At a Glance: The Castles of Mad King Ludwig is an immensely satisfying game-—a mixture of mental exercise and free-spirited creation.
The Castles of Mad King Ludwig is a castle-building game for 2-4 players. It is loosely based on the beautiful, legendary Neuschwanstein Castle that was commissioned by King Ludwig II. Each player will be constructing their own castle in a way that will maximize their points, all while keeping the King’s eccentric wishes in mind. There are many different room sizes and types and they all have at least one door that allows it to be connected in the castle. At the beginning of the game, random Favors are drawn. These are the King’s eccentric wishes and they score bonus points at the end of the game. Each player starts with a foyer and one person starts as the Master Builder and sets prices on the room tiles to select from. Whenever players purchase a room, the money goes to the Master Builder that round. Players connect their room tiles to the existing castle rooms and score for the room itself plus bonus points. Then, the next player is the Master Builder and room cards are flipped over that tell you which size rooms to put in the lineup. When you place rooms, you must connect their doorways of course, but also if you are able to complete a room by connecting all its doorways, you get a completion reward that varies depending on what type of room it is. The reward could be money, points, bonus card, or the ability to choose what size rooms will be next. Players will be building their quirky castles until the room cards run out, then the bonus points are scored from bonus cards and the King’s Favors. Whoever has the most points is the winner.
This is one of those rare games where it does not matter as much if you lose, because creating your castle is so cool, and it is fun to imagine living in these weird layouts. The room variety is very good, with a bunch of interesting rooms like the Theater, Secret Lair, Buttery, Green House, Gallery of Mirrors, and Bowling Alley, just to name a few. The price-setting is possibly the most intriguing part of this game, or at least the most challenging part. If you really want a room, do you set the price fairly low and hope no one takes it? If you put a high price on it, then you may get it, but you’ll have to pay. It’s a mental dance that is really interesting. I also like the different aspects of scoring, as each room has a basic point value, then you look at how they interact with other rooms (for a bonus or penalty), then you have the Favors and Bonus cards scores at the end. You have to be aware of all this in order to do really well. Ultimately though, the part of this game that I love the most is the castle-building. It is so satisfying putting everything together and seeing the end result.
The components are nice, not as much their composition (kinda thin cardboard), but visually they are great. The box also has a lot of air space with no insert, which was disappointing at first. They have released expansions though, so the bigger may pay off. I can say that the Secrets expansion is well worth it if you like this game—not as much for the odd Swan scoring as for the challenge of confining yourself to the Moat and the addition of all the extra rooms! This is an incredibly designed game that rewards creativity, strategy, and planning. Every completed castle is interesting and quirky (like the mad king, eh?).
Check it out: https://amzn.to/2R7EcFl