App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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History books are full of tales involving kings and queens, the lands they've ruled, lavish castles they've inhabited and the battles they've fought. They skimp a bit on the details involving the peasants who built said lavish castles. At least until now. Granted, a game about working one's fingers to the bone to build a somewhat impractical house with little more than a "Thank you" (if that) doesn't sound all that exciting, but Caylus does alright for itself. Mostly.
As I've said, the point of Caylus is to build a castle for the local monarch and gain their favor. Each turn is broken down into smaller turns in which players will vie for use of special buildings (farms, quarries, etc...) in order to gather resources. After everyone has finished placing their workers and claiming resource-generating structures the spoils are divvied and the next turn begins. Everyone has the option of contributing to the castle's construction by supplying their own wood, stone and whatnot, and throwing enough materials into the job will make the king/queen happy. Sound complicated? Well that's the "short" explanation of the rules.
See, Caylus is a very complex game. At least in comparison to what most iOS users are accustomed to. There are so many different factors to consider, and so many various things happening at a given time, that simply learning the ropes can feel like homework. During finals week. In grad school. The sluggish interface certainly doesn't help matters. It's also not much of a looker, but the graphics get the job done.
However, despite being one of the most daunting "board games" I've ever sampled on my iPhone, I'm still getting a decent amount of enjoyment out of Caylus. Little by little, all the nuances (so... many... nuances...) start to sink in and it starts to feel less like work and more like a game. A surprisingly complex game but a game nonetheless. It also supports single player, single-device multiplayer and turn-based online multiplayer options, each allowing up to five total participants (AI or otherwise).
I'm not entirely sure how well the iOS crowd will take to something like Caylus. It's certainly an interesting resource-focused game that would fit right in with the likes of Settlers of Catan and Carcassone, but it's nowhere near as easy to learn. Anyone with an interest in leisurely-paced board games who isn't afraid of very in-depth instructions will most likely enjoy it, but those used to simple pick-up-and-play titles might feel like they've bitten off more than they can chew. I suppose there wouldn't be any harm in giving it a shot, though.