Bruno Faiduti has been quite a popular designer as of late. This year has seen a number of his games released, including Corruption, DemoCrazy, Ohne Furche und Adel and his latest, Castle, which is co-designed with Sergio Laget. Castle is released by EuroGames and is marketed as a part of the 'Blue Game' line of games, which are designed to be fairly light and easily accessible by family members. Castle certainly fits into this category quite nicely.
The theme is one of infighting and intrigue at the king's court. The main idea is for players to attempt to deplete all of their cards; the first to accomplish this task is the victor.
The cards are beautifully illustrated with stunning artwork depicting a wide assortment of characters (soldiers, witch, ghost, king, siege engines, barbarian, knights, mistress, queen, lady in waiting, etc.). Any game designer would be thrilled to have such outstanding artwork included in his game. The cards are a visual delight.
The board … if it can truly be called such … is really just a cardboard frame consisting of four pieces. When put together, it forms the walls and towers of the castle and encloses an imaginary 4x4 grid which represents the courtyard. During the course of the game, cards are played onto this grid, on the walls and towers and outside of the castle. It's functional, but certainly no where near the quality of the cards.
Players are then dealt a number of cards into their hands, plus a number of cards face down to their private 'reserve' deck. This number varies with the number of players, which can be anywhere from 2 - 5. An exchange pool is also formed with a dozen or so cards, depending upon the number of players. On a turn, a player performs two actions from a possible three:
* Draw a card from their reserve deck into their hand;
* Play a card from their hand;
* Exchange a card from their hand with one of the cards in the face-up exchange pool.
Each card lists where it must be played: Courtyard, tower, rampart, outside the castle, next to the King, in the final open space in the courtyard, etc. You must pay careful attention to these restrictions lest you find yourself with cards which cannot be played as the game progresses. In addition, each card also has a certain power which is enacted when it is played. These powers can send previously played cards back into a player's hand (cards are marked with tokens when played to identify the owner), move a card to a different location (which can be critical when trying to free up space in the castle), remove or move tokens, provide protection to an adjacent card or cards, etc. It is these powers which add spice ... and chaos ... to the game. There is some strategy in the timing of the play of cards, as well as the location of placement. However, there are so many cards and so many powers, the game certainly has a substantial 'chaos' element. This chaos does decrease when playing with fewer players.
The game continues until one player succeeds in depleting his entire hand and 'reserve' deck, at which time he is victorious. Since many powers force cards back into players hands, you can be on the verge of victory, only to suddenly receive a card or two back into your hand before your next turn. This can be quite frustrating, but is also what the game intends.
Castle doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is, which is a light, family style game which is entertaining, quick and fun to play. However, if you don't enjoy games where there isn't a whole lot of control, then this probably isn't for you.
However, there are so many cards and so many powers, the game certainly has a substantial 'chaos' element. This chaos does decrease when playing with fewer players.
Well said. For precisely this reason, I find the game definitely allows for more skill and control when playing with just two players. On the plus side, games with more players seem to end more quickly, so this makes up for having less control.