Theme and What is it?
If you have not played Castles of Mad King Ludwig, it is possible you may have been living under a rock. Not everyone likes it, but it regularly seems to get pulled out for play in almost any group I’m part of, that enjoys games even slightly.
Between Two Cities is no slouch either, it has been nominated for a slew of awards, and has a strong following. But… How does the mash-up work?
This is not your castle. You are merely the guy or gal building it, with your partner to the right or left of you. The castle is also, not theirs. They have no claim over it. You are both trying to build the best castle you can, based on the stacking principles of the tiles.
This principle forces you to work with your gaming frenemies. Each tile will get you points based on how it is laid. Left to right, diagonal, up and down, even stacked up on it. Basement tiles can be done left to right like 1st floor tiles. Second story tiles need to have a tile beneath them. This is basic building, no room can be built on a house, unless there is a room underneath it. Simple when you think of actual physics.
At the end of the game, you will score both castles, after you have given the castle a name, and you will take the lower of the two point values. This is such a beautiful and ugly way to score, more on that briefly.
The game just has a look that says it is substantial. I have a hard time quantifying that idea.
I can tell you when I looked at it, I wanted to get it to table immediately, but was a bit bummed out that I generally play games with one other person… THAT was until I read the rules, and it has a play set that allows you to play with a fictional Ludwig as the third. This is a three player game that allows you to play sometimes as two. This made me want to play it even more.
Game Build Quality
Noah Adelman of GameTrayz has built a beautiful insert for the game, that is actually used for gameplay. He should have coined the term TrayzPlayz.
He has worked with Stonemaier Games for a while, and I first saw his work. Inserts are often neglected. Noah, has turned this oft neglected piece of gaming into art. Jamey Stegmaier seems to agree, as he included the gametray as part of the actual play of the game. I have a feel we will see a lot more of this sort of work.
The art is functional if not my style. There are some cute things, but it does not add to or detract much from the experience in my opinion. I am a huge fan of super exciting art. So a game that is just ok, does not really make me excited.
That being said, the art is good. It depicts the rooms exactly as it should, you know exactly what you are looking at by the description, and it works as described.
The game played very well. A small gripe I had was the people I played with tended to keep the best tiles between them for their joint castle. This means that both pf my joint castles scored less than they did. In practice it was not a huge problem, but it felt frustrating, because I could not do much to influence the decision of where to lay tiles that were not on my castles.
As I said, it is a small gripe. I think with multiple plays over a long period, that would likely change.
Age Range & Weight
10+. I regularly err on the side of most games make their age range too high.
I think in this instance, it is just about right. My 6 year old daughter understands the general idea, but the point stacking is nearly impossible for her. So ten, is probably correct. The weight reflects that as well. Anyone above 10 should be able to play and enjoy the title.
When I first opened the box, I thought I was scoring my own castle. What I didn’t understand is that I was scoring two castles, and would only get the lower of my two scores.
This is such a great mechanic. I would rate this game high on the replayability factor. Moreover, if you have read us at all, you know a game that goes to my shelf after a review is highly thought of, and this game will make it to my top shelf. It will force me to relieve a former favorite of that coveted position.
This is such a bittersweet feeling, when you like a new game so well, that it requires you to sacrifice another for the giveaway gods (Gleam). However, I can say proudly, that I think I am making the right choice, and this game will sit there for a long time. Thanks Stonemaier Games for making such a lovely experience.