Theme and What is it?
Hear ye! Hear ye! The King is calling all of the best architects to design his world-renowned Palace. King Ludwig II of Bavaria has petitioned all of the best architects to work together on the design. The architect with the strongest influence will receive the order to build the palace surrounded by water and full of swans! Players take turns placing room tiles in the palace before it is enclosed by the water tiles.
The play area is three pieces that fit together like a puzzle. It is the front part of the palace with the drawbridge and water going out from there. This area also holds all of the room tiles, moat tiles and swans. Players use swans to pay for tiles and at the end of the game give influence based on sets (just like in the expansion for Castles). There are five different colored swans. Most are visible to all players but some are secret and will be revealed at the end of game for scoring. At the start of the game, three hallway tiles are placed out from the drawbridge to start the palace.
Players start the game with their own blueprints board. This board keeps track of many different things throughout the game. I am not going to go into a huge amount of detail to avoid confusion. All influence is calculated at the end of the game. The blueprints board keeps track of all of the different types of rooms a player has within the palace as well as bonuses (in-game and game end).
On a players turn, they can do one of four actions:
- Place a Room tile in the palace
- Play a Hallway or Stair tile in the palace
- Place a Room tile on their blueprints board
- Place a Favor tile on their blueprints board.
As rooms are completed within the palace, moat tiles start surrounding the palace. The number of moat tiles that come out grows as the palace gets bigger. The player that completed the room chooses where the moat tiles are placed.
Once the palace is completely surrounded by moat tiles, the game ends and influence is calculated. Influence is calculated by things from the player’s blueprints boards, certain room tiles, swan sets and favor tiles. There are public favors and private favors to be scored. Tie breakers are really interesting. The first tie breaker goes to the player that has the most swans, but in the event that it is still tied, the King loses all patience and the next highest player (second) wins.
I am familiar with this game’s predecessor, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, so I grabbed this one almost immediately on release. The title alone, in my opinion, draws in repeated players and the impressive palace for the box art should draw in new players. I knew this one would be very different from the original, but was confident that Bézier Games would not disappoint.
Game Build Quality
Lots and lots and lots of punch boards! All the components in Palace are high quality cardboard except for the score pad. The insert is nothing spectacular because just like Castles, there is not one. It is one open box with a bunch of baggies. Although I applaud Bézier Games for including the baggies, they are not something I am personally fond of for organizing my games. I wish there was more of an insert to sort the tiles because there are a LOT of tiles. This does not turn me off from the game at all. I just came up with a better way of organizing the game to make setup and take down a little easier.
The art is very similar to Castles of Mad King Ludwig. The room tiles all have props printed inside them and the coloring is the same for the room types to match what is familiar from Castles. The tiles are all square instead of the random shapes in the other version. This makes the play area symmetrical for the moat tiles that surround them.
I love this version! The original Castles is great but there is minimal player interaction with each other. With Palace, players have access to the same tiles, same placement, etc. There is a ton of player interaction and ways to mess with opponents which I find a lot of fun when gaming. We enjoy this one as much as Castles. And some of us enjoy it even more.
Age Range & Weight
The Palace of Mad King Ludwig is for ages thirteen and above. There are many things to keep up with when playing this game so I believe that is a good suggestion. With some help from an adult, it could fit a slightly younger audience but sometimes decisions could be influenced.
As mentioned previously, I adore this version. I am not saying it replaces Castles for my group because both are completely different games. But, this one is a lot of fun and brings something fresh to the table. Part of my gaming group still prefers the original as they have more control over their game play because they are building their own castle instead of all players designing one giant palace. If you are already a fan of Castles of Mad King Ludwig and are looking for something new and different, check this one out. I do not think you will be disappointed.