Caylus Magna Carta is the card game version of Caylus, the big hit from 2005. Caylus is a good game, but for some reasons it just didn’t work for me that well. One thing is definitely the length: 30 minutes per player is just too long.
Magna Carta definitely fixes that. By removing some of the elements from the board game (royal favours, for example) the game has been shortened to about 15 minutes per player and probably less with experienced players. There’s also some new interesting twists that make the game even more attractive than the original Caylus was.
First of all, there are cards. Instead of common pool of buildings, each player has a deck of cards. All decks have the same buildings. You start with three random buildings and can use money to draw more or discard and redraw your hand. That’s a good change — sometimes you might end up with bad luck and not have the building you need, but the deck is small and pretty easy to cycle through if necessary.
Otherwise the game’s like before: players take turns to build buildings, place workers in those buildings (which costs money) to get resource cubes, which are then used to build new buildings and the castle. The castle is slightly different and works now as the timing device: the game is over when the castle is done.
The tension is there: the resources run out, money is important and tight, you have to pass early to get a chance to earn a gold cube from the castle (the new reward for the best castle builder each turn) and so on. All the good stuff in Caylus is still there.
The only downside I can see is the lack of fifth player. For some reason (I’m guessing this was a handy number of cards to print and adding fifth player would’ve cost more) the game supports only two to four players. It works with the whole scale, I’d say, but if you’re looking for a five-player game, you’ll have to look elsewhere (well, it’s probably possible to hack, but still).
Since I rarely have five players playing, I don’t mind that. To me the shorter playing time that still offers pretty much the same amount of tension and tough decisions to make means that Caylus is now obsolete. Magna Carta is just so much better.