In 2005, designer William Attia created one of the most elegant games of the past 50 years. Set in 1289, King Philip the Fair of France wanted to strengthen his borders in the south. The English had been eyeing the small, defenseless village of Caylus for too long. Soon it would turn into a thriving construction site, with master builders from across the country rushing to join in the planning of an all-new castle. Would it hold up against the advancement of the English, or fall to their villainous hands? Only time would tell.
Flash forward 14 years (in both game time and real time) to 2019, and Attia is set to release Caylus 1303, the follow-up to his worker placement classic. The war against England has come and gone, and while the castle of Caylus still stands, it’s perilously close to the enemy’s border and requires reinforcement. That’s where you come in.
In Caylus 1303, you take on the role of a master builder working to construct and repair the castle while winning the king’s favor. Fans of the original game will find a lot in common in this latest version; the rules are streamlined while keeping the rich strategic decision-making of the previous version. They’ve also added some new and exciting Characters, each with the power to break the rules.
You play the game over a series of nine rounds, where you are responsible for providing the building site with materials, food, and the workforce. You earn Prestige Points for developing the city and assisting in the construction of the castle. As the game continues, you have more and more places to send your workers, allowing for more dynamic turns and bigger payoffs.
When Caylus 1303 begins, the village needs significant work. You are dealt one Character card randomly, and three are added face up to the Construction Site on the board. One starting building is also added to the Construction Site, as well as a randomly chosen Wood and Stone building. When you earn a Favor from the king, you can claim one of the remaining Characters and take the power of one of the three buildings in the Construction Site. This can mean accessing powerful abilities much earlier in the game.
Continuing the set-up, eight starting buildings are laid out randomly on the road leading to the castle. Additionally, one Wood and one Stone building are added to the road. These buildings represent places you can send your workers to get a benefit. For example, going to the Farm will earn you a food resource, and going to the Quarry will give you stone. In turn order, you send out your workers one at a time during the Planning phase. No two workers can be on the same spot, so turn order is essential, especially early in the game. Aside from the buildings along the road, you can also send workers to the Construction Site. Here is where you’ll be able to make contributions to the castle and get on the good side of the king.
Once everyone has passed, the Activation phase begins. You can start to mess with the plans of other players in this phase. There is an emissary of the king, the Provost, that makes his way up and down the road, surveying the work that’s being done for his majesty. In the order you passed, you have the option of spending 0-3 workers to move him forward or backward on the road. This is important because only the buildings the Provost has passed are activated. There can be a lot of wheeling and dealing to ensure the building you invested in pays off. Once the Provost has been resolved, all the buildings passed activate in order along the road, earning you payoffs in resources, workers, or the ability to construct new buildings.
In the third phase, you can deliver goods at the construction site of the castle. You earn five Prestige Points for each bundle of goods you deliver at the castle. A bundle must contain three different resources, one of which must be food. The workers have to eat! If you delivered the most bundles in a round, you earn a Favor from the king. The final phase of each round is the Stewardship. If you claimed a starting building, it flips to its Residence side. A Residence building you control can be replaced with a Monument. These buildings can be worth big points but can also be expensive. Then, you get a fresh supply of workers and various bonuses depending on the buildings you own. Play continues to the next round, and the game ends after the ninth.
One of the coolest elements of Caylus 1303 is the previously mentioned Characters. Some, like the Architect or the Foreman, earn you extra Prestige Points for constructing buildings or parts of the castle. Others like the Early Riser, the Night Worker, or the Journeyman bend the rules of worker placement. They allow you to sneak in a placement before the first player, place on a building that already has a worker on it, or avoid paying extra workers after players have passed. The Bailiff gives you an extra movement for the Provost. The Day Laborer earns you additional workers. And the Thief blocks opponent’s from gaining Prestige Points when people place on their buildings.
There are 12 Characters in total, so each game results in a different combination. When you earn Favors from the king for taking various actions, you either steal a Character from another player or choose one of three put aside at the start of the game. Having one or more Characters gives you a serious advantage in the game.
It has been 14 years since we sent out workers in the original Caylus. William Attia has not wasted that time. He has created another worker placement classic with Caylus 1303 from Space Cowboys. Available at your FLGS in early 2020.