After playing The Castles of Burgundy at a convention, I knew it was a game I wanted to buy. And finding out that there were alternate boards available, I also bought them, by ordering the issue of Spielbox magazine that they come in.
Since this is a small expansion for the game, I won't go into all the rules of the base game. I will just discuss the changes and new rules that these boards bring with them. For those wanting my thoughts on the base game, that review can be found at A Year With The Castles of Burgundy.
I have used these boards 5 times so far, each time being with a different layout.
The premise of the game doesn't change, you're still trying to build up your sprawling estate. These are simply some alternate layouts to use.
You get four double-sided boards in this set, pretty much identical in material and thickness to the originals. Whereas the original boards were labeled 1-9, these boards are all different, and labeled 10a-10h. They also have the Spielbox logo on them.
These boards can all be used with the normal rules, and just added in with the other boards if you would like. But they do include new placement rules for those that want to use them. If you are going to use the new rules, then make sure everyone is using them with these boards only. A player not using the new rules will be at a major advantage, and the original boards were not laid out in a way as to use the new rules.
When using the new placement rules, everyone gets a castle to start with and places it in one of their four castle locations as usual. From that point on, you can only build in sections (area of like-colored adjacent hexes) that are adjacent to that castle. This is very different from building in hexes adjacent to the castle or other built hexes. If a section is not adjacent to a built castle, then that section is off limits.
So in other words, when placing a tile, it must be either adjacent to a castle tile, or adjacent to a tile of the same color.
The only exception to this rule is for adding a new castle tile. A new castle tile can be added as usual, any tile next to it will open up the castle section. Once that castle is added, that opens up new sections to build into.
Because castles are so important now to the expansion of the board, there is one extra rule. Any castles that were removed from the board at the end of a previous phase, and this can be for castles with a dark green or black back, can be bought later. On a player's turn, they must give up 5 points and forfeit both actions in order to place a previous castle into their storage space. If there are no castles left over from a previous phase, this option is not available.
Other than that, taking tiles, selling, goods, and scoring are all the same as before.
The new placement rules make this a strategically tougher board to play on. With only limited sections to initially play in, you are limited on the tiles you can grab or buy, which makes workers even more valuable. This also increases the value of tiles that get or improve workers as well as the tiles that give +/-1 for taking or placement. And as mentioned before, it makes the castles extremely important as well.
With eight different layouts, they can't all be made equal, but seem pretty balanced overall. The one with the castles that all start next to each other in the middle is probably the easiest board to use, while the one with all four castles starting in a different corner is probably the hardest. But the other six are all pretty much equal. Picking the starting space that gives you the most options will be key.
I am going to rate this expansion when using the new placement rules and 8. It is definitely for experienced players, and is a nice change to the main game now and then, but it isn't something I want to permanently change to. It can get frustrating when you have very few tiles to place because you couldn't get a castle, and can't expand much, and you see dice being wasted. But I do like the challenge of it every once in a while.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, and check out my other reviews at A Year With My Games.