One of the biggest pieces of information to come out of the survey we conducted a few months ago was the fact that quite a few of our customers are interested in traditional roleplaying games (RPGs), which we haven’t been carrying many of up to this point. In order to fill this gap, we’ve brought in a bunch of books from a number of roleplay systems and created a new RPG Category on the main site.
The following items are currently available for order, with the majority in-stock and ready to ship immediately:
This current set of products is meant to serve as a starting point for what will hopefully be a substantial RPG section, and we expect our product list to grow and change to meet our customer’s interests. If there’s a particular book or RPG system that you’d like us to stock, please contact us and we’ll bring it in if we can.
In an effort to make room for some of the exciting new stock we have coming in, and to showcase some good games that have not gotten the attention they deserve, Starlit will be holding a small weekly sale every Wednesday!
Each week, we’ll be singling out a few games and marking them down dramatically. They will be available at the deeply discounted price until the following Wednesday (or until stock runs out), at which point any leftover stock will return to its original pricing. We’ve also adjusted how reward points apply to these items, so customers enrolled in our Citadel Citizens Points Reward Program will be able to save even more by spending just a few points.
We’ve added a new “Weekly Sales” button to the website front page and a Wednesday Sale category to make navigation easier, and will be posting sale updates to the blog each week.
Make sure to check out our first batch of sale games, available at a special price until next Wednesday, October 5th:
In Caylus, you and your opponents play the roles of builders who are tasked with building a village and castle for King Philip the Fair in the year 1289. Caylus is a fairly heavy strategy game that revolves around a worker-placement mechanic. Resource-management is also a very important part of the game. Not a game for beginners to European-style board gaming – there is virtually no luck involved, accommodates 2-5 players, and games often run between 1.5 and 2.5 hours.
Appearance: This is a tricky subject, because there are actually two main versions of this game. In the original (blue box) version of the game, the board/tile art is merely average, and the coins are cardboard tokens. In the limited edition (black box) version of the game, the art is spectacular, the colours are beautiful – albeit dark – and the metal coins are a pleasure to handle. The limited edition also comes with nice cloth/felt bags for the wooden player tokens, building tiles and resources, and coins.
Rules/Ease of Learning: As I mentioned in the introduction, Caylus is not a game for beginners. There is a lot to keep track of in this game, and it can be frustrating for new players to fall behind in the early game and stay there for two hours. That being said, the rules are not terribly complex – there are just a lot of them.
The game is played over a number of rounds (averaging around 15), with seven phases per round. Players receive income to fund their worker placements in the following phase. Workers are placed along a winding track, populated with six squares that are printed on the board, six pink tiles that are randomly distributed, and a number of blank squares that are filled when the players purchase building tiles.
Each square has an action associated with it – some produce resources (wood, stone, food, cloth, gold) or money, some change turn order, some allow you to build new tiles to place along the track. Each round, players may pay to move a ‘provost’ marker that may prevent some tiles from activating at all. Players may also acquire royal favours that allow them to advance along one of four reward tracks (victory points, money, resources, or building).
Additionally, players may place workers alongside King Philip’s castle, in order to contribute to the construction of the castle dungeon, walls, and towers. Victory points are primarily scored for purchasing building tiles and building sections of the castle. The game ends when the ‘bailiff’ marker (a companion to the ‘provost’) reaches a particular square near the end of the building track.
Gameplay: Though the rules are rather complex, it is the strategy and resource juggling that makes Caylus so difficult. Deciding when you should purchase a new building, when you should build castle pieces, and when you should just take a turn to replenish your resources and money can be a headache. You may sometimes have to decide between placing a worker on a tile that benefits you and placing a worker on a tile just to prevent an opponent from reaping its benefits.
Like some other moderate- to advanced-complexity worker-placement games (Dungeon Lords, Egizia), Caylus can be quite frustrating when you make a mistake. Building tiles execute in order, and it is possibly – even likely – that you will forget that at least once in your first few games, resulting in you wasting a worker because you don’t yet have the cloth you need to joust, or the food you need to build a castle piece. However, since the game is played over more than a dozen rounds, making a mistake like this isn’t quite as devastating as in some other games.
One thing worth mentioning is that individual players’ turns are relatively short in Caylus. Since there is a worker placement phase every round, and each player may potentially place up to six workers, this is important. In my personal experience – even when playing with players who usually take a long time analyzing their moves – the phases move relatively quickly, and players will rarely find themselves waiting a significant time before it is their move once more.
It will certainly take a few games to get the hang of Caylus, but it’s well worth the effort. Gamers who have played several resource-management or worker-placement games should be able to figure things out with a minimal amount of difficulty. With no dice or cards, the only random element in Caylus is the initial six pink tiles – and the order of those tiles does modify the gameplay a fair amount.
Conclusion: Caylus is certainly one of my personal favourites. The almost nonexistent luck element and the moderate degree of competition (as players vie for turn order and choice worker placements) combine to make a game that is quite fun overall. The game works best with four players, though it plays fairly well with three or five as well. If you’re looking for a deep strategy game that will keep you and your friends busy for a few hours, Caylus is a good bet.
In this hobby, German-style games often fall under two broad categories: the complex games for serious hobbyists, and the light, fast and fun games made for families and more social gaming groups. Occasionally, a Eurogame comes out that defies easy categorization. 7 Wonders is neither a typical “gamer’s game” nor a “gateway game”. It is best described as a “filler for gamers”, and is perhaps the best of this small genre.
7 Wonders comes with three decks of large cards, seven double-sided player boards (each depicting one of the wonders of the ancient world), a scoring pad, and cardboard tokens representing coins and the victory points you may acquire during play. Each player chooses (or is given randomly) one side of one of the player boards, and receives three coins to start. The game takes place over three rounds, with a different deck shuffled and distributed evenly to all players at the start of each round.
Each card will grant you a benefit if played, either immediately or at the end of the game, and most have requirements, in the form of resources or previously played cards. Players will choose one card and place the remainder on the table next to their neighbours; when all players have done so, they each simultaneously reveal the card they’ve selected and decide what they would like to do with it:
They may play the card face-up to their play area, if they meet the requirements of the card, and get the card’s benefit for future turns.
They may play the card face-down to their play area to help build their Wonder, if they meet the requirements of that stage of construction.
They may discard the card and gain 3 coins.
If a card is played and the resource requirements cannot be met, the player may give money (which cannot be refused) to a neighbour in exchange for a one-time use of that player’s resources. Otherwise the card must be discarded for money.
Players then pick up the cards placed next to them by their other neighbour, and play continues, but now each player has a new set of cards to choose from. Players continue to choose cards and pass to their neighbours until players are down to one card each, which is discarded unplayed. This is the completion of one round; a full game consists of three rounds, each using a deck of cards with progressively increased benefits and requirements. A full three
rounds will take between 30 and 50 minutes, depending on player experience.
There are many different benefits that can be obtained from the cards. Brown and grey Resource cards help you meet the requirements of cards played later, and may be a source of money if your neighbours need that resource. Yellow Commerce cards often award money or grant discounts for the purchase of neighbours’ resources. Blue Civic cards
directly score you points at the end of the game. Green Science cards display one of three symbols and score you points if you can complete sets. Red Military cards increase your military strength, which you compare with your left and right neighbours at the end of each round — the player with a larger military will take points away from a
neighbour whose military is smaller. Purple Guild cards will score large bonuses based on a variety of endgame situations. As well, the successful completion of each of the two-to-four stages of your Wonder will also grant points or a unique way to break the normal rules of the game to your benefit.
For such a short game, there are seemingly many paths to victory. The key to success is to watch what the players to your immediate left and right are doing, so you can deny them the cards they need and so you can stake out a non-competing path to collecting victory points. For example, if the player to your left is collecting green Science cards, you will likely want to keep from passing him the cards he needs to score big points — but what do you do with these cards? You can build them yourself, but the player to your right may deny you the cards you need to make this a winning strategy for you. The direction that cards are passed around the table changes each round, complicating matters.
Even in such a short game, it is possible to change strategies mid-game, and in fact this may be necessary. If your neighbour builds up his military, do you follow suit? To not do so means he will take your points easily each round — but trying to prevent this can quickly lead to an arms race in which both of you waste precious turns. So at some point, you should give in, let the player take points from you, and concentrate on getting points by other means. Deciding when you’ve reached that point, however, is not trivial.
While experienced gamers will welcome the different paths to victory, they would be wrong to conclude this is a very deep game. I would suggest the game has breadth, not depth — it is difficult to strategize, as your play turn-to-turn is subject to the wildly varied cards you are given — but this does mean that there is a large tactical game space to explore, and trying different combinations can be great fun. Like Dominion, the game is also easily expandable to increase the breadth and tactical possibilities even further; in fact, the first expansion, Leaders, is available now.
The game is easy to teach… to a gamer; however, it can be hard for a beginner to work through. There’s a lot to take in, and it’s difficult to explain the language-independent pictographs on the cards during play because turns are simultaneous and much information is hidden. For people who have played many medium-weight German-style games (think Stone Age and that level of complexity), learning should not be difficult at all, and once learned, the game flows extremely quickly. It works great as an end-of-night closer.
The only real gameplay drawbacks for hobbyists are its limited depth and that there is no interaction at all with players beyond your immediate left and right. So for any player count greater than three, there are going to be opponents whose success you will not be able to meaningfully affect, which might be slightly frustrating for players used to greater control. Also note that card quality is disappointing and does not hold up well over repeated plays — expect to replace your copy before too long if it proves popular in your group.
However, this could be the best “filler for gamers” ever published. Few German-style games play up to seven people within thirty minutes and yet be thoroughly engaging, with important decisions to be made at every moment. The game scales amazingly well over the entire player range (ignoring the clumsy two-player variant) and is a surprisingly unique filler enjoyable for hobbyists of all experience levels beyond novice. As such, this game is strongly recommended for game enthusiasts. Your game group needs a copy of this.
There recently has been a highly contentious thread on BGG on Return Policies for Online Game Stores. I am not going to discuss the other store’s policies, though we thought we’d clarify our own thoughts on the matter and bring up a question that has been on our mind.
For those of you who haven’t read our Return Policy; it’s out of the norm it seems for the online game store industry. I’ve rewritten it slightly to clarify some points that were clear in my mind but wasn’t so in the policy itself.
It seems that online game stores either provide returns 14 days from time of order (i.e. the count starts the moment you order) or when an order is received (after shipping). The vast majority who do pre-orders do returns from 14 days from time of order; due to the potential concern it seems about returns for ‘older’ items held on the order.
I can actually see the reasoning behind that; but we’ve yet to have a customer ‘take advantage’ of our return policy in that way so far. If anything has ‘cost’ us; it’s our willingness to take returns for opened products. So far at least, we’re happy with our return policy as is and we’ll be keeping it as it is.
So let’s discuss pre-orders. We like pre-orders; in fact, we go out of our way to encourage customers to make pre-orders by providing more points for pre-orders and creating a new section for them. We’re in the process of putting together a blog list of pre-order release dates as well since it’s one of the major requests.
Why do we like pre-orders?
Indication of customer interest
Actually; that’s it. Knowing what games are of interest to our customers helps us not order too many ‘dead’ games; which makes a big difference really.
There’s some talk of game stores ‘getting’ the capital beforehand – but we don’t charge orders till we ship them generally. We allow for the possibility for this; but we generally don’t take advantage of it.
Which does bring us to a potential problem. We currently take pre-orders, do not charge the orders till they ship, and then take returns on these orders up until 14 days after receipt. There are two issues here:
products ‘on-hold’; uncharged for months (in some cases like Catacombs, nearly a year!) that might actually be returned
inconsistent policies – due to the way PayPal functions, we can’t ‘hold’ an authorisation for very long and must charge the card immediately. So some customers get charged and others don’t.
Which leads us to something we’ve been considering for a while – switching to charging all orders immediately to make it more consistent.
Why haven’t we?
potential customer dissatisfaction; though some indications are there that customers don’t even realise our policies of not charging or care
additional charges for cancelled orders and the need to refund customers
Of course, we could do it the way other online game stores do it; consider a sale final after 14 days of the order. On the other hand, that brings its own host of issues including a counter-intuitive returns policy. So what do you all think?