Theme and What is it?
Once upon a castle is a game where the players will draw up (literally) the plans for their perfect castle. A finished castle will include some towers, walls, and a Donjon to host guests. The game uses a unique system of turning dice rolls into actions different from other players.
Wannabe castle builders will start their turn by rolling two dice. Then they will use both dice to either place action markers on their player board or will immediately trace/draw/color in two people in their castle. Each other player will also select ONE of those dice to use for its associated action. Players continue going around and around until someone has finished all 4 towers, 4 walls, and 4 levels of their Donjon will trigger an instant end to the game. Players can also score flags on their built walls to sneak in some extra points.
How do you go from placing action markers to DOING castle construction you ask? By finishing a row or column of action tokens. When you want to use a finished action sequence, remove those tokens and draw that structure including the points if it shows a number needed.
Once upon a castle is a light hearted game intended to let children and nongamers get a glimpse of what a roll and write is all about. It takes the core game concept of rolling dice and making decisions and adds a clever strategic twist with the action boards. In a good roll and write, players are supposed to have the same or nearly the same inputs and end up making totally different decisions. This means good roll and write games have a totally unique end state for each player. How much more unique can you get than your own artistic creation! Color, trace, or just sketch from scratch. Your choice. But your castle will NOT be the same as mine.
Game Build Quality
The components for a game like this are relatively simple. They do hold a few wonderful surprises. The action discs are not purely flat. They have a bit of bulge to the top and bottom making them so easy to pickup. A small thing, but we have all struggled to get our fingers under components like this before.
The pad of paper for your castles comes double sided to give you flexibility to do your own creative masterpiece or to embellish your own flair on the model castle.
Whenever a player builds a level of their Donjon (the innermost tower where the guests will stay), they gain a guest card. In the simple version of the game, this guest is just worth a few points with a bit of randomness being thrown into the mix. The advanced version has characters with special abilities and scoring bonuses. Regardless of the version, the artwork on these characters are sketched on graph paper and have a very charming quality. They inspire players to feel good about their own sketches and to make something unique. Why just make a generic person visiting your castle when you could make a troll, a queen, or someone else with a fancy hat?
Once upon a castle is a relaxed feeling game where players can take it at the pace they want. Some players might just chug through the dice rolling, action preparing, and try to get the major pieces of their castle done as fast as possible to score bonus points with the sun and cloud. Others, will get into the spirit of creation and make a castle that they can be proud of having created. It really is all about the experience you want to have.
Age Range & Weight
6+ is totally fair! We played with a wide age range of players down to a 7 year old. Everyone was able to grasp and enjoy the game. To get used to the action board selection took some parental guidance for the youngest players, but that is to be expected. We found using colored pencils to be a great way to enhance the experience for the younger players. They can alternate colors and keep their attention on making their castle look awesome.
This is a great way to introduce the concept of a roll and write game and get players to enter the world of gaming as they grow up. I regret not using the make your own castle side in our very first play. Honestly, I am looking forward to doing that next time so that people can have an opportunity to laugh at my lopsided monstrosity of an almost castle.