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Set in South America around 4500 years ago, Caral is a eurogame that celebrates this ancient civilisation's construction of pyramids; contemporary with but less widely known than those in Ancient Egypt. In this game, designed by Klaus-Jurgen Wrede - best known as the inventor of Carcassonne (Hans im Gluck) - the 2-4 players are master builders. You'll be placing out workers to quarry stone and construct pyramids. The pyramids will of course earn you 'fame' (victory points). You'll also be collecting resource cards, not least because you'll be asked to offer these as sacrifices to the gods at the end of each round - with fame going to the players making the most generous sacrifices and a point lost for any player who gives no offering to the gods.

Tho' the rules are not as clearly presented as they should be, Caral is a game that's not difficult to play. It incorporates some interesting mechanics. The first player controls an Architect meeple and can choose to move the Architect 0, 1 or 2 spaces. This gives them quite a lot of control over the pacing because players can only take actions at or ahead of the Architect's location: it's a limitation reminiscent of Caylus (Ystari Games). You end a round by getting to the end of the board's spiral track, and the first to reach the end becomes first player for the next round, so there's an incentive to race ahead. As players begin construction of their three- or five-stage pyramids, their locations slow movement, similar to the effect of buildings in Great Western Trail (eggertspiele), so players are increasingly likely to need to add alpacas to increase the distance they can move on their turn.

Aside from our gripe about the rules, Funtails have done a good job with the production of Caral, with art by Hendrik Noack and, most notably, the impressive stacking pyramids. There are tactical choices to be made about whether or not to force the pace of the game and on how much to focus on building and how much on nabbing and sacrificing cards, and Funtails have incorporated several optional expansion modules so that you can vary the game on subsequent replays.

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May 10

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