Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Second Coming?

Can Caylus become the #1 game on Boardgamegeek?

These are the discussions that certify people as boardgamegeeks.

So, speculation. Why is Puerto Rico the #1 game on BGG? Why was The Princes of Florence the #1 game before that? And why do people think Caylus is The Second Coming?

First off, Caylus has not been released in North America by Rio Grande Games. It looks like it will appear sometime in November, barring delays. The copies people have access to now came from Spiel 05 in Essen. Therefore, the pool of people with access to the game is very limited. It has 88 BGG ratings.

To challenge for #1 over the long haul (i.e., when it gets over 2,000 ratings) Caylus will have to appeal to a wide cross-section of gamers. This is the interesting quality of Puerto Rico, which has the second-most ratings in the BGG database with 4,636 (only The Settlers of Catan, currently ranked 20th, has more at 5,357). That's a huge number of ratings. From personal experience, PR can be enjoyed by everyone from casual players to those looking for a deep strategic game. Interestingly, wargamers seem to not be fond of PR since it's a system game - i.e., it filters interaction through a system and has no direct interaction. It's quite unusual for a game to be useful as both a gateway game and a serious, heavy Euro.

Another quality of PR is that it plays reasonably well throughout its player scale, 2-5 players with the alea 2P variant. This flexibility means that more groups are able to fit it into their gaming plans, and thus it sees a lot of table time. Along these lines, there is a nice scale to PR's speed. It can be played as a 20-minute 2P filler, a 45-minute 3P sprint, or as a 120-minute 5P defensive struggle.

The Princes of Florence shares many of the above characteristics. It's also playable as both a gaetway game and a deep thinker, it scales nicely from 3 to 5 players, and it can be a 60-minute 3P game or a 105-minute 5P game.

Both PR and PoF are also available online at Brettspielwelt, which helps.

Secondhand information indicates that Caylus plays a bit longer than PR or PoF, and its ability to scale from 2-5 players and its acceptability as a gateway game is still unknown. Time will tell. Fearless forecast: Caylus gets into the Top 10 briefly, then drops back down into the 15 to 30 range. Could be wrong, since I still don't understand why Power Grid is rated so highly. Oh well, that's what Geekbuddies are for.


At Wednesday, October 26, 2005 12:43:00 PM, Anonymous Mikko Saari said...

I'd say Caylus is a bit too heavy and long to become number one. I think it scales well enough for two, don't know about five... I think the downtime might become a problem, so the actual range is probably 2-4.

But top-30, sure, top-20, likely.

At Saturday, October 29, 2005 6:53:00 PM, Blogger Joe Gola said...

In terms of complexity, production quality, appeal for casual gamers, et cetera, it seems to be closer in spirit to Age of Steam than to Puerto Rico (even if it's more outwardly similar to PR). AoS hasn't yet threatened the top spot on BGG, and I doubt it ever will.

The Caylus noise will surely die down once the game is out and the strategy debates get played out for all but the hardcore.

I hate to say it, but in some ways this was the bad thing about gamewire, which was that people were always more focused on games they didn't have than the ones they did, so discussion tended away from game play and more towards anticipation and speculation (neither of which are much worth reading).

At Friday, November 11, 2005 6:24:00 AM, Blogger Jasen said...

Well I've played 2x 5er games and a single 4er game. Based on those games, I'd say that it's unlikely that it will dethrone PR. In fact, it's likely reached its peak and should come "crashing" down to reality as soon as it gets a RGG production. I'm guessing it might float just slightly above the Goa ranking.

The reason why it's climbing the BGG charts right now is because of the extremely low numbers of low rankings. As soon as more people play the game, Caylus will get many, many more low ratings and negative reviews (and some alleged shillbusting). The greatest problems with Caylus as it stands is its length and perceived fiddliness. The saving grace for Caylus however will be the fact that it's difficult to put a finger on what's "bad" about the design. I think it'll have a ratings distribution very similar to PR in that while some people will dislike playing the game, they will recognize the good design behind it. Take a look at Mike Siggins commments and you'll see fairly lukewarm comments associated with a 7 rating. That's still a pretty high rating in my book.

For myself, I quite enjoyed all my playings. It's a great system game that really shouldn't have any PR-like killer strategies since the turn order is variable (bought) and the design is totally open. While it's not in the same league as Puerto Rico (mostly in terms of game length), I enjoyed the games for very similar reasons. For me, the game ranks somewhere between an 8 and 9 (very unlikely to go down). It is a definite purchase.


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