[Originally written in July 2007]
Caylus is a medium-heavy weight strategy game for 2-5 players. The players are each builders competing for the favour and prestige of the King by helping to build the town and Castle of Caylus. Players earn Victory Points by building new buildings in the town and by helping with the construction of the Castle, with the winner being the player with the most VPs after the final scoring round.
The game comes in a medium sized box with a reasonable sized board. There are a large number of cubes to represent the different resources in the game and although these are small they function well enough. There are also wooden pieces in the 5 colours for each player, to represent their workers, as well as markers for the various tracks on the board and building shaped pieces to represent ownership of the buildings and when a player has built in the castle. There are also two white wooden pieces to represent the bailiff and provost. I have the first edition game which came with grey tiddly winks for the money and these are not at all ideal. The second edition comes with cardboard counters for the money which is a big improvement. The game also comes with cardboard tiles to represent all the different buildings and these are of good, thick stock.
The rules come in a nice coloured booklet and have several examples inside. The actual rules for gameplay are very simple so much of the rules are taken up explaining all the different buildings and what they do. Since there are so many options it is often difficult for beginners to know what to do and can be a little daunting. For this reason it’s often helpful to have an experienced player around to offer advice.
Game set up -Each player picks a colour and takes all the pieces of that colour. The six pink buildings are shuffled and placed onto the relevant spaces on the board. Turn order is determined randomly and the initial money and initial resource cubes are given out.
Turns – Players start by receiving income of 2 plus however many residence buildings they own on the board. Some prestige buildings also add income. Play proceeds according to the turn order track with each player taking it in turns to either place one worker into one of the buildings (or the castle) on the board and pay the relevant amount of money, or to pass. Each building can only contain one worker. Once a player has passed they are out until the next turn. This then makes it more expensive for the other players to place workers into buildings. This continues in turn order until all players have placed as many workers as they want and passed.
Once all players have passed the buildings are resolved in order down the track as far as the provost. If a player has a worker in a building then they get to take the action associated with that building. These are such things as gaining resource cubes and building other buildings. After all buildings are resolved the castle is then resolved with all players who have a worker there getting the chance to build. If any player’s do build in the castle then whoever built the most gets a Royal favour which means they advance on one of four favour tracks and get some bonus or benefit. Then the bailiff is moved, one space if the provost is on the same space or closer to the castle and two spaces if the provost is further down the track. This acts as a game timer that can be manipulated in order to speed up or slow down the game. There are also three scoring spaces on the board and when the bailiff reaches or passes one of these spaces the relevant section of the castle is scored with players receiving favours depending on how much they built in that section. The castle sections are scored early if they are completely filled before the relevant space on the board is reached. In this case they are not scored again when the space is reached or passed by the bailiff.
The next turn then begins with players receiving income and then placing workers as before. The game ends after the third and final section of the castle is scored.
- Review of gameplay:
The actual gameplay is very straightforward – place a worker, wait until it’s back to you, place another worker, etc. The complexity comes in the myriad of choices available. Do you go for resources and try to get points by building lots of buildings and in the castle? Do you try to quickly build residences and aim for prestige buildings? Do you try to get as many Royal favours as possible and get the bonuses to help you build cheaper or get extra VPs? There are several possible strategies to try but most times you end up doing a bit of everything as the fact that each building can only contain one worker means you often have to change your plans. This is also what makes the game great in my opinion as it’s not just a case of picking a strategy and running through with it. Everyone has to adapt and change their plans and make the most of each situation. This also means it is daunting for beginners though, as mentioned earlier. The players have to think on their feet and react all the time.
Caylus is a fantastic resource management game with very little luck and good player interaction with the possibility of screwing up other players by placing your workers in the buildings they want. It is usually a tight game that goes down to the wire and offers a lot to more serious gamers.