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Subject: The Gamer Nerd Review: The Castles of Burgundy rss

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Nicolas Shayko
United States
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The Castles of Burgundy is a medium heavy strategic eurogame for 2–4 players designed by Stefan Feld and, unlike most Eurogames, it has a fair amount of die rolling. Someone familiar with designer Feld knows the model of his games: there is a number of different ways to score victory points and at the end of the game whoever best optimized scoring those victory points throughout the entire game will win, usually by a narrow margin.

The Components

The Castles of Burgundy is produced by Alea games and the components are practical but nothing amazing. Each player has a board which is made of a light cardboard material which I would prefer to see as a thicker cardstock. Each player board has one side that is standard to all players while the other side has unique layouts to play. The board where all the tiles are placed is a little thicker than the player boards but not much so. There are a number of tiles which are taken from the center board and added to the player board; these are thin cardboard, but thick enough not to bend and they work just fine.

CastlesofBurgundy_bitsThe other bits in the game are two wooden disks of each player’s color, one for the scoring track and the other for the turn order track. Each player gets two dice in their player color. The other bits are bonus point markers and a piece to indicate if a player went above 100 or 200 on the scoring track that goes around the board.

The whole feel of the game is boring eurogame. If someone is looking for a thematic experience, do not look to The Castles of Burgundy. The game feels like an optimization game and the components and art in the game itself show that. Some people might say that this game should have better artwork, but I disagree, it is boring and simple but fits the game perfectly. It is clear to me that this is a Stefan Feld game by just looking at the board and components.

The Gameplay

The Castles of Burgundy lasts a total of twenty-five turns, and is broken down further into sections of five turns each, for a total of five rounds. The general idea of the game is to acquire tiles from the center board and then place them on a player board, which represents a section of town that each player controls. Each turn, every player rolls two six-sided dice. Those two dice indicate the two actions that a player can take of the four actions that can be taken.

The first action is to take a tile from the center board. The center board is divided up into six sections, and each section is labeled 1–6. A player can take any single tile inside of the box corresponding with the numbers rolled. The tiles each represent a different part of town. I won’t get into what all the tiles do, but they all have different benefits. Some give straight victory points, others give an immediate one-time benefit and yet others a benefit for the remainder of the game.

CastlesofBurgundy_tilesThe benefits of those tiles do not happen when taken from the center board but rather when placed in the town, which is the 2nd possible action. Each block of land where a tile could possibly be played has a number on it and the correct tile can only be placed there when a corresponding die roll occurs and is bordered by a tile already placed.

The 3rd action which can be taken is to ship goods. This action nets victory points and, without going into too much detail here, goods are acquired when ship tiles are placed in the town. The 4th action is to take no action with a die, by which one can get two workers. Each worker allows any subsequent die roll by +1 or -1.

Thus the general flow of the game is that all players roll their dice simultaneously and, in turn order, take their two actions. After all players have taken their actions, everyone rolls again and repeats the whole process. Every five turns the board is cleared and restocked so new tiles can be acquired. The arc of the game is this growing town of tiles taken from the center board and placed on the player board.

The Strategy

The Castles of Burgundy is a game where you want to have flexibility. Being in a position where you need a certain number is a bad position to be in. The yellow tiles are the knowledge tiles and the order that those come out in is important and you need to work within that framework. Like many Eurogames, there is not much player interaction in The Castles of Burgundy. The only interaction comes from one player taking a tile that another player desired. Thus, like many Eurogames, a strategy of doing what the other players aren’t doing is crucial. There is a bonus to being the 1st player to fill up every spot on the board of a given type of tile, so doing what other players don’t do helps here too.

My Thoughts

I love The Castles of Burgundy. I wrote an article on TheGamerNerd late last year and labeled it the top game made since 2010. This game is a classic Stefan Feld game and if you like games all about finding the best way to score victory points, you need to play this one for sure. I like it the most of all the Feld games I have played, which are: Macao, Notre Dame, and Trajan.

The game is for 2–4 players and scales perfectly. The game can be played at a fairly brisk pace as long as a serious analysis paralysis player is not at the table. Often players will know exactly what they want to do when it’s their turn and are only slowed down if another player takes a tile they wanted. The randomness factor in the game comes from the dice and the order the buildings that come out. The workers really help that game and mitigate bad die rolling.

So, if you like Eurogames, play The Castles of Burgundy. If you have played a more medium weight game like Stone Age or Alhambra, this one may be the next step for you. Kudos to this achievement by Stefan Feld.

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Adam Harvey
United States
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Excellent review. My sole complaint with this game is the heavily unfriendly colors. Being colorblind I have to embarrass myself over and over messing up light/lighter greens. What an excellent game.
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