Clans of Caledonia

We already had many worker placement board games, but of course there is always room for more! Many people have recommended Clans of Caledonia as one of the best board games for two players, so we had to find out for ourselves. The unboxing was already a big part of the fun since the game has very cute mini cows, sheep, mini workers and even mini distillery barrels. This worker placement is also combined with a map that you can randomly place every time, so we are definitely off to a good start.

How to Play.

For the set up, take the four map modules and place them with a random face up on the table with the letters in the middle in alphabetical order. Then shuffle the port bonus tiles and place one adjacent from each factory in the corners of the map. Place the market board with the price markers on the starting places and place each type of good tokens below the market. Then place the export board, shuffle the scoring tiles and place five randomly on the designated places. Also put a contract face up on each box and place the remaining contracts next to the export board facedown. The import tokens can be placed in the right upper corner of the export board as well as a glory token from each player.
Also take a player board and all the game tokens of one color. Place all the recourses on your player board, fill the merchant track with cubes and place the shipping token on the beginning of the shipping track. Also take two technology cards flipped to the side with the arrow and place it below your workers, then take one export box. Lastly randomly take a clan out of one more clan tile then players and see what starting resources you may take and what power you have, like getting discount on goods or land for example. Before you begin the game, each player places on worker on the map and pay the cost, repeat this until each player has placed two workers. The rulebook also has a detailed explanation of each step with clear pictures.

Clans of Caledonia is played in five rounds and four phases per round. The first phase is the preparation phase. Here you will flip the previous round scoring tile face down and refill any empty boxes on the export box if needed. Also any used merchants will be retrieved so a new round can start fresh. This phase will be skipped in the first round since there is nothing to refresh yet. Then you can continue to the action phase. Each player will take one action per turn, then the next player takes on action, this will continue until all players have passed. In the action phase you can trade with your merchants. You start the game with two merchants, but can buy more later. If you want to trade, simply deploy your merchant to the market where you can buy or sell one product per merchant for the price the marker is on. If you sell a resource, the price of that good will go down. If you buy a resource however, the price will go up. You can also obtain an export contract from the export board. Each round, the price to take a contract will increase, but completing a contract will always give you rewards, such as money, upgrades or victory points for example. To fulfill a contract, simply provide all the goods shown on the contract. If the contract shows meat, you can sacrifice a cow or sheep for slaughter in order to obtain the meat. Note that this will give you less wool or milk in the production phase. If the contract rewards show cotton, tobacco or sugar, move these resources the indicated amount of steps on the glory track. You gain every money reward you pass.

You can also expand if you place one of your resources on your player board on the map. A resource can only be placed to a tile adjacent from your already existing clan on the board. If you want to place a unit, like a cow, bakery or worker for example, you not only have to pay the price to place the unit (shown above the unit on your player board), but you also have to pay the price for the land (shown on the tile). A miner always has to be placed on a mountain where a woodcutter is always placed on trees. If you expand next to another player’s unit, you may immediately perform another trade action buying the products from the neighboring tiles. Basic goods will then have a discount of two pound and processed goods will have a discount of three. Other then expanding, you can upgrade your shipping for four pound so you can cross rivers to build and later even lochs. Or upgrade your technology which can give you more money during the production phase produced by your workers. If you expand next to a neighboring port tile, you may use the port bonus for free. This can give you goods or money for example. You can use each port tile one time in the game. If there is nothing else you can do, you may pass.

Once all players have passed, you move onto the production phase. Here you will get resources for each deployed unit from your player board. For every sheep you have placed on the map, you get one wool for example, while the workers will give you money. You can also choose to turn grain into bread if you have a bakery deployed for example. The rulebook shows in detail what you can receive for each deployed unit.
When each player has received their income and goods, it’s time for the scoring phase. Here you take a look at the scoring tile from the current turn. If you have fulfilled it’s requirement (shown in the top half), you can move your glory token on the glory track. Each scoring tile has a different scoring and objective, they are to be found in the rulebook.

After the scoring phase, the next round starts again with the preparation phase, refreshing contracts if needed, retrieving your merchants from the market and by flipping the scoring tile from the previous round. If all the scoring tiles have been flipped, the game ends and the final scoring begins. You get one victory point for each step you have made on the glory track, one point for each basic good and two for each processed good in your stock. Also one point for every ten pounds you have left and one point for every hops you have collected on export contracts. Then take a look at the cotton, tobacco and sugar you have collected, but also where they stand on the track. The import token that was moved the furthest, will give three points per token collected, the next one four points per token collected and the most rare one five points per collected token from that resource. This will be random each game. The player who has the most fulfilled contracts gains twelve points in a three to four player game and the second player will gain six points. In a two player game, the player who has the most fulfilled contracts gains eight points. the player with the most settlements (a cluster of neighboring units of one color with no river in between), will gain in a three to four player game 18 points, the second player 12 points and the third player 6 points. In a two player game, the player with the most settlements gains twelve points. The player who has the most victory points after the final scoring, is the winner.

Playthrough of the game.

The fun started straight at the beginning of this game since we both had completely different clans with different playstyles. I had the Cunningham clan which provided me with the ability to discard milk for the highest price possible at the end of the production phase. This caused me to focus on deploying as many cows as possible as early as possible in the game and also to buy more milk from the market when the price was right. Since deploying units is expensive and the land you want to place them in to, this skill definitely came in handy! Tomasz however had clan MacEwan. This clan centers around beer for which you need hops and grain. Tomasz could discard grain for nine pound each time he fulfilled a contract with hops on it. This made him focus on completing more contracts and thus gaining more supplies to complete them. Even though we played very different during the entire game, the end results were very close. I won in the end with only three points difference in our first playtrough, but it was hard to tell who would win and the tension was there until the very end.

We are very happy so many people recommended this game as it turns out it is definitely as good as they say. The components are amazing quality and with every deployed unit the map gets even more lively and colorful. There is a lot of diversity and replayability since the clans will always be different, as well as the scoring tiles, contracts and port tiles. But there is also so much depth to this game and so many different ways to win. You can focus on the scoring tiles and try to achieve all the goals for the most points in the end, you can try to reach the port tiles and use their free bonuses, you could expand you territory blocking your opponents from deploying units, or you can use and influence the market. The market adds a fun economic vibe to the game as the prices of the goods always shift. Tomasz was sometimes buying milk on purpose so it would be more expensive for me to buy it for example. But also the contracts can provide many different rewards.

Final thoughts.

Clans of Caledonia is a strategic, economic, worker placement game that has a lot of depth and many different ways to win. With a lot of clans that have their own abilities to choose from, random different contracts and scoring tiles, this game will be different every time. The components of this game have a very good quality and the more you expand your territory, the more you will brighten up your table. We are very happy to have this game in our collection.

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