Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How I got my wife to play Caylus

Caylus is my second favorite game in my collection (behind only Agricola), and is currently the #10 ranked game on BGG.  It is a brilliantly designed game of pure strategy.  The only randomness is in the setup at the beginning of the game.  Once the game starts, how well you do depends solely on the choices you make. 

This has long been a game that Michelle would never play with me.....until tonight!  We just finished playing our first game of Caylus together.  How was I finally able to convince my wife to give this great game a shot?  To answer that, we have to go back in time nearly 5 years.............

Michelle and I were engaged in 2006, and in Sept 2006 she came to visit me in San Diego.  We had decided to pick out her engagement ring together, so we planned a day to go up to the LA Diamond District to find the perfect ring.  That morning, Michelle presented me with a gift.  I could tell by the size of the box what it was: board games!  Caylus and Thurn and Taxis, to be exact.  So she got a diamond ring, and I got board games.  Hmm.  Well, maybe it wasn't a fair exchange, but we both got something that we will love for years to come!
The night we got Michelle's ring, we came back and played Thurn and Taxis.  But I didn't bring out Caylus for Michelle to learn until over a year and a half later.  For our 1-year anniversary, we went up to Mount Laguna and stayed in a cabin for a few days.  Staying in a cabin with no TV allows for lots of gaming time, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to play Caylus.  So one afternoon, I set it all up and began explaining the rules. 

After I've played a game a few times and have learned the flow of it, I find it very easy to remember all the rules, especially for a game with intuitive gameplay.  Reading the rulebook 2 or 3 times probably helps too.  But when I go to teach a new player, I suddenly remember how overwhelming learning all those intricate rules can be.  As I was explaining the rules, I could see Michelle's eyes start to glaze over.  So we went over the essentials, and then got started, hoping that I could explain the rest as we went.  Unfortunately it turned out to be too much to absorb in one sitting, and Michelle gave up playing after a couple turns.  Disappointed, I packed up the game, and it sat on my shelf for 3 years.  My game collection grew and grew, and Caylus was soon at the bottom of the stack of newer games, many of which Michelle did like.  I never thought she would give Caylus a second chance...until...........
...I received a copy of Caylus Magna Carta in a trade.  This is a simplified, card-based version of Caylus.  I never had given it much thought before.  After all, I'd rather play the real thing rather than a watered-down version of it.  But then I remembered that Michelle really enjoyed playing San Juan, which led to her liking Puerto Rico.  So perhaps Magna Carta would pique her interest in Caylus again.
Michelle agreed to play Magna Carta, and we started by using the Beginner rule set.  This introduces the basics of how the game works.  It essentially plays the same as Caylus, but with much fewer options and more randomness.  She really enjoyed the first game we played (and won!), so the next time we played with the full rule set which has more direct player interaction.  Michelle won again!  And no, I was not letting her win.

Now that she understood the basics of how the game was played, she agreed to give the original Caylus a try again.  Again, I used a simplified rule set, which eliminates one of the more complex rules in the game.  This makes it much easier for a new player to understand the flow of the game before they have to worry about the deeper strategy.  This time, I won, but only by 3 points.  But, more importantly, Michelle understood the game, and enjoyed it!  Next week, we'll try playing Caylus with the complete rule set. 

Whenever I play Caylus, it reminds me of the day I bought Michelle's ring.  And now, it also reminds me how grateful I am to have a wife who is willing to learn and play complex board games with me.


  1. Awesome post my friend!!! Very cute indeed! :)

  2. Nice job Grant, all those board games have increased your strategic ability!!! Add in boardgames and beer... Nice work! P.S. Your wife is a hottie! hehe :)

  3. That is a good game, I enjoyed that one on game night a few months back.