Clans of Caledonia - First Impressions

Owner
Gameplay

My wife and I played our first game of #Clans of Caledonia on Sunday night! We started pretty late (around 10:30 pm) and finished around 12:30 am (including explaining the rules). We had fun but it sure made it a rough morning haha

Below are some of my thoughts. And as usual, I'm using @Skurvy5's "battery" format :)

(+) I like the cover. Very tranquil and I'd say it's the best I've seen from Klemens Franz. Please don't ask how I feel about the other ones :)

(+) I like the portability of small boxes, and Clans is definitely on the small side (8.8x12x2 in inches).

(-) BUT, it was the first time I've opened a box to see very little organization and zero insert. Well... #The Voyages of Marco Polo came with one of those  low quality (and already dented) strips of cardboard to use as dividers, but that wasn't much better either. Clans comes with the components divided among baggies of various sizes, and while I didn't mind it at first, I quickly realized how much time it adds to setup and cleanup (for a two player game, I had to open/close around 15 or so baggies for both of us. Is that reasonable?). Maybe it works for some people, but for me, an insert will be a must for this game. This would also make it my first time buying a custom insert. Keep in mind though, that I'm doing this because I see it getting lots of plays.

(+) Rule book is simple, short, and easy to follow. Despite the game's complexity rating of 3.43 on BGG, the rule book sure doesn't make you feel like you're climbing a mountain. The player aid is great for new players too, although you can quickly internalize the available actions after going through the first round. I had an easy time explaining the rules to Anna especially because the turn structure and several other elements are reminiscent of #The Voyages of Marco Polo.

(+) Modular board with 16 different configuration options and fun variable player powers to explore.  The clans' powers are all inspired by individual clans' actual historical background. Oh, and Clans comes with a 2 player variant that tightens up the map, which is great for increasing the amount of interaction. (By the way, I've heard that the designer has been working on an expansion which will add more clans, port tiles, terrain tiles, and more). It's too early to say, but I suspect Clans will be our most played game of 2020.

(+) Thematic ties - this goes with the previous comment about the ease of internalizing your available actions. The theme is knitted everywhere so you quickly reach a point where you'll never have to look at the player aid (which lists out 8 different actions you can take in a turn). I love thematic ties in games because it doesn't leave things abstracted but makes you feel the weight of your actions. Clans does this and I love how intuitive it is that placing a unit such as a "field" will produce wheat, but you'll also need to have a "bakery" on the map to process wheat into bread, or a "distillery" to process it into whiskey. And then there is... slaughtering a cow for some beef that my wife and I had fun saying out loud.

(+) Clans is a perfect example of "a lot of game in a small box". It's simple, yet so deep in a way that reminds me of #Root. I left the table thinking like I've barely scratched the surface in the games' numerous layers of strategy, and that to me is a winner. Whether it's going all in on your clan's benefits, hiring a bunch of merchants to take advantage of the dynamic market, expanding your units neighboring your opponent's to get bonus actions, etc, the game presents so many options to explore that don't just feel like a path for VP's, but still grounded in the theme.

TL;DR I love it! My wife liked it a lot too and based on our single play, she places Clans at #2 just below Viticulture. For one of our future podcast episodes, I'd love to do a segment talking about my wife's top games! :)

Like| 43 comments | report | subscribe

Please log in or make an account to post a comment.

Supporter9 months ago

Awesome!  Glad you liked it.  Too bad ya'll don't live in Colorado, maybe we could rope my wife in haha.  We seem to have a lot of the same likes in games.

I almost was going to mention using the city tiles because I didn't see it in the picture, but then I saw you commented.

Are you surprised at all that I really enjoy this game?  Because I am a little bit.

Owner9 months ago

That's true lol. Viticulture, Root, Clans, and I'm sure Scythe, all great games for 4 players! That would be really fun. 

City tiles? Did you mean clan tiles?

Hmmm.. not too surprising actually. Clans seems to have a decent amount of player interaction (I imagine especially with 4 players) and also has a very tranquil vibe. I think I would've been surprised more if I didn't know you like Viticulture. What do you think is the most surprising part that you like Clans? :D

Supporter9 months ago

If you flip the port tiles over they have a city on the back.  You're supposed to lay them out on certain hexes (not sure which ones), in a two player game to make the space more congested.

Owner9 months ago

I actually didn't realize that until you mentioned it and I checked the rules! What I was referring to in terms of tightening the map for 2p was how it restricts you from expanding into tiles beyond the "shaded" borders + how the placement of the 4 port tiles are placed more inland. I guess we'll try out placing the additional 4 city tiles next time.

Supporter9 months ago

The fact that there is no direct player interaction and the indirect player interaction is very low.  It's not quite multiplayer solitaire but it's as close as I've come in a game I enjoy.

Owner9 months ago

I was curious whether you'd consider it low or okay-ish in its level of interaction. Personally, I find the numerous indirect player interactions in Clans sums up to be about at the same level of Viticulture's single method of direct (or... high high indirect??) player interaction. Games like Wingspan, while also satisfying, would be one of the lowest tiers for me in terms of player interaction. I also got the impression that the market seems to have the most potential to impact other players, especially in a 4 player game.

I do agree that it has a multiplayer solitaire feel but like you mentioned, this game just "works" for us too :)

I wonder if any future expansions might introduce new types of terrain tiles or workers that may introduce opportunities for direct player interaction.

Edit: I forgot to ask, do you happen to have a favorite Clan?

Supporter9 months ago

I have feeling that Agricola would give you some similar feelings with interaction. 

Owner9 months ago

That'd be great. Agricola seems like a gem that I really need to get to at some point :D

Supporter9 months ago

It's a $100 of game design in a $45 package. 

Owner9 months ago

I can believe that. Hopefully I'll catch a deal for even cheaper :)

Supporter9 months ago

I hope so too. 

9 months ago

Dude that sounds like a great time, and only 2 hours! That seems surprising for a game that weight and the first play through! Am I correct in saying this game sounds a bit like Agricola?

Owner9 months ago

I'm pretty sure our future plays will clock in around 1.5 hours. And that's a great sweet spot especially for a very satisfying gameplay! As for Agricola, I can't say since I haven't played, but from what I know of it, it's probably quite different since I don't think it has a market or contracts, and is card driven. I'm sure @indigopotter can fill us in since Agricola and Clans are among her top games! I've actually been on the look out to get Agricola from second hand markets :)

9 months ago

You need to get it! It really is an incredible game. I think it was almost a gateway game to heavy games for me haha either that or Caverna... 

Supporter9 months ago

@Sliddell11 One of the differences I see between Agricola and Clans of Caledonia is that in Agricola, you need to build places for your people and animals to live, and create the fields for your crops. In Clans of Caledonia, everything is self-contained. When you put grain on a spot, it will create grain in future rounds. If you put an animal on a spot, it will stay there without fences or a barn. You don't need resources to develop the board (wood to build things). Where you need to pay attention to resources is in satisfying the contract tiles (and as points). 

Another difference is that in Clans of Caledonia, you're sharing a board (someone can take the spot you want, and there's an end-game VP award for most connected different areas you've built), whereas in Agricola, you have your own board and no one can interfere on it. In Clans of Caledonia, you can build next to someone and buy what that spot produces, for a discount, if you have market people available.

Both have a good amount of variety in setup and good replay value.

9 months ago

That is super helpful! Thanks! This will for sure be on my wishlist👍🏻

Owner9 months ago

That sounds incredibly awesome and stressful at the same time (especially for new players) haha

9 months ago

Clans or Agricola?! Haha 

Owner9 months ago

Agricola, just imagining trying to keep them all healthy and alive xD

9 months ago

Thanks for the review and this was quite Helpful.  I have this game on my wishlist but wasn't sure how much I would like it.  

Owner9 months ago

Glad it helped, let me know if you have any questions. @sdirrane got me interested in this game and it was on my wishlist for a while. My only concern was whether it might be too heavy for us but it helped a lot that I got #The Voyages of Marco Polo first.

Supporter9 months ago

Great. I'm so glad you liked it. 

Owner9 months ago

Thanks! Hope to get in a solo session this week haha. I also read that the designer is working on an expansion with more content, including a more robust solo mode that's less about getting high scores but more automa-like (last update mentioned it could possibly come out Autumn of 2020).

Supporter9 months ago

Your poor wallet. 

Owner9 months ago

Yours too, right? Or not yet? xD

I'll have to think about the expansion. Will probably wait and see until a year from now to see if it's worth it haha

Supporter9 months ago

Not yet. 

Supporter9 months ago

Sounds absolutely fantastic! I’m glad you guys had such a great time. 

Your review just makes me want this game more  

I’ve heard that the box size is abysmal with this game. And that it’s really hard to fit everything back inside. 

Owner9 months ago

Thanks! I'm glad that we got to this one. Pretty sure we'll be giving it lots of plays this year and it'll help me not to look at buying more games. The music from melodice complemented our session nicely too without being obnoxious haha

I personally had zero trouble fitting everything into the box. Now, I don't have a shelf for games yet so I don't know it would impact people who store games vertically. So for me, it was less of a space issue but more of organization. You have to zip through so many baggies for setup/cleanup so an insert seems like a must so that the game will get to the table more often.

Supporter9 months ago

So, you hear it is too small? 

Supporter9 months ago

Yes, every review I’ve read has mentioned that the box is too small.