Complexity in smartphone games needs to be handled carefully. Bundling too much information into one short sitting is likely to leave the player disorientated, adrift in a sea of ideas and regulations.
The same doesn't apply to boardgames, which are free to slowly dripfeed their rules to players, explaining everything in minute detail well before any pieces or cards have made it to the table.
Caylus, from Big Daddy's Creations, is the latest in a growing line of complex worker-placement boardgames that are being translated into digital form. And while it completely ignores the limitations of portable gaming, it's still a faithful, strategic, and more or less experience.Mastering building through toil
The game sees you taking on the role of a master builder in the titular small town. Historically accurate events involving the King of France are happening, and it's your job to help build him a castle worthy of his crown.
You begin with a troupe of workers, a few coins, and a desire to create more of the growing castle than any of your one to four adversaries.
Turns drift by in a measured way. You place one of your workers in an unoccupied building, which allows you to claim the resource that's displayed above it, build new buildings along the road, or trade goods for coins.A castle fit for the king
Your main goal is to collect bundles of materials. There are four different types - Food, Wood, Stone, and Cloth - and a bundle consists of one piece of food and any two of the others. Bundles are used to build the castle, but only if you have a worker stationed at the gate.
Castle building nets you Prestige Points, and the player with the most of these once the stone structure is complete is declared the winner. There are other ways to amass the points, too, including building special buildings and gaining royal favours.
On top of all of that, there's the Provost and the Bailiff, who are moved around the village when players pass their turns, and whose position dictates which workers can actually claim their resources, and how close to completion the castle is.It's not for you
Caylus is an incredibly complicated game, and it takes more than a few plays until you begin to understand its nuances. Even then, you'll find yourself referring to the in-game rulebook quite often to find out what on earth's going on.
It makes no apologies for its difficulty. If you've got no experience of games of this sort, then your first time around will be befuddling, infuriating, and very little fun.
While the single-player offers a tight recreation of the game, there's pad-passing local multiplayer that works incredibly well, alongside a sparsely populated asynchronous online option.
If deep, meandering, highly specific and cerebral strategy titles are for you, then Caylus has a lot going for it. But if you're looking for something to fill in three minutes of spare time, you should avoid like the plague.