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No Luck Please!

Box Cover

Caylus Review

Okay, this game is surely one of the famous Euro Games that every Euro gamers knows very well. If you’re Euro gamer and never heard of this game before, then get a pen and strike your name through the list of Euro gamers. I won’t say myself as a Euro gamer, but i do like Euro games, and this one is no exception, in fact, this one is one of the best in my rating. No, i don’t have a copy of the game, but, i plan to have one someday. So, what makes this game so different from other Euros? I don’t know about you, but almost all my friends who like it, would shout the same answer. Yes, this Euro game, might be the only one (at least from all Euro games we know) Euro game that suppress the involvement of luck in the game play. Mostly, Euro gamer dislike luck, they really think that a brilliant and smart games are supposed to be based on the strategy, planning and tactics that can be carried away without the interfering of luck, and Caylus is one of the games that apply to that principle, designed by William Attia under the banner of Ystari Games.  Okay, let’s start with the overview through some basic aspects.

1. The Theme

Well, as i stated before, this is Euro, and it doesn’t need a theme to make it deserve praises. But, if i must say, the theme is about the building of a castle by King Phillip the fair to strengthen the borders of the Kingdom of France, which is built in Caylus, a humble village that soon gonna turn into a city with the arrival of craftsmen, workers, traders, and many more, seeing the good prospect of the event.

2. The Artworks

Bird view of the board

Now, for me artworks are really important, since i always think that visual aspect is one of the important things that should be considered. I never bought a game just only because it has great game play, great game mechanics or even it’s designed by your favorite designers or because it sold cheap. I do strongly believe that the games you buy is

going to be in a line up of collections and they’re supposed to be great in visual, game play, background story, components and anything else. So, where does this game hit? I must say frankly, the artworks really really sucks, double thumbs down. Let see the cover of the box, all your vision will be focused on the harrowing figure of a king (only because he’s wearing a crown) holding a staff. In his back shown the view of a castle and it’s surrounding environment. Sounds normal huh? Well as you can see the artwork, there is something odd in the image that really want me to turn my vision the other way around. Did they cannot get a better illustration on the king? Oh come on, look at his face, he’s a grumpy stubborn and selfish old king holding a staff. He’s more looks like a Scandinavian metal band vocalist in the age of 40 still doing concert of the past golden age holding a mic stand. Don’t you agree? The image on the back? Oh well, it’s a concert stage in the middle of the forest made to look like a castle for the thematic purpose. And you would get the same opinion with the board, should be done better in the illustration. This is the main reason i hold back my purchase, and i hope this brilliant game will be republished with new artworks. Cyril & Arnaud Demaegd, the men behind the superb artworks of Olympos (are you kidding me? They sure improve a lot since then).

3. The Game Components

After reviewing the artworks, i guess the component doesn’t share the same state, the components are good with lots of wooden bits and markers (lots of resources cubes and house, worker and player markers). The building tiles are bit kinda old fashioned (because the artworks) but it shows pretty good. I noticed the deniers are kinda easy to worn out, maybe because the frequency of the game hit the table.

4. The Game Play

Being as one of the heavy euros doesn’t make it different from any other euros, and yes the goal of the game is to collect as many VP as possible, and the player with the highest VP at the end of the game, wins. The game consist of 3 stage of scoring (you can say 3 stages of castle development progress). In these stages the king arrives to check on the castle development and grant players who contribute with favors. At the last stage, the game ends and the final scoring is made. With his turn, a player can do actions by placing his workers in the tile / space available (with paying 1 deniers for every worker). All these tiles will resolve in order after all the player has passed. The first player to pass get 1 denier and also add the cost of placing workers by one for other players. This will make worker placement more difficult / costly for other players. There are several sections in the board that can be used by players, and this will provided basic actions that always open for public each turn. And 5 building tiles that placed randomly (red tiles) which give players other actions (just like basic actions but they’re randomly placed). In the last tile there are 2 white markers known as bayliff and provost. Provost will determine the movement of bayliff, if the provost position is in the front of bayliff at the end of turn, the bayliff will proceed 2 steps forward (this will determining the scoring round or end game). But if the provost is in the same place or behind the bayliff, the bayliff will only move 1 step forward.

Game in Progress

Players will have option to choose action like gain resources, build structures, gain deniers, take first player and many other options. As the game progress, there will be more building tiles in the board and more possibilities to choose for the players. In the scoring stage, the castle development will be scored and players that did not fulfill the minimum requirements will be penalized and players who does qualify will be granted favors from the king based on his contributions to the castle that round. After all players passed their worker placement order, all the actions in the board are resolved. These actions are resolved in certain order, the basic actions, basic tiles actions, building tiles actions,building castle, using favors and update bayliff movements.

5. The Replay Value

Well, the game really pays off if you’re looking a great simple game but really a brain burner to make your way into the first position.When i actually play it for the first time, i kinda didn’t know what to do and how to make all the actions clear. But after several plays, i could give a challenge to experience gamers. And yes, this game really doesn’t have luck factor (the only luck factor is on the randomized basic tiles, which really doesn’t considered to be luck). So, no luck, a typical euro favorite kind of game. The only thing that lies in the middle between you and the victory is your strategy. In this game first player is really important, since it can decide who’s gonna get the most wanted place in that turn, and also when you play this game you must carefully plan your strategy, scout other players interests and plans and also provide backup plans. For the game is so open, player can always look and determine other players resources and plans. To be honest, you can say it doesn’t have high replay value, cause for several plays you will know what you should do each game. But, the players interactions are really interesting in this game, so i kinda having fun with it while my brain being burned.

My Thought of The Game

Actually this is one of my most favorite games and yes i would want to have a copy if it’s not because of the lame artworks. Surely this game really put your planning and laying out strategies into test and i love to play it again and again. I juts wish it will be re-printed in the future with better, much better artworks. A heavy and smart game that has simple rules but deep and rich game play with great interactions through challenge and direct conflicts. For this game, me and my friends agreed that it’s best for 3 players (okay 4 players still counts).

My First Time of Caylus

You also can view this review on boardgamegeek.com here.

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Posted by on August 10, 2011 in Board Games, Euro Games, Reviews

 

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A Hard Polished Game!

Box Cover

Pergamon Review

Well, i am kinda excited to write a review for this game. This game was actually a blind buy in my collection and just recently purchased it. Actually, i rather held myself back to try this game, which maybe because partly i did not want to get disappointed and nobody wanted to play this unknown new filler game. Actually, the game was designed by Stefan Dorra (the man behind For Sale) and Ralf zur Linde for Eggertspiele, IELLO and Gryphon Games, and how it came to my attention was because of Ender’s review of this game. Ender Wiggins is one of the most influential BGG users that often review games and his reviews are top notch. So after based on his comprehensive pictorial overview of the game, i got interested pretty good. So, his review was really a deciding factor for me, despite the artworks and components.

Set in the year 1878, the first excavations in what is now modern Turkey are uncovering the remains of ancient Pergamon. Soon the precious discoveries will make their way abroad to public exhibitions before a waiting audience, eliciting substantial honor and glory.

The players attempt to gain federal research grants to cover the costs of their excavations through a bidding mechanism. Whoever is modest and less demanding can travel to the excavating areas before his or her competitors, and the rule is first come, first dig. Only fragments will remain for the later expeditions. Recovered treasures are placed in valuable exhibitions, for which the discoverer receives glory and recognition.

The player who accumulates the most glory after 12 rounds wins the game.

The combination of soliciting funds and racing for the best locations to excavate makes Pergamon a variable game with rules that are easily accessible. Players are forced to make choices based on the money they can obtain and the sequence in which they choose where to dig.

Okay, just recently i had the chance to play it twice with my friends (who actually the few among many who had interest with this game) and the first turned out to be awful messed up of the rules. We made 3 fatal mistakes that ruined the game. The second time was better than the first, we played with 3 players and the rules were clear and more streamed. And the game play turned out to be more than expected, rich and deep. Here’s my overview of the game.

1. The Theme

As you can see, the theme is quite unique and it caught my interest. It’s about archaeology which based on historical date back from the year 1878, when the remains of ancient Pergamon were discovered. Even if it’s Euro but the theme is really made it well to cover it up. Actually, there are not so many games out there, and this is one of the best. Well, i know it’s not one of the favorite themes around but, for me it really offers great theme, so it works on me.

2. The Artworks

The Game Board

Actually, the cover did not really interpret all the overall artworks and some people just ended up asking about that horrible face in the box cover. Well, that item is surely not a common thing you can see everyday, and for some it seriously looks horrible. For me, the box cover is just plain with unique object. Actually you can find the beautiful crisp and classic illustration on the board done by Klemens Franz.

3. The Game Components

Components of The Game

Now, this is mainly why i like the game from the very first time. The game components are beautiful and outstanding. Want to know why? Well, they really made a good impression for me.The board is 3 folded board with 3 main sections and 1 upper section. The main sections are really separated fit to the 3 folded part of the board (consist of The Excavation Gallery, The Calendar and the Museum of Pergamon), while in the upper section is above all the main section, is the Research Fund Spaces. Beside the nice looking board there are the unique shaped VP tiles, in the form of admission tickets in 1/2/5 denominations. If you look at the illustrations, you will notice that every illustrations of the people (visitors) are made differently each. The artifact tiles also unique, with the shape that can be attached (set to display) with each other. And like the admission tickets, the illustrations were made in different details. So you can see that every objects of the find has detail differences each other, this has received my thumb.

4. The Game Play

Okay, i read the rules first before i decided to purchase the game, and it’s simple and easy to learn and understand. So, i assumed that this game is kinda a filler game with nice theme, and i thought, “why not?!”. In this game players take the role as archaeologists, who trying to get the best finds in the Pergamon excavation remains. The game last for 12 rounds which depicts as 12 months in a year. Player’s turn each round consist of 4 phases, which are Laying out finds, Distributing research funds, Excavating-exhibiting-storing finds, and Evaluations.

  • Laying Out Finds – At the beginning of every round, the first player laying out the tiles from the actual month in the calendar (5 tiles in one stack each months) to the gallery (1 to 5). The tiles must be arrange in certain order based on the age of the tiles (from youngest to oldest) one by one, if the space in the gallery is full, put the rest of the tiles in that round back into the box without revealing it.
  • Distributing Research Funds – With the gallery shown, the 2 topmost cards in research fund deck is drawn (still face down) to give the players range prediction amount of research funds that’s gonna be available in that round. After weighing the options, each player (start from the first player clockwise), put his player marker in one of the research fund spaces (which determining whose gonna get first move to purchase finds, in which gallery, and the amount of funds they’re going to have. After this, the player who has his wooden marker closest to the right of the research fund space move first,
  • Excavating / Exhibiting / Storing Finds – After receiving research funds, every players take turns to excavate the gallery, which they’re allowed with the cost of golds. After this, they can choose to exhibiting their finds in the museum by attach their display set of finds with their angular marker and put their circular marker in the museum space based on the right amount their display set worth, by calculate the total age of their display. Players get 1 VP every time they displays their set. When in the exhibiting chance, they have the option to polish their display 1 point up with 1 gold, max up to 3 golds in 1 turn. After that, they must store their finds (with their regular warehouse for storing can contain 3 tiles for free, the rest they will have to pay 1 gold for 3 tiles, or they choose to discard it.

Game in Progress

In the museum, every new set displayed, all the display set below or with the same point will lose their fame 1 points. When a set was down a point below 1, the set is broken and discard to the box, the player who owns it has his circular and angular marker free again to make new set.

In the calendar, there are 4 month of scoring, which are the fifth, seventh, ninth and twelfth rounds. Each scoring round players add their display points and get that amount of admission tickets and also bonus scoring with the oldest objects corresponding in that round. After each scoring round, all the display sets in the museum will drop several step, according to the round. The player with the highest VP at the last round won the game.

5. The Replay Value

Well, since it’s a filler game, don’t expect this game to have a great replay value. In fact, since the game is so simple and easy, that seems you don’t need a high replay value. But somehow, the replay value still exist, persistently, if you see at the randomize tiles to be placed upon each round. So, players will have lots of possibilities with the combination of tiles to maxed their points. And for addition, the research cards are randomized, too bad there aren’t extra cards to begin with to gave nice variants for multiple plays of the game. I can’t say much about the replay value right now, since i just played it twice and up until now, the game seems interesting, but personally i don’t put high expectation on the replay value.

My Thought of The Game

It’s a brilliant small filler game with of course a sophisticated touch and fun approach.It has the combination of rich and deep planning, strategy, and also push your luck mechanisms that will take you to the edge of risk taking. Players will be forced to take risk on their research fund, with the possibilities get nothing or get the rest of the funds, so if you put your marker in the last place than anyone else, they will have the chance to get bigger funds than they placed or even nothing, depending on the resolved research funds. Of if they put their marker in the nearest space to the right, they will have that certain amount of funds and get the chance to buy which galleries first. I find the mechanism interesting and truth to be told, it’s one of the game main strength. The chain connection between what you want to buy in the gallery and what artifacts you already have and the gold that you need with how many turns left for you to made a set before scoring is really creating such a deep pressure. And also you need to check your other rivals set or artifacts they owned to compare with your artifacts. The game is supposedly quick but it depends on the players since their turns will involve generally all aspect of the game (properties, treasuries, galleries, calendars, museum and all the sets inside it and also the fund spaces. But i must admit, the rules need some clarification, and up until this moment i’m still doing research about the rules.

After playing the game, i was kinda surprised by the game play and really astonished that it’s more rich than i imagined.So in brief is, get maximum funds, hoard the gallery and exhibit the set with highest points (as long as you can) and polish them each turn (every time it goes down and down after scoring round), and polish them hard, but careful not to break it. So, my money;s worth spent and more of it, the box has the same size with my If Wishes Were Fishes.

Display Sets in the Museum

 

You can also view this review on boardgamegeek.com here.

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2011 in Board Games, Euro Games, Reviews

 

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