Use trading and building to lead your estate to prominence.
Style of Game: Strategy
Play Time: 30 to 90 minutes
Theme: Building a Medieval City
Number of Players: 2-4
Main Mechanics: Dice Rolling, Set Collection, Tile Placement
Weight: High end of medium weight games
THEME AND MECHANISMS:
The theme of this game doesn't mesh with the mechanisms real well. Often times I think people forget that board games can only do some much to implement certain themes, without becoming simulations or needing abundant amounts of components. So while, I can't say that the theme and mechanisms blend perfectly and make sense, I do get the feel of abstracted city building. The layout of the player board and they way you have restrictions on where you can place tiles adds to the small thematic feels the game gives you. Otherwise, it is mainly a dry euro with a pasted on theme.
GAMEPLAY OVERVIEW (In five sentences or less):
2 to 4 players will be attempting to build the most prominent estate. To do so players will be given five phases consisting of five rounds each. Each round players will take actions to further their estates. This is done by obtaining more workers, obtaining tiles with various types of additions to their estate, and eventually adding those tiles to their estate. After five phases (25 rounds) the player with the most VP on the track plus 1 point for each silvering, good, every two worker tiles, and any points earned from yellow point-providing tiles in their estate, is the winner of the game.
- No particular rule in the game is confusing but there are several minor rules that players may forget, rather than misunderstand. The rule book does a pretty good job of getting you going, but you will likely reference the book at first.
- There are tons of tiles that provide opportunities for abilities or ways to score VPs so you will definitely need to reference the back of the rule book to make sure you are playing them correctly.
My assessment of board games is broken into three core areas: Depth of Strategy and/or Tactics, Replayability, and Quality of Design.
Depth of Strategy and/or Tactics
The Castles of Burgundy is a brilliant implementation of a design that balances importance of long-term strategy with "back-up" plan tactics. In eurogame fashion, the game offers enough tiles of each type that no matter what route you are taking you will likely have an opportunity to obtain a tile you need. If you take your sweet time or simply do not make efficient enough moves during the five rounds of a phase then you may end up missing out on the tiles you set out to get at the beginning of the round, but there are always ways to do something productive on your later turns in each round. It almost feel as if some of the actions and elements in the game demand your strategical focus and some of the actions allow you tactical moves to prepare for future rounds. There are several games that offer this blend of strategy and tactics but I would say few make this blend so intuitive.
The blend of strategy and tactics is intuitive and visible but you will really only focus on the tactical moves occasionally. This is because the strategy basically screams at you as soon as you receive your player board. What you should be doing is either identical to all players (identical player boards) or somewhat specific to each player (asymmetric player boards). Depending on which kind of player boards you choose, the level of interaction (indirect interaction) will fluctuate. While strategy may scream at you, you can't always decipher what it is saying. That is the brilliance of The Castles of Burgundy. You know (or you think you know) what your player board is saying, but sometimes you just don't listen to it quite clearly enough. Since there are several asymmetrical player boards there are several different strategies available in the game. This allows the player to repeatedly try new player boards that will be trying to convey a message that he or she must decipher.
I want to touch on the balance of strategy and tactics one last time. What I have realized is that this balance isn't so much of a design element that offers multiple types of meaningful decisions, but instead it truly is a balance. If you focus too hard on your strategy you will eventually run out of workers or silverlings. However, if you focus even a little too much on your tactics then your estate will not progress enough. Most of your rounds can be planned out from turn 1 to turn 5 but if you organize your turns incorrectly or something disrupts your plan you will need to have a meaningful tactical move to get back on track.
I could go on and on about how the game feels like a constant wobble on top of a balance beam to make sure you aren't progressing your strategy or tactics too far ahead of the other, but I think I will stop here and just encourage you to give the game a try if you have not already.
Depth of Strategy:
4.5 = You must have a strong and clear strategy to be competitive. The game also does what many good strategy games do, which is add a nice tactical element that doesn't override the strategy.
I am going to keep this brief because the game's replayability boils down to one thing... the player boards. If the game only came with the symmetric player boards "I" wouldn't be interested because I love the puzzle you have to solve to maximize your efforts on any particular asymmetrical player board you receive. However, I could definitely see the symmetric player boards allowing some groups to test their abilities to outwit each other. The game itself is pretty repetitive because each round plays pretty similarly with only a few changes here and there which could potentially diminish one's opinion of the game, but if you enjoy the game the player boards will give you so many options to mix things up each time you play. Even if you use the same board over and over again, the other players can mix up their boards and the game will likely force you to adjust your game play.
4.0 = Assuming you enjoy the game, you will definitely get your money's worth.
Dice Rolling: This is a weird inclusion in the design of the game for me. I see that it mixes things up and gives each round a little variety and offers the players a tactical move to consider, but it is almost as if this was a testing of the water when including dice rolling in a eurogame, and even then you can typically mitigate almost any dice roll. I don't hate the dice, it just feels a tad out of place.
Set Collection: The game basically thrusts set collection into your strategy whether you like it or not. You will often times need multiple tiles of the same color to really maximize the potential of each type of tile. I like set collection best when it doesn't feel like the set collection emphasis is glaring and too obvious. In Castles, the set collection is clear but you are typically focused on more than just the color of the tile because you are trying to walk that balance beam safely.
Tile Placement: The tile placement itself isn't all that exciting for me because there are pretty tight rules as to where you can place each tile. It is obtaining the tiles that entertains me far more. That is not to say you can haphazardly place your tiles. Undoubtedly, that is a huge area of your strategy, but actually placing the tiles is really not as important as preparing to obtain the tiles you need efficiently.
*No one mechanism shines in this game for me, but the blend of the mechanisms offer a great experience.
Quality of Design:
4.0 = A very good design that engages the player for several plays.
The Castle of Burgundy is not my favorite eurogame but I do like it and there is no denying (for me at least) that the game offers a truly brain-tickling puzzle. As with any puzzle the longer you take to accomplish any particular task that is necessary to solve the puzzle, the more frustrated and difficult the whole puzzle will feel. Castles emphasizes efficient planning, intelligent re-adjustments, and constant mitigation of luck. Three things you typically need when trying to solve a puzzle. The lack of direct player interaction stays true to it's form, but it does offer you an opportunity that you are playing against your opponents because each of you will be vying for minimal useful resources. I would rate the game higher if I didn't like Puerto Rico so much but 7 isn't bad and my wife really enjoys it so I definitely still play it, but not quite as much as my respect for the game would maybe portray.
Overall Rating -
The Castle of Burgundy has earned it's place in the Board Game Community's Royal Family. So if you like Eurogames then this is one to check out.
Overall Opinion: Positive
- The game can feel a tad too long and repetitive at three and four players.
- Lack of direct conflict among players may be an issue for some groups.
- Better players will continuously win until the playing field is leveled.
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| | | | Suburbia
= similarity to two other games of its type in the genre.
* Suburbia looks entirely different at first glance but truthfully, you are doing very similar tasks. Suburbia allows more freedom in the placement of your tiles and allows some creativity but both games stress efficiency in the tile placement mechanism. Carcassonne is a light weight gateway game that may eventually lead your new gamer friends to The Castle of Burgundy but the two games differ greatly in terms of complexity and strategy. The bridge between these two games may be a long one but I could see it teaching some of the fundamentals of gaming people would need when heading into Castles.
Thanks for reading!
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- Last edited Thu Nov 3, 2016 9:33 pm (Total Number of Edits: 3)
- Posted Tue Nov 1, 2016 3:38 pm
Great review of my favorite Euro of all time, and one of my favorite games of all time.
I will add that replayability is not only related to player boards, but also to the tiles that are drawn out of the bags at the beginning of each round. In a 2-3 player game, not all tiles come out. Some of these are scoring tiles, so there will be different outcomes based on what tiles do or don't come out. (not sure if all tiles come out even in a 4 player game) Also, not only WHICH tiles come out, but in which order they come out!
I do agree that this feels like an upper mid-weight game, but its rating puts it square id mid-weight. I think its the perfect weight. A great blend of strategy, tactics and randomness with dice rolls/which tiles come out.
Although the game perhaps could have been designed without dice rolls, I think its an absolute blast and the best part of the game. If you play it right, you can truly mitigate the luck (ie with workers, clever placement or dice-modifying tiles)
Thanks for the review!
- Last edited Tue Nov 1, 2016 10:26 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Nov 1, 2016 10:25 pm
Thank you. I certainly don't mind the dice rolling. It just feels more like Mr. Feld was standing at the edge of the metaphoric dice pool and decided to dip a toe in the water. It's simplicity could be called elegant though really with its effectiveness yet easy to handle level of impact. It is a very euro way of handling dice rolling so it doesn't disrupt the feel of the game at all.
Great review, as someone who has more than 500+ plays between yucata and real life I agree with most of your points (except maybe replayability )
- Last edited Wed Nov 2, 2016 2:56 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Wed Nov 2, 2016 2:55 am