[Home]Caylus

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A relatively new BoardGame, firmly in the genre known as GermanBoardGame?s.
Although the game's [site] is in French first of all, with [English] available as a translation. Incidentally, the rules are available there as PDFs.--CH

Deeply thought-provoking, lots of emergent complexity, lots of strategy and lots of tactics, lots of potential for interfering with one another's plans.

The BoardGame


The Plot


The plot goes: The King is building a new castle, near the little village of Caylus. The village is rapidly expanding into a flourishing town in order to provide resources for the castle-building effort. The players are master builders, and have to balance construction of the castle and new buildings in the town, in order to gain the most prestige with the king (aka victory points).

Gameplay


Each round technically has seven phases, but the principal ones consist of placing workers in assorted buildings along the central road of the growing village; then working our way down the road, and whenever we reach a building with a worker in, the owner of that worker gets to take the action for that building.

The village starts with fourteen buildings, several of which just produce a single resource cube. However, more buildings can be constructed (by taking an action in the Carpenter, Mason, Lawyer or Architect buildings). Each of the buildings starts off available by the side of the board, and can be built by taking an action in the relevant building (Carpenter to build a new wooden building, Mason to build a new stone building, Lawyer to convert a building into a residential building, Architect to convert a residental building into a prestige building), and paying the cost of the one you're constructing (two cubes in most cases).

Of these, only the Carpenter starts on the board. New buildings include the Mason, Lawyer and Architect; many ways to get new resource cubes (wooden production buildings produce two cubes when activated, stone ones produce three); and several other buildings which can produce the rare and valuable gold resources, or do other miscellaneous things like sell cubes for money or buy victory points with money.

One particularly vicious aspect of the game is that not every building on the road will necessarily get activated. The bailiff plods along the road, steadily working his way towards the end of the game; the provost accompanies him, but the provost can be easily bribed by each of the players in turn to move forward or backward. And each round, when we're working our way down the road activating each building in turn, we stop where the provost is. Any workers placed beyond where the provost ends up are wasted for that round. So sending workers to the furthest edge of the road, where the newest buildings are, is inherently risky, because other players might bribe the provost backwards so that your worker never gets to do his job.

Another inspired aspect is that, when you place a worker in someone else's building, they immediately gain 1 victory point. So there's a desire to build the most popular buildings, because other people will give you victory points if they get to use them. However, it's not always beneficial to build buildings that others will get use out of, because the gains they make might well we worth a lot more than 1 victory point to them...


So how does it play?


It features many different things to keep track of. There's both long-term strategy and short-term tactics, in both of which it's easy to make mistakes. It's deeply intriguing and feels like there's lots of potential yet to be explored.

Upon its release, it shot up in popularity on BoardGameGeek to position #2 of all time, behind only PuertoRico. It's now gently trending downwards as the hype subsides, but it's still a deeply strategic game. Lots of fun. --AlexChurchill

I feel that I have to take exception to the statement that Caylus is a deeply strategic game.  I'll give you that it's got many and varied tactics and that these have depth.  Strategies, on the other hand, it's got a limited supply of - in fact, the only area where you can choose something which makes a long term difference is which favour track you go up.  The effect from the buildings you own is, in my limited experience, too minor to call a strategic effect. --Angoel
I disagree - in my experience the buildings you own have a huge effect, especially when they combine well together (controlling all the means of stone production, or owning the cube-buying and cube-selling markets). --Rachael
Really?  OK, consider this situation - you are in two games.  The games are identical, except in game A, you own all the means of stone production, and in game B, you own all the things that allow you to build buildings.  How would your gameplay change between game A and game B?  My contention is that you'll make pretty much the same plays - you may be a bit less likely to use your own buildings so that others can give you VPs, but other than that, nothing.  Hence ownership of buildings doesn't affect strategy. Or have I missed something?  --Angoel
How strategic is Caylus?  In Puerto Rico you have the "ship lots of corn strategy" for which you need lots of corn plantations and a wharf.  You have the hacienda+factory+harbour strategy.  The mills+coffee+large builds strategy.  And though you can do hybrid, trying to switch strategy half way though is generally a failure, because of the penalty due to resources wasted on buildings without their synergy.  In other words, you decisions don't just have significant long term consequences, they also interact with each other.
So, do you get that in Caylus?  You do get long term consequences (eg, being able to place a man in your own building for 1 after passes).  You do have to plan 2 or 3 turns ahead for some things. (Having the right resources for a building, particularly gold.  Having your batches in each section, and not requiring several favour advances on the same go.  Having a residential building to turn into a prestige one.)  However, how many of those have synergy?  Let you do something that other players cannot do?  The only one I can think of is owning one of the buildings that creates gold makes it more likely you will be able to build prestige.  (though maybe the ongoing stone income from the stone building also helps?) --Pallando
As said above, I don't believe so.  And the ability you mentioned of placing a man in your own building for 1 after passes is ... irrelevant, really.  Especially since it's already cost you a VP through people not using it.  Thinking about it, owning houses to give you an extra cash each turn could be considered a relevant stategic differentition, but it usually happens late enough in the game that it's not really strategic at the point that it's built.  --Angoel
Okay, I will partially concede Angoel's point. When I said "deeply strategic", I was being imprecise, and a significant portion of what I was thinking of could probably just as fairly be described as tactics. However, I'd say there are strategies, that can make a difference to what you do. Strategies for the early/mid game that might not pay off until the late game include setting out to build the stone production buildings; aiming to collect batches in the castle early while they're worth more VPs; setting out to build buildings like the lawyer and mason; aiming to set up for the combo where you repeatedly rebuild the church with a favour + either lawyer or mason; aiming to control gold creation; and as you mention, which favour track you go down, as well as how much you push down the favour track. I'd also say that being able to use your own buildings for 1 is far from irrelevant: last game it got me about 8 or 10 stone at huge discounts through my having built the double-stone-producing wood building: not good enough for anybody to want to pay me a VP to use, normally, but good enough that I'd happily pay 1 money for 2 stone several times.
Having said all that, I would agree that it's not as rich in strategies as PuertoRico, or some other games. But the tactical possibilities are so rich, with subtleties, that it still seems a very interesting game to me. --AlexChurchill

While I'm moaning about the game ( ;) ), I would like to complain about the fiddlyness of having to pay to place each worker.  I feel that the game would have been a lot smoother if the designers had not had people pay to place workers, but receive income based on the workers that they had remaining unplaced.  There are knock on changes that would have to be made, granted, but on the whole, I think that this change would have moved the game up from the good to the very good category for me. --Angoel

From playing this twice, 3-player and 5-player, I'd like to make a few comments on it. Firstly, I think that screwing people over is quite easy in this game, and in fact is a valid tactic. Apart from moving the provost, you can also take the squares that the other players want - if you can see someone is planning to build something and needs a wood, taking the wood square is a good move as you also get a resource for yourself. Building enough of the castle so that there is no space in a section denies them favours from that section and loses them VPs. Also, buildings are a very good thing, especially if you can get ones that everyone is going to use - the stone resource buildings(which also give you resources every time someone uses them) and the construction buildings. Their VP, plus the VPs you get for people playing on them, can easily add up to more than some of the prestige building, and are much cheaper - two basic cubes compared to at least 1 gold and 3 basic. Finally, going first is a very good thing. --Androidkiller



The Gate


None of us could really figure out what purpose the Gate special building might have, even after having played both 2-player and 5-player. The BoardGameGeek forums have a [thread] which provides a couple of interesting suggestions:
to get to the castle as last player when you're in a front position. Suppose you could provide four batches while your opponent could provide five. Now, if you get in [to the castle] first, whatever you do, your opponent can overtake you by one and take the favor. If you're last [in the castle], he must provide four or five batches to boot you out, and if he does, you can provide only one batch and save the rest to take the favor (probably) in the next turn. If he doesn't, you can decide whether to go over him or not. *BGG1
...
We have found the Gate useful in turn order situations. If one is currently second or third in the order, but comfortable with one's current position, but not comfortable with the next position down... then using the gate to respond to someone else who chooses to move up (by also choosing it) is a good "holding" tank. If no one wants to move up, the position can be used to supercede the person in the Inn. Or to take a weaker, but still desireable leftover, or even take a riskier downhill space after you have seen who else is playing risky downhill (and who is not and has enough money to play spoiler). *BGG2
It can also be used to buy time if one does NOT want to be out of the worker placement business and to put one's self later in the passing order to be in position to protect a risky downhill investment. *BGG3
Also, after the worker placement is done, one has a fair first guess of whether the provost will cause the bailiff to move 1 or two spaces. If two spaces would end the building in a section of the castle, and it is important to have another piece of the castle in the old section, then the gate preserves the right to get in on the action... or if it looks like the provost will only move the bailiff one... to use one of the earlier alternatives.

Some interesting food for thought. Particularly interesting is this (admittedly third-hand) comment:
It is true that it would be more useful if it occurred directly after the provost-mover, and I would prefer it that way, but the game designer/playtester has mentioned in these forums that they found the Gate too powerful that way. *shrug*
Yes, I think it would be. It actually saw a reasonable amount of use where it was, mainly by people working out if it was worth going to the castle to win a favour that turn. --Androidkiller
Having played the game a lot more, I can vouch for the Gate's usefulness. There are occasions when you want to use it to hide a sneaky building that you want to go to but you think people might have forgotten about (like the inn, stables, joust field, or a mostly-superceded production building). But 90% of the time, it's just a "Go last into the Castle" space, which is quite useful for the reasons described in the BGG1 paragraph above. --AC



Online Play


ChrisHowlett played half a game of Caylus last night before he had to leave. He thought it might be nice to make a Caylus server (akin to Qqzm's PuertoRico server) which would allow asynchronous play over a longer period of time, either as a PHP webpage (like Qqzm's) or as a Python client talking to a PHP page (like PyDraft). Would people be interested?
Possibly. I'd probably be even more up for a ToothyWiki game of Caylus, like when we played PuertoRico. There's even less initial randomness, so it should be more practical (well, less impractical). --Rachael
Actually, I might start creating the board for that now... /WikiGame --Rachael



Variants


ToothyChat on 19th May 2008 proposed QuantumCaylus?. The basic idea: Simultaneous worker placement. The worker placement phase consists of each player concealing N indications of which buildings they want to send workers to, where N is the number of workers they have. (N may be 6, or a bit more.) Then all workers are revealed.

You're allowed to allocate multiple workers to the same building: only a maximum of one will end up working there, but it may make you more likely to end up being the player who gets that one, because only the player who specifies the most workers for any given building gets to send a worker to that building. If the highest number of workers for any one building is tied between two or more players, nobody gets to go to that building.

Specific details:

This variant would remove a lot of what AlexChurchill likes about the game, which is the total-knowledge deterministic strategy. However, it could be fun to try out once.



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