Clans of Caledonia: Contracts and Cotton in 19th C Scotland
Clans of Caledonia is an economic game set in 19th Century Scotland where your Clan gives you advantages as you compete to make the best use of the land and the market. Designed by Juma Al-JouJou and illustrated by Klemens Franz (Agricola, At the Gates of Loyang, Caverna), it is a strategy game for 1-4 players that takes about 30 minutes per player.
In Clans of Caledonia, you decide what goods to produce to best fulfill the available export contracts. You can raise sheep for wool, tend cows for milk and cheese, and grow grain for bread or the all-important whisky. The market lets you buy and sell, as prices change with supply and demand, and each Clan has a special ability to help you win the game.
Setting up Clans of Caledonia
Clans of Caledonia has a lot of custom wooden pieces that add to the theme of the game. The shared tokens can be sorted into a tray to make set up easier.
The player pieces can be divided and stored by color. Each player also gets a player board with technology tiles, an export box tile, and a player aid.
There are four quadrants of a reversible hex map, offering 16 different configurations.
The pieces are labeled in the center to show how they go together (they must be in alphabetical order in a clockwise direction).
Port bonus tiles are placed in the marked spaces in the corners of the map. Each port can only be used once per player. The port tokens remind players which ports have been used, and are no longer available.
The Clan tiles, starting tiles, export contracts, scoring tiles, and port tiles change from game to game, which makes for good replayability.
The market board shows the current price of wool, grain, milk, bread, cheese, and whisky as players buy and sell.
The export board displays the export contracts currently available to purchase, the player order, any points earned by the players, and any cotton, tobacco, or sugar cane on any completed contracts.
Scoring tiles are placed along one edge of the export board.
Each tile is scored at the end of the corresponding round, and can change the players’ priorities and valuations from game to game.
Playing Clans of Caledonia
Wool comes from sheep. Milk from cows can be processed into cheese. Grain can be processed into bread or whisky. If you need grain, will you raise it in a field, or buy it? Will you use your cow for meat, or let it continue to provide you with milk?
Much depends on your Clan, and your available money and goods. At the start of the game, each player chooses a Clan and starting tile. The Clan gives the player a special ability, and the tile gives the player starting resources, including money. Some Clans will allow a player to make money, some will give the player a discount, some may give an advantage with merchants or shipping.
The tokens on your player board represent potential sheep, cows, cheese dairies, bakeries, fields, distilleries, and workers. A token must be placed on the board for it to become active. To place a token on the board, the player must pay the cost of the item (printed on the player board) plus the cost of the land (printed on the map).
The cubes represent merchants, and are used to buy and sell at the market. The shipping token shows a player’s ability to travel across water. And the technology tiles point to the income your workers will create each round.
Each player also begins with an export box tile, which holds a contract while it is in progress. A player must complete a contract to create a space for a new contract. Clan Buchanan receives an additional export box, which gives the player more flexibility, and allows them to potentially acquire contracts more cheaply.
The cotton, tobacco, and sugar cane tokens track the export contracts satisfied by the players. At the end of the game, the rarest type will be worth the most, and the most common type will be worth the least, something to keep in mind when deciding on a contract.
The market board is where merchants buy and sell goods. Prices go down as players sell to the market, because the supply goes up. If something is bought at the market, it becomes more expensive, because the supply goes down.
When a player expands to a spot next to another player’s piece, they may buy what that hex produces, if they have the necessary merchants available. This is known as the neighbourhood bonus. Timed well, this can be very helpful.
Where you build on the map also matters during the endgame scoring; players receive bonus points for their distinct but connected areas on the map. The other main endgame bonus relates to completing contracts. But buying another contract isn’t always the right answer. The cost in later rounds may be more than it’s worth, or more than you are able to pay. You may instead want to focus on the scoring tiles, especially if they relate to an area in which you are strong.
Comparing Clans of Caledonia
Clans of Caledonia has production, conversion of goods, and a market that changes with supply and demand. While it looks similar to other games with wooden sheep and cows, the shared board makes it play differently than when players each develop their own. You not only need to worry about someone taking the cheap hex that you have your eye on, but you also need to consider the endgame scoring for connected areas.
Your Clan tile gives you advantages and a direction, much like your starting hand of cards in Agricola. And you’ll harvest grain and other goods at the end of each round. But unlike Agricola, you don’t need to feed your workers or build structures for people or animals. The workers and animals are a self-contained unit when they are placed on the board.
Producing basic goods and then deciding whether to upgrade them, or slaughter the animals for meat, and fulfilling contracts, is similar to those parts of La Granja. La Granja is also similar in length and complexity.
The feel of Clans of Caledonia, especially building on a shared hex board, is also reminiscent of Roads & Boats, but unlike Roads & Boats, you don’t need to worry about transporting your goods.
Because of the changing Clans, contracts, and scoring tiles, Clans of Caledonia needs a different approach with each game, and from each player. What worked in your last game may not work in this game. If you enjoy puzzling out thinky economic strategy games, give Clans of Caledonia a try.