Are you guys ready to read (or not read) what will surely be an unpopular post? I joke a little, but still it seems that other people aren’t quite as into board games as the Boy and I. Someday when I’m working on the project, I’ll show you a picture of the cabinets in our living room that have no shelves and contain just stacks and stacks of games. I’m sure there are games we love that sit on the bottom that we haven’t played in nearly a year for fear of toppling the whole stack. In any case, this one was a gift from the Boy to all of us at Christmas in 2015. He thought that H might enjoy playing it as well, but after trying it out ourselves that first time…well, you’ll see.
When the Boy and I first sat down to play the game we watched a video on YouTube hoping to figure out how best to play. Hilariously, we ended up watching one that was a playthrough, but with one guy who kept talking about his wife Jen, who never showed up to play. We kept laughing to ourselves about invisible Jen, and maybe she wasn’t even a real person. But I will say that we learned a lot from the video, and I’m sure Jen is actually real, but dang if it wasn’t funny that he kept talking about her and she never was there!
The concept of the game is this – we are each the builder for a large and complicated castle (like Neuschwanstein), and every turn, one player gets to be the “Master Builder” and control the cost of each of the available additions for all the castles. Other players must pay the master builder each round as “sub contractors” to add rooms or corridors to their existing castle, or else they can skip a turn and take a payment from the bank. The role of master builder gets passed around, and rooms that are not purchased get a discount put on them – one that can accumulate over time, can be used to help pay for the room, and sometimes be more than the “cost” of the room making that particular room free. There’s a lot of strategy over how to price things so that you get paid, the other players don’t get good rooms, and that when it finally comes around to the master builder’s turn to buy there is something good left.
Rooms are all of different types and worth different points. They also “interact” with the rooms that are connected to them – some give you more points for being connected to a specific type, or will lose you points if you’re connected to another. “Completing a room” – closing off all the doors to that room – earns you a reward that you can take immediately, like extra points, extra money or an extra turn. Everyone is also working with a specific goal in mind – whether that’s the most round rooms, collecting lots of food preparation rooms, or earning more points for having all larger rooms. Some of these goals are group goals that we are in competition for, and some are personal goals that we could earn extra points for at the end.
If this all sounds very smart and complicated, it sort of is but once you’ve actually played a few rounds you start to understand quickly. It’s definitely the kind of game that requires some thought and strategy during gameplay. Something that shouldn’t be too surprising considering the fact that it was a Mensa Select in 2015. So when I tell you that the game photographed here was with Nicole and the Boy who were respectively exhausted from no sleep/head cold and coming off of an illness, and I was feeling just fine, you can guess how the game turned out. Not that I’m competitive and excited about winning. I am, but all of us knew that this wouldn’t be a fair fight going in.
It’s a fun game. What makes it terrific is that it’s a good game for two people – there still a lot of strategy for how to price and place room tiles, but it’s still terrifically fun to watch your castles expand with their ridiculous rooms (the fungus room on the lower level! the panic room! the stables!), and figure out how to connect your rooms best so that you can complete them, and get the appropriate points for adjoining rooms. The Boy and I have decided that a full year after first acquiring the game, H at nearly 11 is getting close to being ready to play. The only downside to the game is that there are very nearly one million little pieces and cards and tokens in the game. They do provide a good number of plastic baggies to hold everything, but I just discovered that someone has created a box organizer for the game, and I am sorely tempted.
So if you’re looking for a smart, fun, sometimes silly game that makes you think and strategize and wonder what anyone would need with a tapestry room, it’s possible that the Castles of Mad King Ludwig is the game for you.