Clans of Caledonia - First Impressions
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! :)