both). On the penultimate turn, it may be worthwhile to play in the stables early.
Even in a 4 or 5 player game, players may find it wise to make a sacrificial play (taking a building they can’t use) to stop the leader/their nearest competitor. Blocking the architect without using it costs $1 and a worker, but may stop 10+ VP. Grabbing up gold earns 3VP and usually costs someone at least that.
Several players may have enough money to cancel a large section of the city on the final turn(s).
Pay attention to the final favors and note the breakpoints for converting to VP on the last turn. 2 VPs may be worth the same, more or less than $7. The real killings for final favors are Construction (to make a prestige building) or 5 VPs.