Number of Players: 1 – 4
Length of Game: 30 – 120 Minutes
Mechanism(s): Economic, area control, resource management
(Alternate Mechanisms: Herding sheep, killing sheep . . . for good reason)
Who among us has not dreamed of making whiskey and milking cows in the beautiful
Irish Scottish countryside? Kilt flapping in the wind, sheep bleating in the distance–this is the dream. You can live out your medium-weight euro fantasies in Clans of Caledonia.
Game overview Each player has their own board with sheep, cows, miners, lumberjacks, dairy, brewery, and bakery strewn about. The game lasts a mere five rounds, with the overall goal of having the most glory points at the end of the game. This is achieved by fulfilling export contracts and importing goods from jolly ol’ England.
You begin by selecting your clan, which will give you special abilities, and by placing two workers (miners or lumberjacks, or one of each.) Players then begin alternating turns taking one action, until they pass and are out of the round.
Your possible actions include such typical euro actions as:
- Place a worker
- Place a building
- Upgrade your merchants or shipping level
- Use your merchants to purchase or sell goods in the market
- Obtain or fulfill an export contract
All of this might seem to be very dry. It seems dry because it is dry.
When you take the action to place a worker or building to the main board, you must pay for both the land and the price of the worker or building. Land prices vary wildly and can prohibit your expansion. You must also place buildings and workers adjacent to one another.
Merchants are sent to the market board to purchase and sell goods. This board has a simple mechanism to determine the price of any good; once you have bought or sold a good you will adjust the price according to the number of units.
The export board tracks the quantity and type of goods you have imported into the region, as well as your current glory rating. It displays the current export contracts as well.
The right way to make whiskey There is plenty of replay-ability with different export contracts, different clans, and a two-sided main player board. The player board itself is helpful in keeping tracking of your production and income. The rule book is laid out well, which allows you to learn the game quickly.
The decisions you make are tough ones, due primarily to lack of funds. You will go almost bankrupt in the first round, setting up the land and buildings you need to start producing. You need to decide what your business plan will be. Will you produce goods or focus on placing workers and using their income to buy goods? Will you get into the whiskey business or completely ignore it and go after export contracts requiring only cheese or bread? There are various ways that you can diversify your business.
At heart, Clan of Caledonia is not an area control game but, rather, an engine building game. In five short rounds, you will build your empire.
Clan solo The game has a great solo variant that mirrors the base game closely and simulates a fluctuating market using dice. You can learn the game by playing the solo version; it leaves out only a few of the rules that are in the competitive version. At the end of the game, calculate your score and see where you rank on the scale of whiskey makers, ranging from Wild Turkey to Johnnie Walker.
The Clone of Caledonia What’s not to like about Clans of Caledonia? There is nothing new under the sun. The game offers a lot of what you expect from a medium-weight euro with this kind of theme. Everything is done well, but no novelty.
I wish the scoring was more streamlined. There are numerous ways to score points at the end of the game via settlements (adjacent units, with possible glory points for settlements within shipping distance of each other.) This and the various other ways to score end game points tend to turn the game into a point salad. I’m not a big fan of point salads; I like the scoring to be straightforward, with a clear path to victory.
I didn’t enjoy the way the various clans asymmetrical powers broke the game, nor having to look up the description of each power in the glossary. It was all such a pain to explain to new players, and we found that we enjoyed playing without the clans. With no asymmetrical powers, the game feels balanced.
The artwork is bland, with a few less-than-intuitive icons, but is serviceable and doesn’t detract from the game.
BGS Approved? Yes. I enjoy a nice, dry, simple euro game–but I need difficult, engaging decisions to keep me hooked. Clans of Caledonia does just that, and delivers a nice sense of accomplishment as you see your quaint little farm turn into a whiskey-making machine.
Clans of Caledonia is going into the collection. Time will tell if it ages well.
Who should buy it? If you are a euro fan, enjoying the great euro games of our time (Viticulture, Concordia, Mombassa), this is a must-buy. Solo players should give it a look too. Unsure? A couple of comparisons might help:
The engine building in Clans of Caledonia feels similar to Scythe. However, I find Caledonia to be a deeper engine builder. Imagine Scythe with no combat, little area control, and a supply and demand market.
One of my favorite games is Gold West and Caledonia is a heavier game–essentially Gold West on steroids without the mancala. The closest comparison would be Viticulture, the similarities being your focus on obtained goods, turning them into more valuable goods and then fulfilling contracts. I enjoy Viticulture more than Caledonia mainly due to the worker placement mechanism in Viticulture being so well done.
Don’t overlook this gem of a euro.
The Love: Building commercial enterprises, super euro goodness, lots of replay.
The Hate: Some weird icons, asymmetrical powers, cumbersome scoring.
THE FINAL DECREE: Challenging business decisions make the empire-building Clans of Caledonia an absorbing game that may be this generation’s next great euro.
All views and opinions are my own. I kickstarted this game with my own money. I like goats more than sheep. Why don’t more games feature goats?