Friday, December 23, 2005

2005-12-22: Medici and Caylus


Medici is another Knizia auction game, but first thing to note is that this was one of his earlier designs, so games like Ra, which contains more than a couple similarities, came after this one.

The goal of the game is to make the most money by shipping goods. Your boat can hold five goods, and the start player can pick up to three cards off the deck of goods to auction. It's one time around, and then the auctioneer gets last chance to pay over the highest bidder, or let the highest bidder have it. He then passes auctioning duties to the next person. Once your boat is full, you are out. Eventually, either the deck of goods runs out, or each player has their five goods, and the round ends. Then you score the numbers and the goods, scoring in several different fashions. Main goal here is to make your money back on what you purchased, and hopefully quite a bit of a profit. Three rounds and then most money wins.

This game really stands out to me for a few reasons. It's very quick, and very little down-time (unless you fill your boat early). There are quite a few ways to make money that don't directly interfere with one another, meaning there isn't one perfect strategy (so far that I can tell). The game gets going fast with its easy setup and simple rules. Only major complaint is just the usual auction problems that happen if some players don't fully understand the value in the cards. But that's auction games for you, and at least the money doesn't change hands, it just goes to the bank.

Final Comments:
If you're looking for a quick auction game that is simple but not simplistic, then this one is a good bet. I prefer Ra as a game, but because of its complexity I see Medici getting more play time, and that's what really matters.


There are a lot of comparisons to other games that could be made when discussing Caylus, but I will attempt to avoid such mentions here as saying it is like Settlers, Keythedral, Goa etc, in various regards wouldn't be doing this game justice. Saying that makes it sound derivative, but it doesn't play that way.

As usual, your goal here is victory points. There are several ways to earn them, including building parts of the castle, and building structures in the town itself. At the start of the game, there are already a few buildings on the board. On your turn you place one of your workers in a building, thus occupying it for this turn. Players keep placing their workers in different buildings one at a time in turn order until they run out or pass. It normally costs one dollar to place a worker, but as players pass the price goes up forcing others to pass earlier than they would like, usually. Once everyone has passed, then you go through the buildings that are occupied with a worker one at a time letting that player take advantage of each building's special ability.

Most of the buildings are used for goods production. Some will allow you to make money, used almost solely for placing workers each round. And, other buildings will let you use your goods to build new structures with all new abilities to use in future turns. The major benefit of building a specific structure, besides it being available to use from now on, is that it earns the builder a victory point every time another player places a worker in it. Finally, workers placed in the castle can also build a castle section earning immediate victory points, and the player with the most sections built that turn also gets a "favor" from the King. At certain parts of the game, you can be penalized for not having helped build the castle, but also rewarded if you have built multiple parts.

There is quite a bit more to the game, and while it might seem complicated, give it a turn or two and it all seems fairly intuitive. Which is good because as long as the game is, you need to catch on quick or risk being frustrated for a few hours with no hope of catching the quicker players if you don't understand the whole concept. There is one mega-building (25 points) that can help someone catch up in the last couple turns, but if players see it coming it can be stopped pretty easily. You really have to plan for that one early and make a lot of use of the King's favors appropriately.

Final Comments:
Caylus is just a great game. Even though you are doing the same things over and over, and for hours, it doesn't seem redundant. There are many different ways to victory, allowing for various strategies to fight without it being too frustrating from being shot down turn after turn; if your plan doesn't quite work as planned, there is still plenty of hope. I usually don't like games that go for more than 90 minutes, just because I'd rather play more games on a game night than just one mega-game, but I'd make an exception for this one.


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