Caylus is a big, bold, complex and deep worker placement game, for up to five players, probably best with three or four and solid with two. The theme is about building a castle and the associated city in 13th century France, with players competing for prestige points which can be obtained in a wide variety of ways.
As the game develops and the castle grows the city expands with more buildings becoming available to use, although depending on the position of the Provost not all buildings will be available. The Provost and to a lesser extent the Bailiff are what makes Caylus stand out as an exceptional worker placement game; the Provost determining which buildings may be used and the Bailiff determining the progress of the game towards its end.
A game is generally going to take a couple of hours, maybe a bit more or a bit less depending on familiarity and some other factors, especially the progress of the Bailiff, and will be shorter with two players. In Caylus everything is visible, so it really is a game of skill and careful planning, of manipulating the many factors including turn order, which buildings are available, and the availability of resources.
At heart, Caylus is a worker placement game. Players, in-turn, place a worker in a building and action that building, a building may produce resources or a variety of other things such as influence, turn order and constructing part of the castle.
Players earn prestige points as the castle is constructed and for a variety of other things, with these points being used to determine the winner. The game ends when the castle has been fully constructed and the Bailiff reaches the end point on the road which is depicted on the game board.
Sounds simple enough....
Caylus is far from simple.
Every turn there is going to be more things a player wants to do than has workers to place, some might be higher priority than others, but every decision needs to be weighed in the balance. Every turn there is going to be more than one way to achieve certain outcomes, be it acquiring resources, prestige or something else, whilst weighing in the balance which route is best, which yields the most benefit or the least to a fellow player. And it’s not just about the production, it’s also about turn order, about which buildings can be used, whether a player wants to accelerate or slow down progress towards game end and more. It’s about the most efficient use of limited resources. It’s about attempting to second guess what other players might do, something that even with everything visible may not always be obvious.
So in every turn, in every placement, there is all of this going on. Caylus is incredibly deep and complex with no one right way to achieve anything. Ultimately it is about two things; gaining resources to build and building to gain prestige. This can make those buildings that give the player resources whenever they are used by other players highly desirable, but like everything else investing in them needs to be carefully considered.
Expansions and Additions
The Jeweller was originally an expansion, but is now included in current versions of the base game. It is possible to get metal coins to replace the card ones but this is not going to change game play in any way and the card coins are perfectly good. They are a nice addition of course.
This is a high production value Euro game. The game board is on good stock, is full colour printed, thematic and looks good. On the board is a castle, and a road, with spaces on the road to place buildings, a score track and an area for managing favours.
All the card components, and there are many of them, are of the same high standard. The wooden pieces are pretty much as would be expected and come in various shapes and sizes. The rule book which there is a lot of, as I said this is not a simple game, is well printed, full colour, with examples - and as these things go is generally very well written. Caylus is a stylish and well produced game which visually looks pretty good.
Be aware that Caylus is a complex game which in all probability will take at least two hours to play. The rule book is extensive with a lot to explain, but once grasped the mechanics are fairly simple. At heart it is simple: place a worker, produce resources to construct buildings and use buildings to gain prestige. The complexity is in the decision making and the many possible things to do and different ways to achieve similar outcomes. In Caylus there is always a mass of different things happening, and part of the challenge is sifting through the options and trying to second guess what the other players might do.
The Provost is a great mechanic, it determines which buildings can be used and which cannot. Because players can manipulate the position of the Provost, this adds extra depth and strategy. This said, because there is so much going on not every player is always going to want to do this, however there is a certain satisfaction in moving the Provost to deny access and use of a building. Similarly the Bailiff is interesting and can be used to speed up or slow the game as it progresses towards the end point.
Caylus is a fascinating and challenging worker placement game. With the depth and complexity it can sometimes be hard to know what action is best, leading to possible decision paralysis. If you don’t like complex games with multiple options to achieve an objective and the need to weigh many different factors in the balance, then Caylus is probably not the game for you.
If on the other hand you want a deep and complex worker placement game with some interesting and innovative mechanics, and one that in terms of opinion and rating has stood the test of time, then Caylus may be exactly what you are looking for.