Recommend
6 
 Thumb up
 Hide
9 Posts

Castles» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Castles: A Fast and Easy Game of Kingdom Building (a review) rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
David McMillan
United States
Madison
Tennessee
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
It is the Middle Ages... a time of nobles and lords and ladies... a time of war and strife... a time of exploration and enlightenment. It is a time of wizards and magick and high fantasy. It is a time of castles. In the game of Castles, two players go head to head in an effort to be the first to complete their castle. But, only one castle can survive! Will it be yours?

Castles is a very casual card game for two people and uses a card drawing and card placement mechanic in order to facilitate this struggle. There are various ways to interrupt your opponent’s plans and hopefully slow them down enough to allow you to soar into the lead and win. Your opponents, however, will be trying to do the same thing to you, so there is a fine balance each player will have to find between attacking, defending, and knowing when to simply not do anything at all.

Before I get too much further with this review, I would like to take a moment to thank Dan Zimmer at AAIIEEE! for donating the beta review copy of this game that this review is based upon to my gaming group. Dan has been super helpful and has answered my many, many questions. That being said, AAIIEEE! has not influenced this review in any way and rest assured that, if this game is terrible, I will tell you so.

COMPONENTS

As I understand it, the final game will come packaged in a pretty nice looking box (which you can see at Castles’s KickStarter page here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/aaiieee/castles-a-card-g.... The beta copy that I received, however, was just the cards. I am not qualified to comment on the packaging itself, but I can comment about the cards.

The first thing that I noticed about the cards (aside from there being 168 of them) was that the cards are incredibly tiny. While this makes it easier to quickly flip and place cards and while it certainly wastes less tabletop space, the card size makes it incredibly difficult to shuffle them. I usually have to wind up shuffling tiny little piles and then stacking them all together (my wife prefers the ‘kid shuffling’ method of placing them all on the table and then maniacally scooting them all around into a huge cardsy mess).

The second thing that I noticed was the illustrations. Each card is designed to look like a medieval wood block print. Not only do they look awesome, but the illustrations really help to set the mood. In these kinds of reviews, people do not typically talk about the backs of the cards, but even the backs of these cards looks amazing. From the layout and graphic design of the rulebook to the look of the cards, you wll find yourself instantly immersed in a fantasy world of kings and wizards.

SET UP

Setting up a game of Castles is perhaps one of the easiest set ups for any game that I have ever played. The deck is shuffled and placed face down on the table. Then each player draws a card. The person who drew the highest value goes first. Those cards then become the first cards of each player’s kingdom. If the players tie, they keep the cards that they have already drawn and they draw again. This process is repeated until someone draws the higher value and that person will go first.

TURN SEQUENCE

Each player has one of several options that they can do on their turns. Once their one action has been taken, their turn is over and play passes to the other player. Each of the following actions will be explained in detail later. The various options are:

- Draw a card
- Move a card
- Wage War
- Use a wizard’s ability

DRAWING A CARD AND BLOCKING

Drawing a card is just what it sounds like. The active player draws the top card from the deck and then they may place this card into a legal spot of their kingdom. If there is already a card in the legal spot, then the new card is placed on top of the old card. This becomes important later on. If there is no legal spot, the card is discarded and their turn is wasted (more on this shortly).

Additionally, an opponent may declare that they are blocking before the active player’s draw. That blocking power will be for a specific amount and, if the card drawn is less than that blocking amount, the drawn card is discarded. If the drawn card is equal to the blocking amount, then the blockers are discarded along with the drawn card. If the drawn card exceeds the blocking amount, then all of the blockers are discarded.

There are certain rules in place about declaring blockers. The first rule is that, in order to block in the pre-castle phase (this is, before you have placed a Castle into play), you may only block with your Champions or your Minions. You cannot combine the might of these together into an unstoppable force. You must choose a single column of minions or your military column to block with. To determine the total blocking amount you will add up the value of your Minions plus the top Magicks card that is attached to that Minion (if you have decided to use the Magicks card) OR if you went the military route instead, you would add up the value of your Champion with the Arms card that you have attached to him (if you choose to block with both).

For example, let’s pretend that we have a Minion with a value of 10 and attached to him is a Magicks with a value of 5. We would declare that we are "blocking 15". If our opponent draws a card with a value that is lower than 15, then their draw was successfully blocked and they must then discard that card. If the card they drew was equal to or greater than 15, however, we would lose both of the cards that were involved in the blocking attempt. The price for failing a blocking attempt becomes a bit more complicated once a player has placed a castle into play and we will get to that shortly as well.

OBJECTIVE, CARD PLACEMENT, and DANGLERS

In order to win a game of Castles, a player must be the first to complete their castle in a very specific layout. As each player draws cards, the layout goal will determine where their card can be placed (if it can be placed). For the layout that I am going to show below, here is the key:

A = Arms
B = Baron
Ca = Castle
Ch = Champion
Co = Count
D = Duke
F = Fruits
G = General
H = Heir
L = Lands
S = Serfs
W = Wife

W Ca H
....G...D Co B
....Ch L..L...L
....A...F..F...F
....S...S..S

Let us assume, for the sake of this discussion, that the very first card that you drew of the game was a Serf. You would place this serf is the approximate position where it would be if everything else were there and that would be your turn. Now, let’s imagine that the very next round you drew yet another serf. This serf would be placed on top of the previous ones. Since these cards are not attached to the top of their respective columns, they are what are referred to in game terms as ‘danglers’.

So, whenever you draw a card, you will place it into its approximate final position. This is true for pretty much every card with a couple of caveats. You cannot have an Heir (or Heirs - you can have up to 3) without first having a Wife and you cannot have a Wife without first having a Castle. If the Wife or Heir are drawn out of sequence, then they are discarded and your turn is finished. Also, Lands, Fruits, and Serfs will continue to stack until there is a noble to place them under. So, let’s fast forward time a bit and imagine that we’ve drawn a few more cards. We now have two nobles in place and we have a triple stack of Lands, a double stack of Fruits, and a triple stack of Serfs. We can keep drawing and hope to get another Lands card to fill in the empty Lands position under the second noble OR we can use our turn to move a card into its proper spot.

MOVING A CARD

In order to move a card, you would just declare that you are moving the card. In our example above, we could spend our action moving one of our cards from the spot in which it currently resides to another legal spot. Cards may only be moved one column at a time and they may only be moved around in the nobles columns or the wizards columns (more on wizards later). The main rule when moving cards is that you may not leave an empty spot in either the columns or the rows. To better illustrate this, let’s take a look at the example above.

If we decided to use our turn to move a card, we could NOT decide to move our top serf from the stack to its spot in the column to the right without first having a Fruits to place it beneath and a Lands to place that beneath and a Noble to place THAT beneath. In order to move a card into a column, that column must be complete up to or beyond that empty spot. To get the serfs into position, we would first have to move a Lands over. The next turn, we would have to move over a Fruits. Finally, on the turn after that, we could move a Serfs over. Then we would have two out of three nobles columns completed.

WIZARDS, MINIONS, and MAGICKS

The Wizards columns begin beneath the Wife and extend to the left. A player may only have three wizards in play at any single time and they may, during their turn, choose to use a Wizard’s ability or discard a Wizard to draw two cards (choosing one to keep and one to discard) in lieu of performing other actions during their turn. Most Wizard abilities can only be used during a player’s turn, but certain Wizard abilities can be used during an opponent’s turn as well. Wizard abilities vary in their effects. Some allow you to block an opponent from drawing. Some allow you to skip columns when moving cards. There are others, too, and they are all useful in the right circumstances. If the Wizard in question has one of these abilities, then the player who controls the Wizard would declare that they are using the ability and the target of the ability and they would then discard the Wizard in question.

Minions stack beneath the Wizards and Magicks stack beneath the Minions. Moving cards within the Wizards columns follows the same rules as moving cards within the Nobles columns. You cannot leave empty spaces in any of the columns or rows when moving cards. Here is a sample layout of what the Wizards portion of the board would look like:

W = Wife, Wi = Wizard, M = Minion, Ma = Magick

...........W
Wi..Wi Wi
M...M...M
Ma Ma Ma

We already discussed how to declare blockers using Minions and Champions in the pre-castle phase. Now, let’s see how adding a Castle changes things.

CASTLES AND CHANGES

Firstly, in order to declare blockers with Minions or Champions in the Castle phase, each of these must be controlled by a Wizard or a General respectively. Secondly, failed blocking attempts become much more costly once you have a Castle in play.

In the pre-Castle phase, a failed blocking attempt would only cost you the cards that were participating in the blocking attempt. Once you have a Castle, though, you must sacrifice cards from your stacks equal to the card value of the card that defeated your blocking attempt. For instance, if you were blocking 15 and your opponent drew a card with a value of 40, then you must sacrifice 40 points worth of cards. And here’s the real kick in the pants: you do not get to pick and choose. If you attempted a block with your military, you must begin with the top card of the Arms pile and dig down into that stack until you have come up with the total of the card that defeated you. If that isn’t enough to match the value, then you must dig down into the Champion stack. If that still is not enough, then you only have two options left to you: you can sacrifice your General or you can sacrifice danglers to pay the rest of the balance. In this instance, the Wife and the Heir would also be considered danglers. If you had multiple Heirs, you could sacrifice a couple of them and still have enough left to win the game.

This same kind of sacrificing applies to the Wizard stacks as well. Beginning with Magicks and working your way up the column to the Wizard (or you can sacrifice danglers to equal the difference if you want to save your Wizard).

The other big thing that comes along with having a Castle in play is the ability to wage war on your opponent.

WAGING WAR

If a player has a Castle, a General, a Champion, and an Arms in play, then they may wage war on their opponent during their turn. War can be waged on the outermost Nobles column or the outermost Wizards column. The attacker will add up the values of their topmost General, Champion, and Arms. This is the attacking value that the person that is being attacked must match. Regardless of what the person being attacked does, the attacker must discard all three of the cards involved in the attack.

The person being attacked can react one of two ways. They can either sacrifice the cards that are being attacked or they can sacrifice their military cards beginning with the Arms and working their way up in layers (Arms, Champion, General then Arms, Champion, General again) until the attacking value has been equaled or exceeded. The total losses may be distributed across their military cards, Nobles columns, and danglers. Nobles columns are removed one stack at a time beginning with serfs and working their way up.

Waging war can be a costly but cost effective way to swing the balance of power into your favor. Use it too often, though, and you will overextend yourself and may face a greater deficit than your opponent.
And that’s how Castles is played. For a better graphical representation of what I have described above, I recommend that you download the rule book from here on BGG or head over to the Kickstarter page and download them from there.

THOUGHTS

Castles can seem like an intimidating game at first. There are a lot of cards and it seems like an awful lot to remember. However, once you begin playing, everything just sort of falls into place. By the end of our first game, my wife was already stomping me into the ground and I had already played the game several times. It’s easy to set up and break down, easy to learn, and it’s quick and fun. The small size of the cards, while being a hindrance to shuffling, has the benefit of making the game very portable. All of these things are pretty good reasons to give this game a try.

All is not perfect in Castles land, though. There is one giant elephant in the room that should be discussed. Like many games that involve cards, this game is very heavily dependent upon luck. The rightness or wrongness of any strategic decisions that you make hinges solely upon the next few cards that you draw. If you wage war but wind up drawing cards that you desperately needed to catch up, then waging war will have been worth it. However, if you wage war and wind up drawing a lot of Wife cards and Heir cards, then you just threw away half of your military for nothing. There is no denying that luck plays a very heavy role in this game.

However, the luck factor is mitigated somewhat by the sheer amount of choices that each player has. The strategy is not only in waging war or blocking, it’s about know when to block and when not to block. It’s about weighing the costs versus the reward. If you’re extremely close to losing, then waging war is probably not a terrible option. Every card that you choose to move is a card that you’re not getting to draw. Nothing in the real world is guaranteed. There is always the risk that you will take a chance on something and lose. That risk is also very present in this game. The other mitigating factor is time. This game plays very quickly so losing due to poor decisions or crummy luck doesn’t hurt so bad because you can quickly hop right into another game.

All in all, I really enjoy Castles. Castles is a wonderfully illustrated, well designed, fun, fast, and friendly experience filled with just enough strategy and suspense to keep me coming back for more. If you’re looking for a great go-to game to burn some time with, then look no further. This is the game for you.





7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Trevor Franklin
United States
Vale
North Carolina
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Nice review! This looks pretty cool, especially the artwork. I may have to look into it. How mean and nasty does the game generally feel? My wife and I tend to be nice to each other in two player games, for better or worse.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David McMillan
United States
Madison
Tennessee
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Firstly, I love your icon. I am a big Miyazaki fan and Spirited Away is one of my particular favorites. Secondly, it doesn't get too nasty at all. Dan Zimmer has designed the game in such a way that you will eventually block one too many times and lose (unless you're like me and just draw lousy card after lousy card). Losing a block in the pre-Castle phase isn't a huge deal, but once you've got a Castle out, the risk that goes along with losing becomes much steeper.

The only "screwage" that takes place in this game comes in the form of blocking, waging war, or the occasional Wizard ability. used effectively, the person that appears to be losing for most of the game can come from behind and, if not outright win it, at least put up one heck of a fight.

My wife and I typically play 2 or 3 sessions in a row when we play. A typical game doesn't last very long at all.

FranklinT wrote:
Nice review! This looks pretty cool, especially the artwork. I may have to look into it. How mean and nasty does the game generally feel? My wife and I tend to be nice to each other in two player games, for better or worse.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Trevor Franklin
United States
Vale
North Carolina
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
CarcassonneFreak wrote:
Firstly, I love your icon. I am a big Miyazaki fan and Spirited Away is one of my particular favorites. Secondly, it doesn't get too nasty at all. Dan Zimmer has designed the game in such a way that you will eventually block one too many times and lose (unless you're like me and just draw lousy card after lousy card). Losing a block in the pre-Castle phase isn't a huge deal, but once you've got a Castle out, the risk that goes along with losing becomes much steeper.

The only "screwage" that takes place in this game comes in the form of blocking, waging war, or the occasional Wizard ability. used effectively, the person that appears to be losing for most of the game can come from behind and, if not outright win it, at least put up one heck of a fight.

My wife and I typically play 2 or 3 sessions in a row when we play. A typical game doesn't last very long at all.

FranklinT wrote:
Nice review! This looks pretty cool, especially the artwork. I may have to look into it. How mean and nasty does the game generally feel? My wife and I tend to be nice to each other in two player games, for better or worse.



Thanks! Spirited Away is still one of my all time favorite movies. This game has me interested. Probably more so because I am used to small cards, thanks to koi-koi, a quick 2 player game played with super tiny (and beautiful) hanafuda cards. (I've done a review of koi-koi, for anyone interested.) Making several random piles of cards, then picking up those cards in random order, seems to be about the only way to shuffle hanafuda cards. Those cards are almost as thick as tiles, so Castle is probably not quite that hard to shuffle.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Cristiano Cozzolino
Italy
Roma
RM
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Hi,

being a cardgame maniac I found out this KS project and I watched the video (missing audio is a pain).

I'm really trying to figure out what are the decisions and actions that players can make during a game, since from the video the game seems to be 90% luck driven.

Ok I can decide to block or attack but, like in the video, if the other player gets the best draws and I lose 1/3 of my draws due to unplayable cards (heirs etc) even blocking or attacking I keep loosing cards and still stay behind in the card laying race.

Maybe using the draw one play one may be chanced allowing players to keep an hand of cards to select?

It's a pity since the card art is really interesting.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David McMillan
United States
Madison
Tennessee
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Generally, unless you've got a lot of cards to spare, you don't want to block your opponent. Failed blocks cost you valuable cards. Like I said in my review, the luck factor is mitigated pretty well once you're actually playing the game. The video that was posted up on Kickstarter was designed more to show how the various aspects of the game work than it was to show how a good game is played. For instance, towards the end, the losing player has more than enough to wage war on the player that is winning. There's every reason in the world for them to do this and no reason for them not to... yet they don't.

After having played the game many times, I can tell you that it is very rarely as one sided as the video makes it appear to be. The games are typically pretty close.
Elianto wrote:
Hi,

being a cardgame maniac I found out this KS project and I watched the video (missing audio is a pain).

I'm really trying to figure out what are the decisions and actions that players can make during a game, since from the video the game seems to be 90% luck driven.

Ok I can decide to block or attack but, like in the video, if the other player gets the best draws and I lose 1/3 of my draws due to unplayable cards (heirs etc) even blocking or attacking I keep loosing cards and still stay behind in the card laying race.

Maybe using the draw one play one may be chanced allowing players to keep an hand of cards to select?

It's a pity since the card art is really interesting.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Richard Morgan
United States
Simi Valley
CA
flag msg tools
kingspud wrote:
Has anyone figured out how to play this solitaire? Any Solitaire rules?


Has anyone figured out how to play this game period? The rules are quite possibly the worst I've ever come across (and that's saying something!)
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Balázs Szarka
Hungary
Budapest
Budapest
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Check the KS page, in the latest update there is a link for the new rulebook…
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Zimmer
United States
Missouri
flag msg tools
Re: Castles: Updated Rulebook
Please download the latest CASTLES rule book:

http://www.aaiieee.com/newrules.pdf

There are some significant changes to the rules that should improve your experience with the game.

- Dan Zimmer
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.