Caylus Review

Caylus board game in play

Now for one of the games that epitomizes the euro-game genre: Caylus.

In Caylus, the players are attempting to gain the most fame through helping out in different elements of reconstructing the castle. The players can get fame for contributing directly to the castle, through royal favors, and through providing services to other players. In each given round, the players will go around deciding how to use their different workers. The workers may be used to collect resources, build new buildings, contribute to the construction of the castle, suck up to the king ("joust"), etc. After one of the players is ready to pass, they will stop placing their workers but other players will continue having the option of placing their own (but at a higher price than before). After all of the players have passed, then the different tiles ("buildings") that have workers on them will allow the player to perform the specified action. (Yes, this summary is pretty pitiful, but the game play is somewhat involved and hard to sum up, thus leading to the game's first pro...)

Caylus is very elegantly involved and yet simple. The initial learning of the game (if there is not someone present to teach you) will seem confusing, but after the first couple of turns, the game flows very smoothly and all of the players will easily understand what is going on.

Caylus is also incredibly versatile when it comes to strategy. Whereas many games allow for players to have a couple of options when it comes to strategy, Caylus has more strategic options than almost any game I have ever played. You can do very well by gaining royal favors, by building lots of buildings, focusing on constructing the castle, or a number of other things - or by any combination of one of these strategies.

Another aspect of Caylus that sets it apart from a lot of other games is the play balance. Each player must carefully balance the value of placing a worker against the cost to play it, the benefits of when to pass (which causes other player's workers to cost more to play), what will be gained, and the opportunity cost of not placing that worker elsewhere. This balance along with the versatility of strategies and the elegant flow of the game shows that there must have been immense thought and play testing that went into the design and creation of it.

The one thing that I will note that can be considered a positive or a negative depending on who reads this review is this: Caylus causes you to think strategically, but in a different way that you normally think. The strategies that I often use in games like Puerto Rico, The Settlers of Catan, and even Dominion do not work in this game. Instead of having an overarching strategy in Caylus, players will have to have a more fluid strategy as everything they have available as options will be influenced by what other players do each turn.  This is a concept that is hard to articulate, but some games just play differently strategically than others, and I think that Caylus falls into that category. (As a sidenote - as I write this, I realize that Caylus may cause you to think strategically in similar ways to Le Havre, but I believe that this is because some of the elements of Le Havre were influenced by Caylus. As I was not involved in the designing of either of these games, I cannot say that with certainty - it is only my educated guess).

Overall, I give Caylus a 9.5/10. It is a phenomenal game that is a true credit to the euro-style of board games. I would recommend that everyone at least try this game once.

1 comment:

  1. I agree to you that this is incredible game, but why did you not put 10/10, just 9.5/10? If you think, that is correct evaluation, what do you think a board game should be to deserve 10/10? Caylus is the best board game I have ever played (except chess, but that is outside modern board games I think and chess has some disadvantages, but it's classic) and actually I cannot find any drawback in this game.