One of the most common themes in board games is building cities or special buildings within them. This usually happens in the context of a historical setting that is often quite interchangeable. In “Caral” by fun tails The players are transported back in time to around 2.500 years BC. to Peru. The fictional Carali live there in the city of Caral, which was discovered at the turn of the millennium, and build pyramids. The architect ensures that no one dawdles during construction. You can read how we liked the game and its modules in this review.
The city of Caral, discovered in Peru, is the oldest known city on the American continent. As early as around 2.500 years B.C. BC was settled there. The area is characterized by six pyramids, the largest of which has an edge length of around 150 meters.
Also the board game Caral is shaped by pyramids. As one of a maximum of four builders, the players run along a spiral path, collecting stones, harnessing alpacas, placing carali and accumulating sacrificial resources that they can also use for advantages in a round.
Easy entry into the basic game
As you would expect from Funtails, there are also Caral contain various modules that can change the accessible basic game in many ways. We will discuss what the individual modules offer in detail at the end of this article. First of all, let's talk about the basics of the game.
As the game progresses, the players load stones onto their transport sleighs, which are pulled by alpacas, and bring them to their building sites. In addition to the building sites, they move across four different action fields. The architect is always there. He scares the builders in front of him and blocks all actions behind him.
At the beginning of each round, the architect die is rolled and the architect moves the corresponding number of spaces. Then everyone carries out their movements and actions.
How far you are allowed to move (whether forward or backward) is determined by the number of alpacas in front of your transport sleigh. You can harness new alpacas to the sleigh on the corresponding action space.
You can also add steps using resource cards by discarding a card for each additional step. You can draw two new cards on the appropriate action space.
You collect stones in the quarries. How many is determined by the number of your own workers in the quarry. The transport carriage holds up to four stones. In addition to the quarry, there are two other ways to use your Carali. You can use them to reserve building sites or place them as priests on a finished five-tiered pyramid.
You deliver stones for new pyramid steps to your own building sites. Each new level costs one stone. If the space is only reserved and not yet built on, you decide with the first step whether the pyramid should have three or five steps when it is completed.
If a total of seven pyramids have been completed, the game ends at the end of the current round. As the game progresses, the central pyramid also grows as the pyramids are completed.
At the end of each round, triggered when a player reaches the center of the board, there is the Annual Ceremony. Here the players sacrifice resource cards. Whoever sacrificed the most cards receives points according to the level of the central pyramid. Everyone else who sacrificed at least one card gets one point. If you couldn't or didn't want to sacrifice any cards, you lose a point.
In addition to the annual ceremony, you can also discard the cards for their effects. Pairs of a resource card allow the use of the effect. This means you can carry out another movement, resolve actions twice or deliver more than one stone to the pyramids per round.
Pyramid construction under time pressure
Not only the architect, but also the other players ensure that you are constantly forced to use your actions as effectively as possible in the limited time of a year.
Once the seventh pyramid has been built and the central pyramid is completed, the game ends after the current round. Completed pyramids now give points. A small one gives five points and a large one gives ten points. Priests on the large five-tiered pyramids give another two points. Each unfinished pyramid scores one more point per level built. Whoever was able to collect the most points was the most successful builder.
Information about Caral
|Number of people: 2-4 people|
Age: from 12 years
Playing time: 60 to 90 minutes
Difficulty: expert game
Long-term motivation: good
Classification: Racing Game, Worker Movement
Game idea: Klaus-Jürgen Wrede
Illustrations: Hendrik Noack
Official Website: Link
Year of publication: 2022
Cost: Standard 60 euros; Deluxe 90 euros
The basic rules of Caral are convincing because they can be learned quickly, but still offer plenty of scope for important decisions during the game. The fact that the starting player often has a choice as to how far the architect is moved creates a variable element that can greatly influence your own plans.
Thematically, the game certainly won't win any awards for innovation. We have simply seen something similar too often. It doesn't get any more thematic because the game idea is based on a visit to the real Caral.
Since thematically not only historically correct content is used here, but also the fictional Carali people, the visual implementation appears much freer and more lively than with many other representatives of this topic. The resource cards in particular are really lovingly designed.
The visuals of the game also get better and better as the game progresses. The pyramids that emerge piece by piece allow you to visually experience the progress of the game without compromising clarity. It doesn't really make a difference whether you use the more subtle cardboard steps of the standard edition or the pyramid miniatures of the deluxe edition.
As is usual with Funtails, there is nothing wrong with the material. Beautifully crafted wooden components and sturdy cardboard tokens make the game feel well rounded. Only the inlay of the deluxe edition is a faulty production because not everything fits into the box and the lid cannot be closed properly.
The rules are very brief, but still explain everything important in such a way that no questions should actually be left unanswered.
The gameplay is characterized by the fact that you want to use your moves as effectively as possible in the individual rounds before someone triggers the annual ceremony or the architect has moved past the building sites and actions that you really wanted to use. The individual trains run quickly and there is no chance of boredom, even with three or four people.
There are different paths to victory. Depending on what the other players are planning, you can quickly move towards the end of the game with many three-tiered pyramids and leave the others with half-finished pyramids, or build the five-tiered pyramids instead, which earn more points. The annual ceremony also brings in some important points, especially as the game progresses.
The modules add new elements at different points in the game. Action locations can be changed, intermediate goals can be completed, the annual ceremony can be expanded or conflict points can be added.
Especially when playing with two people, some of the modules (Anaconda, Whim of the Gods) didn't work so well for us. With the emissary module, there is a risk that the game cannot be completed if you are not careful and both use their workers in quarries, on the emissary board or as priests and do not reserve enough building spaces. Once a person has finished all of their pyramids and runs out of workers, waiting for the last pyramid(s) to be completed becomes very sluggish. Although you could always rush forward and trigger the annual ceremony, this is not an attractive alternative for the fun of the game.
Overall, the game becomes more exciting and exciting (regardless of whether with or without modules) with three or four players and the (time) pressure to achieve the maximum in each individual move increases.
The different combinations of modules provide sufficient replay appeal. The expert level mentioned in the rules cannot be achieved through the modules, but you can still put together a really tough expert game here. With the many customization options Caral a game with a huge target group.
The modules at a glance
Which module or combination is best for a group is of course always very individual. We've played each of the modules (some just combined and some alone) and here we'll give a brief overview of what they add and how well they were received.
These cards contain goals that give bonus points to the person who achieves them first. If this module is used, five cards are randomly drawn and laid out face up. You fulfill their conditions, for example, if you first have four stones on the sleigh or have placed two priests.
This module's functionality is as classic as it is effective. It adds an exciting further race for conditions that can actually be combined with any other module.
If in the basic game a level of the central pyramid is only built when the second, fourth, sixth and seventh pyramids are completed, something also happens to this module when the other pyramids are completed.
Three progress tiles are randomly placed on the progress board. The person who completes the corresponding pyramid may place the progress tile on a suitable action space, thereby permanently changing this space. For example, in the quarry you can decide not to load any stones, but to build any pyramid level somewhere on the game board.
Both the placement and execution of the new actions offer more space for your own strategy. Together with the status cards and the emissary module, this module is one of our favorites.
The most extensive module in terms of rules, the emissary module offers new application options for carali and alpacas. If you fill the fields with all the required figures, you receive the one-time bonus and the emissary tile of the corresponding level. These tiles provide bonuses and usable actions. Since you can only own one tile at a time, you have to think carefully about which bonuses you want to own and when. Whoever works most successfully on the emissary board receives four extra points at the end of the game.
The possibilities and options that this module offers are particularly diverse. Depending on how you want to gain an advantage over your fellow players or how they act, other tiles are helpful.
One of two modules that influence the annual ceremony are the annual tiles. They specify a category that is scored after the resource cards are sacrificed. Whoever is in the lead here gets three points and the second person gets one more point. Whoever performs worst becomes the new starting player.
Like the status cards, the year tiles are a fairly classic element in their functionality and can be seen in the context of Caral but not as convincing as the status cards do. The status cards generate significantly more tension. A cleverly triggered annual ceremony can also be a good decision for the annual tiles.
whim of the gods
Finally, there are the two conflicting modules. Like the annual tile module, “Whims of the Gods” starts at the end of the round. If a minimum number of sacrificed cards has not been reached, the players who sacrificed the fewest or not the most cards suffer a penalty. For example, you can lose alpacas.
For our taste, this module doesn't fit the feel of the game as well as the modules with a "positive" influence do. In the right group with more than two people, this module can certainly work well when trying to deceive each other.
From the second round onwards, the starting player can place the anaconda on any action space. It blocks this field unless you want to pay additional costs in the form of an alpaca or a stone plus a victory point. If you pay these costs, you can move the anaconda.
The anaconda can be used very cleverly and significantly increase the annoyance factor in the game. On its own it seems a bit lost, but in combination with other modules, this little new element fits in nicely if the group would like to consciously play against each other.
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