iPad Game Review: Caylus (Universal)
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Caylus is a solid iOS adaptation of the Euro-style board game of the same name.
Caylus is essentially a game of worker placement. Don't worry; it's more fun than it sounds. Each player has a team of six workers and the goal is to place them on the game board in such a way that you collect a variety of resources (food, wood, cloth, stone, and gold). These resources are, in turn, used to build new and more powerful buildings farther down the road or contribute to the castle; both of which provide you with prestige points (although you only get prestige points from buildings if another player uses what you build). Here's the tricky part: The Provost is a character that moves up and down the winding road. Only those buildings that lay behind him actually generate any resources that turn, and since his position is not entirely predictable, you could easily end up wasting a worker by placing him in a building that isn't active that turn.
Additionally, there is a Bailiff that also moves on the board, and his position causes the game to advance phases, and will eventually end it. Can you imagine trying to keep track of all of this with cardboard pieces and counters?! Neither can I, which is why complex board games such as Caylus are such a good fit for tablets and smartphones. Although the tutorial is minimal at best, the gameplay mechanic is so straightforward (thanks to the under the hood number-crunching that is performed by our iPad/iPhone) that even new players can dive in and learn as they go. Caylus features a solid AI for solo play, and offers both online and local multiplayer for those of you looking for more of a challenge. It also includes Facebook integration, although there is currently no Game Center support.
When I first saw the screenshots for Caylus I was a bit underwhelmed. However, once I launched the game, I was pleased to find that for whatever reason, they simply do not do the game justice. Because this is a board game, you aren't going to find a lot of flashy graphics, 3D effects, and animation. What you will find, however, is a beautiful iOS adaptation of the original game board. Gone is the 2D game grid, and in its place you will find of crisp, high resolution buildings and geographical features. Although animation is minimal, it feels comfortably appropriate for a board game, and I never felt like I was missing out on necessary eye candy.
The music in Caylus is primarily limited to the menu. However, you are given the option to play music from your device's iPod library during gameplay. The in-game sound effects are nicely done, and consist of a variety of subtle wildlife noises. These can be disabled, however, if they are getting between you and your speed metal playlist.
Currently Caylus offers no in-app purchases of any kind. Buy the game once and get access to everything.
If you're a board gamer, picking up Caylus should be a no-brainer. If you're new to these complex Euro-style board games, Caylus is a good place to start. All of the game's complexity is invisibly handled by your device, leaving the uninitiated a great opportunity to dive in and start playing.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - Polished, crisp 2D graphics are pleasing to look at and bring an upgraded yet faithful version of the original game board to iOS devices.
Sound: - 3 - Minimal music, but pleasant sound effects and iPod support more than make up for this.
Controls: - 5 - A great implementation of a touchscreen interface; accurate and intuitive.
Gameplay: - 5 - All of the mind-numbing stat keeping is handled invisibly leaving you to enjoy a wonderful board gaming experience.
Playing Hints and Tips:
A great first strategy is to simply amass resources and try to build the castle. While you are doing this, however, watch what the other players are doing. You will be surprised how deep and nuanced the strategy can be once you get your brain around it. If you are confused as to which buildings to activate, just activate them in order. Don't be afraid to leave the tutorial on for the first few games you play.
Developer: Big Daddy's Creations
Release Date: January 15, 2012
Buy App: Caylus
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