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Subject: I'm the King of the Castle... rss

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Mike
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Castle » Forums » Reviews
I'm the King of the Castle...
Fantasy…medieval…card game. I know what you’re all thinking. Sometimes you have to tell the tiny voice in your head to shut its pie hole. Is buying Castle one of those moments in life? Let’s find out…

Components

In typical Eurogames / BlueBox format you have a royal blue box with a generic fantasy themed picture on the box. Not the best first impression. Let’s press onward.

Inside you will find a deck of 56 square shaped cards, 115 different colored wooden tokens, 4 cardboard castle wall pieces, and a cloth baggie. They used a decent cardstock, which is nice since these cards will be used a lot, and the wooden tokens are better than plastic. For a $15-$20 you get pretty good quality bits.

I have to admit that I love the artwork done on the character cards. The character designs are brilliantly crafted and add some much needed flavor to an otherwise dry game. Some cards are humorous (Prince Charming), some are a little risqué (The Mistress & Lady in Waiting) but all in all they go a long way to inject some theme into this little card game.

Rules

The rules are clearly presented, in color, on some nice glossy paper. Reading through them quickly will get you up to speed in a few minutes. The rules do their best to explain all of the character’s roles/ability and during your first couple of games you will need to reference them often. Some things were lost in translation and the obligatory trip to the Geek might be needed. Luckily there are some nice online FAQS available that help clear up any misconceptions.

Gameplay

At its core, Castle is a tile placement game. The main mechanic is that each character has strict placement rules that the player must adhere to. Along with having to be specifically placed, each card has a special power. These range from protecting a card (via the knight) to removing them from play altogether (the assassin). The most useful power is the ability to send cards back to your opponent’s hand. Since the object of the game is to be the first player to place all your cards into the castle, getting cards back seriously hinders your progress.

A player’s turn goes like this. Perform two out of three actions; Draw a card from your deck, Place a card into the Castle, or replace a card in your hand from the Exchange. You can repeat an action if you so desire.

The first game is all about getting a feel for the rules and the characters. With each play after that I found the game got much better. You are constantly discovering powerful character combos as you become more and more familiar with their abilities. You need to be able to adapt to what your opponents are doing, while planning out the best moves for you. In a two player game it can become very tense and strategic. As the castle gets more crowded and your options are running out its easy to become desperate. Since you can see how many cards your opponents have left you can gauge your tactics appropriately. I must say its great fun being able to foil someone’s plans and send back a card that allows you to win at the last minute.

Castle starts off slow, but gains traction quickly. At first it seems lame that one of the strongest abilities is to send a card back that your opponent will probably replace in a matter of seconds. However, getting just one card ahead of them is the difference between winning and losing. It’s a great mechanic and with more than 2 players they might not be able place that card down again…very disruptive to their plans indeed! You need to act fast, since each part of the castle has limited space for cards.

Playing Castle is simply fun. We always have a good time and really enjoyed the gentle “screw you” nature of the game. It can be chaotic and you’re at the mercy of the cards in your hands, but good players tend to overcome that. The game is brisk and it’s over in about 30 minutes. I find that as soon as it ends we are eager to start up another game. It plays exceptionally well with 2 and according to Bruno Faidutti it is ideal with 3.

So who might be interested in a game like this? If you love tile placement games than this is certainly one of the more unique ones. Do you love games that have tons of characters with special abilities like Citadels, Mission: Red Planet, Ruse and Bruise or Witch’s Brew? If so you might like this cutthroat little card game. It’s fairly cheap (if you can find it), the theme is rather endearingly presented and most of all its really fun.

Verdict

This seemingly rudimentary card game with its generic fantasy theme might be easy to overlook. It’s a crowded genre for sure, but Castle rises to the top like frothy cream. The game is filled with tense choices, a dash of luck, great character abilities and beautiful artwork. If you can find this out of print game I would snatch it up in a heartbeat. It has quickly become one of my favorite games and it’s a cherished part of my collection.
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John Di Ponio
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Warren
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I traded for Castle based on this review and had it out on the table this weekend!!! I have to totally agree with the review!! Its a beautiful game that is fun and quick to play!!! The Artwork is stunning and you can pack this gem up and take it anywhere!
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Mike
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Well I'm glad my review was helpful. Castle doesn't seem to have very many fans on the Geek, but its such a rock solid game. It took me a long time to track this game down, but it was really worth the effort. I really do cherish this one and I'm really happy to have it.

Since you dig Castle I feel safe in recommending Ruse & Bruise. The game features tons of different characters (many with special abilities) vying for differnt "goals" each round. Each player has the exact same deck, but a diffent hand of cards. You must figure out how to use the characters to win the goals for each round. It's not quite the same as Castle, but it scratches a similar itch. One of Castle's designer, Bruno Faidutti has a review on his website...

http://www.faidutti.com/index.php?Module=ludotheque&id=471

Perhaps an even better suggestion would be the out of print, Fist of Dragonstones. That is a wonderful game. Plenty of bluffing, cool character abilities and it plays quick. It almost feels like a strange version of poker...


~ Bones
 
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