Type: Euro

Time to play: 60-90 minutes (Teaching: 15 minutes)

Best played with: 4 Player (1 – 4 Players)

2018 was a good year for Kickstarter, and it’s fitting that my last review should be a kickstarter from 2017 that delivered in 2018 – Clans of Caledonia. This game got a lot of hype for a new designer who ambitiously is taking on Uwe Rosenberg (designer of Agricola) at the art of farming games…

Clans of Caledonia takes you to the highlands of Scotland and puts you into asymmetric clans competing for land, resources and ever precious contracts. This is a game about expanding across a shared map and utilising your clans’ advantage to end the game with as many points as possible. Like many other euro games then of this type it’s a points salad! What do I mean? You can score points in a really wide variety of different ways – so many in fact that it’s quite hard to work out what to do on turn one (or indeed on placement during set up).

This is a game that has the feel of a modern classic; elegant, complex and rich for styles of gameplay emerging out of the group. However, before I get to prolific in praise for this, a word of caution – this game has a few key requirements to do well and after a few games these may feel like they hem you in on strategy.

The great thing about the game then is the variability; set up, clan selection and the early contracts that are drawn from the box will all add flavour to your game. The combination of where you are on the board and which tribe you have is already vast given a broad number of clans and a very clever modular board that allows for you to rotate or flip four parts of the map to create a new set up.

This is enriched during gameplay by a simple to use record of your income and resources through the player board. Everything about the game has been designed to make play easy and quick – which for the most part works and allows players to plan effectively.

However, this is a complex resource tree and a case where other players choice of land or contract drastically effects your turn. So you can be planning ahead but it all comes undone just before your turn and (given the complexity) you need 5 minutes just to think….

That complexity also isn’t really coming from emergent play. There is emergent play – the strategies around the board will vary by the clans chosen and the strategies that other players adopt – you will be trying to find the least crowded path to victory. However, the real complexity comes from long supply chains – challenging to work out if you will have exactly the right amount of coin in a game where coin can be brutally short and where fine margins make all the difference.

If you are considering playing this at a meet up – definitely. If you are considering buying this, then you should probably be a medium to heavy euro gamer who has plenty of other games under the belt! This is a tricky one, and almost deceptively so. Try to avoid punching numbers into a calculator between turns, and you should have a really fun modern classic with incredible production quality and a really nice theme.

One last thing to note; contracts. I will expand on this in the strategy section that I write, but it’s such a big factor I think I should mention it here. This is a game where every player should be completing contracts. Yes you get points for buildings and resources, but you must complete contracts to win games. It’s like “family growth” in Agricola or the bonus tiles in Terra Mystica, this is just a part of the fabric of the game and the sooner you embrace the contracts the more enjoyable you will find the game. As someone who resisted this for a number of early games – this is a futile exercise and I would recommend going for those from the off!

Last notes,

  • If you like heavy euro games, then this is a great offering from last year
  • If you find games with random card draws frustrating, then the importance of the contracts may irritate
  • If you win, try again and with a different clan