Castles of Burgundy Board Game
by The Beast!
(Boardgame Beast HQ)
Castles of Burgundy Board Game
Board game manufacturer:
Alea/Rio Grande Games
Number of players:
50-100 minutes (longer for new players)
After a somewhat steep learning curve, Castles of Burgundy will get under your skin. It’s a smash here at Boardgame Beast Towers, and one of the rare strategy games that provides fun entertainment for two, three or four.
The game and gameplay
By Stefan Feld, the designer who brought you such great games as Trajan, Notre Dame, Macao and Bora Bora, is behind this dice-based strategy offering. Don’t let the dirty ‘dice game’ moniker put you off — yes, the dice do randomize your ability to influence the outcome of the game, but never in a way that makes luck feel like the overriding factor.
The game is divided into five phases, and each has five turns, for a total of 25 turns per player.
Each player takes an Estate board, made up of 39 hexes arranged in a pattern, segmented into different types of hex by color — city, knowledge, sea, castle, mine and pasture.
Scattered around your board are lots of “helpful” graphics to assist players with identifying each type of building. In reality, your first game or two is going to be spent asking “What does THIS tile do?” while poring over the instruction booklet (which is excellent).
After maybe three plays, you will no longer need this help. The graphics DO make sense once you’re used to them. But it doesn’t help the learning curve for newcomers.
Throw your two dice, and use each one to:
- Take a hex tile from the main board
- Place a hex tile on your board from your personal supply
- Exchange your die for workers
- Sell a good type from your storage area
You score points by selling goods, completing regions of your personal board, claiming bonus tiles by being the first or second person to complete all the hexes of a particular color, or bonus points at game end, according to the knowledge tiles you have placed on your board.
This all sounds very simple, but the devil’s in the details. Some actions can ‘stack’, particularly the building hexes.
For example, there is a building type called city hall, that allows you to place any other hex from your supply onto your board. The castle hex creates a fantasy die that can be used for any action. A warehouse building lets you sell one type of good. So… if you happened to own all three, you could place the city hall, use the extra hex placement to place the castle, then the extra die it ‘creates’ to place the warehouse, and use THAT to sell one kind of good… All for one die!
Silverlings (a kind of silver nugget) are currency. You receive one silverling when you sell any type of good. Two can be spent on an extra tile from the center of the main Castles of Burgundy board; these “black” tiles are refreshed every phase.
The tiles you select from are also refreshed every phase. There are more tiles for 3 or 4 player games. Because the tiles you can take from are limited, and the other players are competing for the same tiles, they run out pretty quickly, and in the final turns of a phase, you may have little, or no, choice of hexes to take.
Each player is limited to three hex tiles in their reserve; if you take a fourth, you must discard one of the original three. This prevents hoarding of tiles to “block” your opponents.
The larger the area of your estate, the more points you score when you completely cover it in hex tiles. Also, the earlier in the game you complete an area, the higher the bonus you score — 10 in phase one, and only 2 in phase five.
Workers are used to change the number of the die roll by one per worker. This is essential if you find yourself struggling to complete an area of your estate, or desperately need to grab a hex tile from the main board but don’t have the right roll.
Knowledge tiles can be a huge factor in deciding victory. There are too many to cover here: many influence the play during the game, while others award VPs for animal types, goods colors sold, building types in your estate, or bonus tiles claimed.
The game ends when all players have completed phase five, turn five. One VP is awarded for every unspent silverling, and one for every two unused workers, in your estate.
You can also play Castles of Burgundy online at BoiteaJeux.
Pros and cons
Wow! Castles of Burgundy board game is truly special. I have played this game a LOT, and it still is a lot of fun, especially now I know what is going on without referring to the book.
My wife is also a fan. She feels the faded look of the board and pieces could have been improved upon. The pieces are also a little lightweight, but they are well made and have lasted well so far.
I like the fact that a new player can play with the basic estate board, or you can flip them over and play a random board.
The luck factor is barely an issue. Sometimes you are frustrated by a series of bad rolls, but there are always options. Planning ahead is essential if you’re not to be outdone by a cleverer opponent.
Castles of Burgundy deserves a place on every gamer’s shelf. It’s simple enough, yet deep, challenging and has loads of replay value. Highly, highly recommended.
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