Sunday, 23 August 2015

Castles of Mad King Ludwig review

Today I'm going to review one of my favourite games at the moment, 'The Castles of Mad King Ludwig'. First some details.

Publisher: Bezier Games
Designer: Ted Alspach
Age: 10+
Number of players: 1-4
BGG rank: 52
Length: 1-2 hours (two player can be played in an hour)
Difficulty: Easy-medium

What's it all about?

The game is all about designing your own crazy castle. You start off with an octagonal entrance foyer, and from there you buy rooms, corridors and stairs to add on to your castle. You are seeking to beat your fellow players to some shared goals, as well as working towards your own secret goals, both of which earn you victory points. You also earn victory points whenever you put down rooms.

How Do You Play?

Game Board - The Master Builder Chooses the cost of available rooms

Every round, each player gets the opportunity to buy a room and add it to their castle (or take money if they prefer). One of the neat things about the game is that each round, a different player gets to be the Master Builder, and set the price of the rooms available to buy. When the other players buy a room, they pay the Master Builder, thus earning him or her an income. The Master Builder still has to pay if they buy a room, but they pay the bank. So the Master Builder has to weigh up how to price the different rooms. They might want to make a room they really want cheap, but not too cheap that other players buy it first (they have to buy last after all other players have gone).

Here's a close up of one of the rooms

Players usually only to buy one room per round, which must be placed immediately, and a room cannot be changed once it is placed (fairly obviously, rooms aren't usually portable!). Each room scores a certain number of points when played, plus additional points are scored depending on the rooms adjacent to it. This usually fits in well with the theme, so that the Master Bedroom will score negative points if it is situated next to the Singer's chamber or the Lute room for instance.
Here's my castle at the end of a recent game

As well as scoring points, players can earn bonus for completing a room - linking all doorways with other rooms or corridors. Different room types have different bonuses, like having another turn, getting money, earning extra victory points etc.

So What's the Verdict?

As I think I've already said, I like this game a lot. It's a really easy game to learn, but there's a lot of strategy with players having to weigh up quite a few different factors. Despite this though, play is quite quick with very little downtime in choosing what to do, even for AP players (Analysis Paralysis). I haven't played the solo variant but it is excellent with 2, 3 or 4 players. In my opinion it is just as good with 2 players as with 4, which isn't the case for a lot of games. The only slightly tricky bit is making sure you keep up with the scoring and don't miss points.

As well as actual game play, there's a lot of fun to be had with the theme, which is present throughout. Several times we've played we've had a good laugh at the unusual combination of rooms we've built in our castles, and what the inhabitants might be getting up to!

If you've played the designer's previous game, Suburbia, you might be wondering how this compares. Well I've played both, but much prefer this game. It's easier to play and a lot less confusing, as you are building your own castle rather than contributing to one joint suburbs. In Castles you really get a feeling of satisfaction with your own creation that just isn't there in Suburbia. I also think the theme is much better, as is the artwork.

Compenents - 4/5
Ease of play - 4/5
Theme - 5/5
Replayability 5/5

Overall: 5/5

A very enjoyable, light strategy game that's easy to learn with tons of replay value.

So that's my review. Tomorrow however I'm going to try something a bit different as I delve a bit into the background to the theme of the game (now available - click here). Who was Mad King Ludwig? Was her really mad? What strange, crazy castles did he build?