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Denver, Colorado, United States
I'm an old time roleplayer who became a soldier who became a veteran who became a developer who became a dba who became a manager who never gave up his dream of a better world. Even if I have to create it myself.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Castles of Burgundy

I've now played a few games of Castles of Burgundy, some 2-player and some 4-player. Here's what came of it.

Goes good with red wine and a baguette

This is clearly a eurogame (if the big blue Ravensburger logo didn't give it away). As such, there are a few little wooden pieces and lots of worker-placement activities. Overall, players felt that the game was on the higher end of complicated, but once learned, it could be played without many rules lookups - some RPGs could learn from that.

OK, most RPGs.

Goal

Get the most victory points. Lots of things earn victory points so there are many strategies.

Layout

Each player has their own board, representing building efforts and trade goods. There is a center board, shared amongst the players, that contains various parts and pieces everyone needs to build their player board.

My chickens of doom will destroy your pitiful looking cows!
(This is a player board)

Core Mechanic

A player rolls 2d6. Each die is used separately and never added together. There are four actions:

  1. Take something from the center board
  2. Place something on the player board
  3. Buy some workers (these can alter die rolls)
  4. Sell some goods
Each die is used to perform one of those actions (player's choice). The number rolled determines the placement of the action; i.e. if the die shows a 4 then for action #2 above, the "something" can only be placed on a location that also shows a 4.

So, basically, everyone gets 2 actions each turn.

Duration, Scalability, Replayability

The first play-through is very slow due to the complexity of the game; by the 3rd game, it flows quite a bit faster. A 2-player game only takes 45 minutes or so.

While many games are more fun with more players, I found that this game was most fun with 2 players. Having 4 players left a lot more time sitting around staring at other players on their turn. It was still fun, just not as fun and fast-paced as only 2 players. There is nothing to do on other folks' turns except dream about what you can do if they don't steal that marketplace tile you've got your eyes on.

The game plays differently every time and a variety of approaches can be used to win. I like this a lot, and it has made me excited about playing the game over and over - moreso than most games I've recently played.

Craft

All the boards are language-independent. There are pictures that describe what each piece does, and they are fairly effective but take a couple of games to understand completely.

I thoroughly enjoyed that once I had finished a game, I really didn't need the rulebook anymore. The hardest parts are the knowledge tiles - little rulebreaker tokens. Like get 2 silverlings instead of one when you sell goods, or enhance the value of workers, things like that.

Some of these rulebreakers need extra explanation beyond their pictures. When those tokens were revealed, I found myself opening the book occasionally to remember what they did. After about five games this isn't necessary anymore.

Despite the added complexity, this sort of "rulebreaker" is something I really like in games. It's the same purpose as relic cards in Risk: Godstorm: they provide a permanent bonus that creates controlled exceptions to the rules. Heck, same as magic items in RPGs. If I ever designed a board game, it would definitely have some kind of exception mechanic.

Initiative is uniquely implemented in this game. The players all start in a normal sort of order, but when ships are placed, the turn order changes around. In the picture below, you can see the turn order track with little boats on it. (The long numbered track below that is the victory point counter.)

The turn order track in this example tells us that next turn, blue goes first, followed by black, then green, and finally red. Poor, poor red, who got stomped by green the whole game. Accountants shouldn't be allowed to play games involving numbers.

Sail Away, little blue wooden cylinder thingy!
(This is the center board)
You can't go wrong buying this game, unless you and your friends lack basic mathematical skills or have the collective attention span of a gnat (I'm looking at you, first-person-shooter-players).


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