At a Glance: The Castles of Burgundy’s innovative use of dice manipulation makes it stand head & shoulders over other one-dimensional strategy games.
The Castles of Burgundy is a Euro-style strategy game for 2-4 players where each player is building settlements in medieval France. The main mechanic is comprised of taking small hexagonal tiles from the depot spaces on the board and placing them on your personal “princedom”. Each princedom has regions with tiles that provide different benefits, and you roll two dice each turn that determine the number depots you may select from and also the spaces on your personal board you may place them. The Dice results are not set in stone however, as you can manipulate them with Workers by either subtracting or adding to the results. Workers are a finite resource though, so must be used wisely. The different types of tiles are as follows: City tiles have different buildings on them which provide different resources, points, and bonus actions. There are a lot of Bonus tiles that provide points for various things or give you special abilities. Ships put you further on the turn track (since it is an advantage to go first) and allow you to take goods from any depot on the board. Mines provide money (called Silverlings) at the beginning of each phase for every mine you have. Castles give you an extra action. Pasture tiles show one of 4 different types of animals on them and you score victory points for each animal shown, and if you add another tile in the same pasture with the same type of animals, you rescore the previous ones. On your turn, you may also sell one type of good and receive points and a Silverling. Silverlings may be used to purchase one of the 4 tiles in the black depot each round. Once players have taken both actions, a new round begins. There are 5 rounds per phase and the game is over after 5 phases. At that point, players count their Bonus points, Silverlings, each unsold goods tile, and whoever has the most points is the winner.
The Castles of Burgundy may not be a game that jumps out at you on the shelf. The aesthetics are maybe a bit too brown-heavy. The board may even look kinda overwhelming the first time you see it. The game is absolutely fantastic though. It works like a well-oiled machine, as the dynamics of neglecting or concentrating on some things over the others translates to very different avenues to victory. You can tell it was painstakingly play-tested and thoroughly designed. I like the array of options at your disposal, and many times your plans change due to a weird roll of the dice. This game is about optimizing every moment, and I love how it keeps you on your toes. You can’t just sit back and resign yourself to a certain strategy, assuming it will work. Plus, what is your opponent doing? Do they need that one tile to complete a big score, and is it worth it for you to try to play defensively or advance your own goals? The variety of the tiles is great and strategies may also change depending on what types of tiles are revealed that phase. It is a fluid, elegant game that is always interesting and frankly nowhere near as dull as you might think. There is a lot of depth here and it’s awesome.
Like I said, the graphic design does not really “wow” you at all, and most of the components are merely functional. The boards though, are very well-designed, and you appreciate them more and more as you play. The boards do look a bit overwhelming when you’re still unfamiliar with the gameplay, but it becomes natural to navigate them after a while. My wife does not have an extensive background in heavier strategy games, but this has become one of her favorites too. Stefan Feld, the designer, really created something special here, and this will always be one of the best ever for me.
Check it out: https://amzn.to/2Sgl2KN