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Forgive me if this is a dumb question, but while browsing board-game related forums I've often heard the term 'Caylus-like' used to describe a game (One usage I remember is that the family version of Agricola was called 'Caylus-like' when compared to the full version). Never having played Caylus, I have no idea what it means, and haven't been able to figure out a good definition from the context. If I had to guess, I'd say it meant that the game had a lot of strategy with very little luck, but I still think I'm missing something.

What exactly does 'Caylus-like' mean? What are people saying about a game when they describe it in this way?

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2 Answers

What is probably meant by this, is Worker Placement game. With Caylus being a good example of such a game, with the added benefit of having very little random elements (only the initial neutral buildings, and starting turn order), and ranking high with many board game enthusiasts within their favorite games.

This geeklist is a collection of all boardgames that are considered "worker placement" games. Thanks to some insightful comments, the following attributes define this category:

  1. Placement of the pieces gives you something. (This eliminates games like Chess.)
  2. There is a limit to the number of pieces per location. (This eliminates area majority games like Leonardo Da Vinci, Louis XIV.)
  3. In general, all workers are removed after each turn.
  4. There is more than one worker per player. (This distinguishes worker placement from role selection like Puerto Rico.)
  5. Players are competing for the limited locations to place their workers.

As for why the Family Version of Agricola would be considered more Caylus-like, that is probably because the family version removes some of the randomness (Occupation & Minor Improvement cards). Those 7 cards that are dealt to each player are unavailable to the other players, and are hidden information, where the Major Improvements are available to everyone and open.

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The four distinguishing features of Caylus are

  1. It's a worker placement game.
  2. It has perfect information - you know everything about the state of the game, and nothing is hidden.
  3. It has a clever and unusual turn-order mechanic, which is complex to play well, and absolutely critical to the strategy.
  4. It has no luck. Like chess, there are no sources of randomness in Caylus.

Someone describing a game as Caylus-like can be referring to any of these fairly unusual characteristics. In your example, the Family version of Agricola is "Caylus-like" partly because it is worker placement, but also because there are no Minor Improvements or Occupations, so no cards held in hand, so there is no hidden information.

I play this game fairly regularly, and I have to say, it's pretty special. Other games often share one or more of these features, but the combination of mechanics is unique to Caylus.

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