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These are interesting times we’re living in. As a gamer you may think that our options to play games are limited but in my experience no...

Caylus 1303 Caylus 1303

Caylus 1303

Caylus 1303

These are interesting times we’re living in. As a gamer you may think that our options to play games are limited but in my experience nothing has been further from the truth. Not only are there fantastic online resources to help us connect virtually to one another, there is also a growing demand from non-gamers to connect, for contact, conversation and to alleviate the monotony of whatever situation they find themselves locked down in.  We’re perfectly placed as a community to help many people in our own small way.

Prior to the lockdown in the UK I was sent a copy of Caylus 1303 to review. I am writing this as part review and part-a list of resources (at the end of the review) I’ve used to play games online.

Caylus 1303 is a revamp of the eponymous and genre-defining worker placement classic Caylus.  If you’re not familiar with the original, it has spawned a sub-culture within the gaming community of bland-euro art, mean-looking dudes on boxes and arguably the most infamous character in gaming – the Provost! I’ve only played the original a handful of times but it still sparks memories of being screwed over, or inflicting the same screwage onto my friends… I’m pleased to say all this is still present in the new streamlined version of the game.

Gameplay


Caylus 1303 is played over 9 rounds, in which players are trying to get the most prestige points (i.e. victory points) by contributing to building the town of Caylus and constructing the castle.  Thematically this makes perfect sense as the town of the same name in France is famous for its castle.  However, in the game, this theme feels loosely tacked on as a mechanism to place workers and screw with your opponents.
Initial setup for 4 player game.
The game has a randomised setup and a variable turn order, two features that are a must for me when it comes to theme-light euros.  The setup is relatively quick and aided by excellent graphic design throughout the game.  After your first game, you’ll be able to setup the board in a matter of minutes.

One huge benefit of virtual gaming is that the chore of setting up any game is largely removed from the players. I am very experienced in using both Vassal and Table Top simulator both of which have free modules for nearly every board game you can imagine (at least ones you’d want to play!). TTS is much newer than vassal and has a much larger user-base and I’m constantly amazed at how quickly game modules are available in the workshop. Vassal caters more to the typical GMT-crowd
Table Top Simulator - opening splash
Caylus 1303 (a relatively new game has an unofficial port on TTS but only with lower resolution scans. I still managed to convince a few gaming buddies to give it a try and I found it perfectly playable through the TTS module. The easiest (and best) solution I have found to talk to my opponents is through Discord. This enables multi-player comms and text chat if you’re so inclined.  If you’re just playing 2 player games then Zoom is free to use and has a useful screen-sharing option.

During the lockdown I have played online with gaming opponents, Caylus 1303, Mage Knight, War of the Ring, Pendragon, Undaunted Normandy, Combat Commander Europe.  However, what has surprised me most is how up for games ‘non-gamers’ are during these times. I have had countless family and social group quizzes, I have had success playing Scattegories, played a Fake Artist Goes to New York, hosting a murder mystery evening, pub quizzes and even a scavenger hunt for kids.  I have used Zoom for a lot of these but also Kahoot and Quizziz to run the quiz nights.
Some of the Characters
Each player in Caylus 1303 will also have a character with bonus abilities on certain actions. This, however, is not guaranteed to stay with you long.  There is no text anywhere on the board or components so I couldn’t tell what the characters are (without referring to the rule book) but once again the icons are brilliantly designed and intuitive.  I know it’s cheaper to translate a game with no text (just the rulebook) but I would have liked a characters name on their cards at least…

Each round of the game consists of 4 phases.  Planning, Activation, Delivery and Stewardship.
Each player places out their workers on free spaces containing a building during the Planning Phase. Trying to plan out your actions based on resources you get later in the round shouldn’t be difficult…but I have not played any game where I didn’t mess this up at least once. The number of workers you have each round will also change allowing you to do more actions or saving them to move the Provost even more...
First Round Planning Completed
Activation resolves each worker’s action space (building) from the beginning of the road to the space just before the Provost.  The first four buildings are fixed in each game and provide their specific effect.  An additional 10 buildings are placed on the road at the beginning of the game.  These comprise 8 starter buildings, 1 wood building and 1 stone building. The road will have 13 empty spaces in which players can build. All buildings provide also provide prestige points as well as their effect.

The best thing about Activation, and really what makes this game Caylus is moving the Provost.  Any workers on buildings after the Provost will not get their effect.  Each player will get the opportunity to move the Provost in player order up to 3 spaces, forward or back. There is also a building that can move the Provost and also one of the Character’s abilities moves the Provost as well. Buildings later on the road, will generally have more powerful effects but their use is not guaranteed. Placing your workers on them is a risky but rewarding business.
A small selection of the Starting, Wood and Stone Buildings and Monuments
Moving the Provost in front of your opponents is a delicious feeling, unfortunately it’s going to happen to you too. But this is where the fun is, if you don’t like confrontation in your games then this is not for you.

The Delivery Phase allows players to sacrifice their resources to build the castle gaining 5 prestige points and a favour.  In order to go here, each worker will generally need three different resources so it won’t be used too much in the early game, but it is a powerful way to gain lots of prestige points later on.

During the Stewardship Phase owned buildings can be changed to residences, thereby removing the effect, and residences can be changed into Monuments (lots of Prestige points).  However, one side-effect of this is that there are fewer spaces on the road for workers to go.  This combines with generally more workers being available to players later in the game.  This surplus is tailor-made to spend on moving the Provost.  However, in order to gain the most points you will need to pivot away from Residences (gaining more workers) and into Monuments (gaining more points).
4 Players in the 8th (penultimate) round
The winner of the game is the player with the most Prestige points at the end of the ninth round.

Components


Once again I have nothing but praise for the physical components.  The card is lovely and thick and punched out cleaner than almost any other punchboard I can remember.  The wooden components are nice and chunky and their shape represents the resources.  The art and graphic design is clean, consistent and nice to look, but the stand out feature for me is the iconography. They are largely intuitive and once a player is familiar with the rules, sufficiently describe the actions.
Fantastic insert
The insert is a rare example of a publisher actually providing something that I’m not going to chuck out straight away.  It even handles vertical storage without plastic bags which I’m particularly grateful for.

Criticisms


I don’t think I can recommend the two-player game.  At two players, the take-that decision and screwage gets a bit samey.  The designer has compensated the more empty board by starting with more workers but this doesn’t really compensate and it feels quite a different game.  At three players the board isn’t quite as busy but still quite fun.  At five it runs a little long but is still fun – I wouldn’t recommend a 5 player game for your first time out.
A clean and short rulebook

Conclusion


This is a beautiful game and one I’m glad to play and introduce to anybody. I would even recommend this as a gateway game to a non-gamer if they’re not going to be too precious about being attacked (albeit indirectly by the Provost) at every opportunity.  After the first round, the rules are easily remembered and the only repeated questions were around the construction site and favours, neither of which I’ve detailed here but they’re not hard to grasp.

Waiting to play IRL
I like the randomised setup and variable turn order in this game.  These elements are only possible with finely tuned mechanics, else the game will break more often than it’s fun.  That is definitely not the case here, with over 30 years of playtesting (the original Caylus) this revamp has streamlined the original and maintained the essence of what made Caylus, Caylus.  The mechanics and gameplay are rock solid and it will be a welcome addition to my next game night.  Fingers crossed it comes soon.

Stay safe and see you on the other side

I’d like to thank Asmodee for sending this review copy.  Many local game stores will still have this in stock although they may not be open currently, their online shopping portals may still be open. You can use this link http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/ to find and support them during this difficult time.


Designer: William Attia
Play time: 60-90 minutes.
Players: 2 – 5 players

Online gaming resources

BGGs distance gaming guide https://boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/Distance_Gaming_Guide (a comprehensive how- to)
Vassal Engine http://www.vassalengine.org/ (program to run board game modules)
Vassal Mods http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Category:Modules (repository of many board games)
Table Top Simulator https://store.steampowered.com/app/286160/Tabletop_Simulator/ (cross platform application that has many users) and it’s workshop where all the games are: https://steamcommunity.com/app/286160/workshop/
Tabletopia https://tabletopia.com/ (browser based alternative to TTS)

Chat and Comms

Discord https://discordapp.com/ (gaming focused communication platform)
Viber https://www.viber.com/en/ (Open source secure comms and video calling)
Zoom (Easy to use software with unlimited calls for 1 to 1 video-conferencing i.e. wargaming)

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