The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Caylus replies

There’s a provocative post on BGG about Caylus pacing that includes the following: “If you elect the castle building strategy, you prefer a slower game.

I don’t know if I agree (it certainly flips conventional wisdom, but everyone has played so few games.) I can see several arguements in its favor.

Tom mentions the following points (paraphrased):

  1. Mathematically, a game is 12 turns average (not 13-14), and will likely be fewer.
  2. I need to stress transformational efficiency.
  3. I need to discuss prestige buildings in more detail.

Taking the last point first, “I kaenna change the laws of typing!” But I’ll probably add onto it, later.

Mathematically, yes, I messed up. On the other hand. In my games (against different opponents, so a reasonable sample for anecdotes) I’ve seen one game where the provost moved one every turn except ~2 or 3, I’ve seen one where it moved two almost every turn. Groupthink.

But most games the provost seems to take one step for the first few turns.

As for transformational efficiency, that deserves more detail. Tom says:

Over the course of a game (depending on length and groupthink), some 30-40 $ (and a few starting cubes) turn into 60-100 VPs. That means you want to be looking for good $->cube->VP transformations. Anything with multipliers of more than 2x along the way is quite nice.

The neutral buildings present us with mostly 1:1 transformations. For a $, I get a pink cube here, a brown cube there, and a wooden building (2 or 4 VPs) there. 3 $ in; and, on average, 3 VPs out.

This runs counter to the building as VP investments and opportunity cost ways of thinking about Caylus. Yes, my Trattoria yields me 1 VP if you use it; but you get 2 purple cubes instead of 1 from a neutral building. This is mostly a wash (just both of us climbing from 1x to 2x transformations) and, if everyone is using each other’s buildings to the same extent (which if you’re all competent in choosing decent buildings to buy, should occur), a complete wash.

A few rebuttal points:

  • If we assume I’m building more often, it isn’t a complete wash.
  • The 1:1 only matters if you spend $1 per action. This is probably true for most actions, but not all. Buildings provide some flexibility.

But I’ll concede this are both minor points. The major points are that the extra VP you get from building no longer cost you an action. We’re costing actions at $1, but that discounts the timing impact. My opponents get their ‘extra’ VP by taking their action. I get it in addition to my action, and can presumably get an extra VP somewhere, too.

In any case, I don’t think a pure strategy (build and ignore the castle) would work. It may be that building is worse than the castle, but if I dont’ go first, the option isn’t to win the castle on turn one. It’s to build the first building or hoard (cubes or money). You take what you can.

By the strict transformational efficiency (I like that phrase), building 1 section at the castle costs $4 and earns 3-5 VP (1:1) plus a favor, so it’s a winner. [And it earns 1/2 a favor, approximately, for when you score. And it avoids the VP penalties].

Jousting can certainly compete well with that ($3 for 5 VP if you max the favor track, or $4 for 6 VP via a stone building).

However, building Residences early (so that they have time to return) as $ investments can be a viable strategy. Pumping your income stream from $2 to $5 quickly by building Residences on turns 3-5 introduces a 2.5x multiplier right off the bat…

Yes, that should be tough to beat. (I’ve won down 3 residences, but it didn’t occur that early. A residence costs $3 for $1/turn. $2 for 6 now (via the wooden marketplace) is worse, but not horribly so.

But I think that, in general, I’m leaning towards the castle myself. Transformational efficiency does clarify quite a bit. It means I should strongly consider hoarding on turn one, and letting others rush the buildings.

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Written by taogaming

January 11, 2006 at 7:34 pm

Posted in Caylus

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4 Responses

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  1. I can see how Castle builders might want a longer game, particularly in a large game if too many players are (inefficiently) contending for section build favors.

    But, I think there’s a tactical element too. Once, I have gotten my two first builds done in a phase, then I’m more than happy to speed that phase along to gain an edge on other players who haven’t gotten them in (and possibly dissuade others from adopting a Castle build strategy).

    So, there may be a “push-me, pull-me” element here — first wanting the phase to slow down to get my Castle builds in and then wanting it to speed up afterwards.

    Beyond this, I think all Caylus comments, until players have played a lot more, should automatically come with the warning “subject to groupthink”… Certainly, all of mine do! 😉

    I’m not sure I buy the “but I effectively get an extra action when someone visits my building” argument. This extra action is probably inefficient, due to other players (done with their actions) already passing. In this scenario, you can’t use the extra action to (efficiently) go to one of your buildings, since other players have done so. If you’re early in turn order, this “extra” action is more likely to be efficient, which is yet another reason why being early is so useful.

    The two-line (construction and VP) Castle building path certainly seems strong. But, 2-3 early Residences, eschew the Castle in phase 1, build early and often, pursue the VP line late (through a combination of jousts, prestige building favors, and later Castle builds) path also seems strong. How well these stack up to the build, mostly ignore the castle, speed the game along, and hoard gold path is something we’re still puzzling out.

    The tactic of hoarding on the first 1-2 turns seems to work well for both Castle Building and straight building paths. I’m glad that it does, as it makes the five player game a lot more interesting as, typically, no one is way behind after the first three turns.

    Tom Lehmann

    January 11, 2006 at 9:30 pm

  2. I just played a 3er online and pretty much hoarded on the first two turns, then castle, favor to bump construction up to 2. I won by ~20 points, but that was arguably due to inexperience of my opponents. [I was allowed to be lead player for about 4 turns in a row, including the penultimate turn, so I just kept jousting and buildng a 6 pt stone building. The last 5 or 6 buildings were all mine.

    Again, in the first few turns nobody touched the provost. (2/3 games seem to be like that. “STG”).

    I’m not sure I buy the “but I effectively get an extra action when someone visits my building” argument. This extra action is probably inefficient, due to other players (done with their actions) already passing. In this scenario, you can’t use the extra action to (efficiently) go to one of your buildings, since other players have done so.

    You are onto something, but if I’ve gotten my benefit already, I can pass earlier. I mean, if I’m going to spend $1 to gain 1 VP (approx), I can pass to gain $1 (which should be worth 1VP next turn) and prevent the other players from doing anything efficiently, since they’ll be converting at half.

    This may not help the building arguement, just my “consider passing earlier” arguement. I agree straight construction is fading (my last game certainly helped convince me that hoarding works). Favors trumps straight construction, perhaps wooden buildings should generate a bit more VPs. Actually, I still think it comes back to the construction track. I’m pushing 20 games. I can’t tell you what I’ll play from turn to turn, but I can tell you with fair precision what my favor tracks look like at various stages of the game.

    This detracts from my enjoyment of the game.

    Brian

    January 11, 2006 at 10:48 pm

  3. Well, I think the true test for various Caylus paths will be when all the “big fish from their various small ponds” start playing each other. I don’t think sharks eating minnows proves much beyond the general efficiency of certain lines…

    I haven’t played you yet, but reading between the lines, I think your opponents are letting you both joust and visit the Castle first too easily. The second path I outlined starts competing for the jousting field in the second phase (in order to push out the VP favor line).

    If you’re facing a player following that path as well as one following the Castle favor construction/VP path, so you’re facing competition on both fronts, I suspect your favor “timetable” will go to heck. The resulting challenge should perk up your enjoyment! 😉

    I am very surprised no one is moving the provost early on (hello groupthink). A big factor in whether the provost moves forward on the first turn, I find, is the initial placement of the neutral Carpenter. If it is near the end, then you will often see two builders working in concert to push it out three spaces (to ensure that they both build).

    If the first two wooden buildings built are the 2x purple Trattoria (almost constantly in use) followed by the Lawyer (essential to early Residence strategies), then this creates pressure to move the Provost forward. This tends to be followed by the improved Quarry and the Mason (or improved Peddler and Market). By then, Residences are clobbering some neutral buildings, placing more pressure to move the provost forward so these “replacement” buildings can be used. So far, our group tends to go through Phase I in three turns, with the Bailiff slowdowns occuring later on.

    Tom Lehmann

    January 12, 2006 at 12:34 am

  4. Well, I think the true test for various Caylus paths will be when all the “big fish from their various small ponds” start playing each other. I don’t think sharks eating minnows proves much beyond the general efficiency of certain lines…

    I haven’t played you yet, but reading between the lines, I think your opponents are letting you both joust and visit the Castle first too easily. The second path I outlined starts competing for the jousting field in the second phase (in order to push out the VP favor line).

    If you’re facing a player following that path as well as one following the Castle favor construction/VP path, so you’re facing competition on both fronts, I suspect your favor “timetable” will go to heck. The resulting challenge should perk up your enjoyment! 😉

    I am very surprised no one is moving the provost early on (hello groupthink). A big factor in whether the provost moves forward on the first turn, I find, is the initial placement of the neutral Carpenter. If it is near the end, then you will often see two builders working in concert to push it out three spaces (to ensure that they both build).

    If the first two wooden buildings built are the 2x purple Trattoria (almost constantly in use) followed by the Lawyer (essential to early Residence strategies), then this creates pressure to move the Provost forward. This tends to be followed by the improved Quarry and the Mason (or improved Peddler and Market). By then, Residences are clobbering some neutral buildings, placing more pressure to move the provost forward so these “replacement” buildings can be used. So far, our group tends to go through Phase I in three turns, with the Bailiff slowdowns occuring later on.

    Tom Lehmann

    January 12, 2006 at 12:34 am


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