3 Players and a game new to Wednesday evening.
Caylus Magna Carta 130 mins
Player Posn. Points
Steve H 1 61
Matt 2 60
Dave D 3 50
According to my records, I have played Caylus 4 times, actually winning on a couple of occasions, this however has been enough to decide that the game isn't really for me, seeming as it does to be far too dry with too much going on and a play time such that the game has outlived it's welcome, well before the end. Some (though not all) of these problems I would also attribute to Puerto Rico.
Now we have Caylus Magna Carta, the card version of Caylus and I have been interested to see whether I would find the same with this as I have found with San Juan, the card version of Puerto Rico and a game I like so much that I note it is the game for which I have most recorded plays, 31 and I know there are others that haven't been recorded.
Anyway enough of all that, what was the game like. First of all, as I have heard said, this is a lot closer to Caylus than San Juan is to Puerto Rico. It retains much of the board game, with the castle and the road and the provost moving to specify which buildings can be activated. The difference is that the road is now built (except for a few starting buildings) with cards from players hands. Unlike San Juan, when cards are drawn from a central stock, each player has a small(I seem to remember 10 cards, but may be wrong) individual deck, identical to all the other players, with various buildings on one side, each being backed by a residence into which each can be converted later on. There are also seven prestige buildings in a general supply that can be built from a residence. Again unlike San Juan, the cards are not multi purpose and only represent buildings (rather than money and production), building costs are payed using resources.
So what's the play like?
Each player gets a hand of 3 cards at the start, which he can choose to discard and draw 3 new if they are not to his liking. If he doesn't like the new 3 then it's tough.
At the start of a round, each player gets money equal to 2 + the number of residences he has.
Then each player, in turn, may pay 1 to take one of the following actions:
1.Place a worker on an available building.
2.Draw a card.
3.Exchange all cards in hand for a like number from supply.
Alternatively they may build a building from hand by paying the required resources or pass after which they may take no further actions that turn, the first one to pass receives 1 money.
After all have passed, bribery takes place as in Caylus, with each player in pass order able to spend up to 3 to move the provost, following which buildings are activated (if workers are on them) in order from the top of the road to the position of the provost. Each building has 2 effects, first giving something to the player whose worker is on them and then something (usually less) to the player owning the building, which can act as a disincentive to moving the provost back, if by so doing, you lose something yourself (in addition to the bribe cost).
After this parts of the castle are built (again in pass order, this being unlike Caylus), with early parts earning 4 VP each, while later parts are worth 3 and then 2. Whoever puts in the most or is first in the case of a tie, gets one gold.
Finally the first player moves to the next in clockwise order (a much more natural thing to do than the awkwardness in Caylus) and play continues with the next turn.
This goes on until all parts of the castle are built at which time the game is over and VPs are scored for Castle sections built, buildings built that are still on the road and 1 for each gold, each 3 of the other resources and (I think) each 3 money.
In this game, Steve earned a lot of points from castle building, plus building the major prestige building, Matt ignored the castle for a lot of the time and earned a lot from building a lot of buildings. I think I made a mistake at the start by not changing my starting hand which included 2 out of 3 buildings needing stone (which you don't start with) and then I was reluctant to build the remaining one because Steve built an identical one immediately before me, thinking it was may be not good to duplicate buildings, my thinking being that people were more likely to use his because it wasn't so far down the road. In retrospect, I now don't see the problem as the supplies of goods to the owner are limited for the cheaper buildings and the provost soon moved far enough, so as not to make much difference. Equally, after the 4 point castle sections ran out, I was reluctant to go for them when I didn't have a chace to get the gold, perhaps in this way giving Steve more points from this method than he should have had. I think maybe I was in a Caylus mindset here, but as far as I can see in retrospect the points would have been useful and the bonus of a gold in this game is nowhere near as significant as a favour in Caylus. It is worth noting here that the situation here with Steve so often building before me, indicates that there is far more of an incentive to be first to pass than in Caylus.
Inevitably, there is an element of luck with the card draw in this game, perhaps particularly in getting your Lawyer built, because if you can get it down early before people start building residences, you stand to make a lot of money. Matt did well with this and Steve to a lesser extent, whereas I didn't get mine until the end of the game and only made the VP from it. Then again there are ways of cycling your deck in this game, which I consistently forgot about, so this factor should be somewhat controllable with more competent play. I made the bulk of my points from some early castle building and a couple of big prestige buildings.
So what do I think?
I'd definitely take this over Caylus, the elimination of favours takes out most of the fiddly complication which most disappoints me about that game. A random factor is present, but because of the small deck size and ways to cycle, this should be somewhat mitigated. My problem with this play of the game is with the game length. In this game, possibly because of my reluctance to join Steve in building the castle, when I couldn't get gold and because of Matt's lack of interest in same, there was a long period when only one section was built every turn, so delaying the finish. I'm hoping (and expecting) therefore that this play was an aberration (like the 2 hour Industrial Waste game). Comments on the geek suggest that 15-20 minutes per player, shouldn't be too far out and if that is the case I could see this getting a bit of play (including by me). Steve has suggested he think 90 minutes would be normal, but I have to say that sounds a bit too long. I can see this as one of 2 approximately equal length games for a session, but am not so sure about the idea of playing it with only time for a filler at the end.
I've started giving each game I play a rating on the geek and have currently awarded this 6.5, which is my standard when I'm fence sitting, this will rise if the length question resolves OK or otherwise probably drop to 6.
Until next Wednesday