General Contracting in 19th Century Bavaria

Castles of Mad King Ludwig
by Ted Alspach
published by Bezier Games

Castles of Mad King Ludwig is a tile-placing game in which the players compete to build the “best” castle, รก la the fabulous King Ludwig II who oozed extravagance and lavish decor in his construction projects (and had enough closets installed to remain in one throughout his entire reign, if you know what we mean). We say “best” because it’s not just size that matters, but there are bonuses awarded for congruence! Build a piano room next to a food prep room, get a bonus (gotta feed the help right?) but build the same piano room next to a bedroom and LOSE points. (Hey enough with “Chopsticks” man!! I’m trying to get some rest!) The price of available rooms is set by a “Master Builder” that changes hands each round. The Master Builder attempts to strike a balance that will ensure the rooms he wants to build are cheap enough for him while not making them too attractive to the players who get to choose before him. Along the way, there are secret goals each player tries to achieve for MORE bonus points as well as two revealed goals for which all players are competing.

Observe as Susan unreasonably sets the market price in some weird attempt to retro-re-enact the great housing market bubble burst of 2007! Slumlord!

How we came to play this game:
We are game junkies.
Junkies need a fix.
Attempting to satiate that which is insatiable brings certain realities to fore. For us, it means regularly reading great reviews in places like BGG and other blogs. It means perusing the fantastic content that guys like Tom Vassel’s “The Dice Tower” and Rodney Smith’s “Watch It Played” put together and it all inspires an ever expanding shrubbery of a wish list is never quite done growing and is instead periodically “pruned” during not insignificant retail therapy binges. This game was purchased in just such a binge inspired by this Dice Tower review.

This reminds us of:
Mike: The gameplay is, of course, similar to one of Ted Alspach and Bezier Games previous titles “Suburbia”. It shares many of the same mechanics and interface design. It’s difficult not to think of one when you are playing the other.

Susan:  Yes, definitely similar to Suburbia.

Game art:
Mike: This is where the greatest improvement has been made over Suburbia. “Castles” trades in the uniform hexagonal tiles that are the building blocks for your borough for wonderfully representative “room” tiles that are presented in a top-down architectural view. The change makes for a very satisfying experience as the game progresses in that you watch your castle take shape in a pretty realistic manner! You may wanna call a general contractor when you’re done!

Susan: I agree - the various room sizes and shapes are really nice and it’s challenging and rewarding to try to fit them together in harmonious ways.

Estate sprawl!

Best part:
Mike: I fancy titles that offer multiple and not-always-obvious paths to winning. There are not many feelings that can top vanquishing an opponent that believed they were wiping the floor with you for most of the game! The bonus point system designed into this game embraces this style in spades. There’s enough to do trying to make sure you are building up YOUR castle for maximum impact, but you MUST keep track of all of those same variables in your opponent’s construction. It’s just one of those titles where you come away from it with a sense of fulfillment after a win! I LOVE that feeling!

Susan: I guess I should try to keep track of Mike’s variables in his castle, huh?  Seriously, though, I really like all the different rooms. Though they have a set size or shape, there are so many different variations on them that you’ll never ever have the same castle twice.

Mike: Wait, did I just reveal my strategy unnecessarily? Dammit!

OK, Chuck, I get it, man. Geez!

Worst part:
Mike: I find the similarities to “Suburbia” disappointing. While marketed as an entirely new title, an argument can certainly be made that it’s merely a re-skinning. Despite what I believe to be a considerable improvement (especially concerning the art and design) I still feel as if there’s not enough here to call it a different game. It’s early on, though; the differences may become more apparent to me the more we play.

Susan: I definitely like “Castles” better than “Suburbia” - it’s just a richer game (at least the base game). For me the worst part of this game is honestly its length - at least for the 2-player version.  I feel like it stops short just a bit needs a couple more rounds. That would be an easy fix if I could get SOMEONE to agree to that.
Still, they're cousins, 
Identical cousins and you'll find, 
They laugh alike, they walk alike, 
At times they even talk alike -- 
You can lose your mind, 
When cousins are two of a kind.

Mistakes we made:
Mike: So many!!! I think we had to scrap our first attempt, for not drawing tiles correctly. It's hard to score the "consequence" points correctly because there are so many variables, and I don't think we scored for square footage at all! Our usual comedy of errors when playing a new title. (I realize this butts up against my complaint that the game is too similar to another game, but it's true!)

Susan: Yeah, in some ways, the similarity to “Suburbia” tripped us up.  And by us, I mean me, since I’m usually the one responsible for reading the rules and distilling them. It shares some of the mechanics, but the differences are really important.

Protip: It's highly unlikely that you'll be able to complete those two tasks in the same single game! 
Play again?
Mike: As is typically the case when we play a game I like that has an iOS version, I immediately spend as much time as I can afford to play on my iPad. I have done so with this, and I am enjoying playing. I’ve no doubt we will play this game again, though I highly suspect that it will be an either/or deal between this game and “Suburbia”, and one will fall by the wayside.

Susan: I’ll be voting for this over “Suburbia” most times, I think.  I’m very excited to try this game with >2 players, too. The iOS version with four players is significantly different.

To build a castle
You, the spatially challenged
Must use different skills!

Times played:
Combined with a pass and play session of the iOS app this weekend I think 4?

Game record:
Mike: I gotta admit I've been doing a shitty job keeping track. I do remember winning the iOS session this weekend. I'm less interested in tallying when I lose! I promise to do better and, we'll update these as we play more!

Susan: Ummm I won the iOS game!

Mike: See how bad I am at it?

So it's reasonable to assume that Susan is winning here.

Click on the vid below to learn how to play, then go on and buy it!