Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig was sent to us for review by Stonemaier Games. It is a tile placement game where you and the person next to you build a castle, wide or tall, trying to get the most points based on room types that are near each other in particular ways.
You build two castles–one with the person to the left of you, one with the person to the right. This seems like a simple thing to manage, but it has to be done carefully as you only score your lowest castle. This was an interesting mechanic that made the gave the game a unique way to balance.
The game is has a two player variant that has a dummy player that is shared between players. We found that playing with a fake player next to us was a bit tiring. In round 1 and 2 we took turns deciding for the bot player what tiles went to what castle and it was difficult to keep track of what tiles went to which player and felt more like a chore. In some ways we wanted to build just a single castle, but alas, the title of the game would not work as well. This was definitely a three player variant that did not work as well as other games.
The game is neatly organized in Game Trayz inside the box. You stack 9 rooms into each slot of the tray and give one stack to each player after shuffling. The game is a little cumbersome to put away as you need to individually count each slot in the tray and can take a little bit of time to initially unpack. It is fairly easy to eyeball how many tiles go into each slot but it is easy to miss. The rest of the tiles are easier to organize and have a handy mechanic in the tray, where pressing down gently will tilt the tiles and make it easier to remove a tile. Shuffling tiles is always a little daunting, especially with large, thinner pieces like the ones used in the game.
In each of the two rounds each player gets a stack of 9 tiles and uses 8 of them, one per turn. When you set your pile in front of you, you place a wooden castle piece that represents your castle on top of the stack. This was a cute addition and we love the castles but found it to be unnecessary to play. The wooden castles didn’t serve a purpose beyond that.
The symbols and colors on the tiles were plentiful enough to be interesting but not too overwhelming. The individual symbols were straightforward and made it clear how to gain points. Some had you get points for all rooms with the sword symbol around it, others gave you points for anvils above and below, outdoor cards gave you points for all of one type (but didn’t allow you to build on top of the outdoors card) and more. These were very interesting scoring conditions and provide a variety of conditions that up the replay value!
One of the best parts are the bonuses you get for getting certain room colors. The Royal Attendants get placed on top of the throne room and it changes it from a mostly empty room to having the people superimposed with the tiles.
Scoring at the end is a little long since you count each room type, bonuses, and score them on a notepad and have to check each individual tile for the scoring conditions. On the notepad you do get to name your castle however, so that is a nice feature. Get ready to sit and do some math and tile comparison, but it honestly isn’t hard just a little time consuming.
While we did have fun working together to build a castle and would play this game again, it is not one that we would bring to the table as often because of the manual work required, especially for two players, in scoring, setup, and playing as the bot player. Though the mechanics of managing two castles is an interesting idea, with two players it seemed a little lacking.
Language Barrier Playability: Learning the rules is heavily language dependent but if you can memorize them you can play based on the symbols.
Replayability: Each castle you make is a little different so it has a lot of room for replay. I know that each time I played it I thought of strategies to play it better than the last time.
Artwork: Nice, medieval style castle drawings. The illustrations are detailed but clean looking. The backs of the tiles look like fancy rug designs which we really liked. The cover is very beautiful too and we love the way it looks on our shelf.
Quality: The tiles are well made, the castles are sturdy wood, and the drawing pads are plentiful. You can tell all pieces are built to last. These games show they are made with great care.
Strategy: Great, you need to think of ways to put rooms near other rooms to get the most points, but certain color rooms can only go on certain levels of the castle. Only two types of rooms can go below the main floor (Basements and Halls).
Instruction Manual: Very detailed, a little long but necessarily so because there are a lot of fine details to pay attention to.
Organization: Pleasant as always with Stonemaier Games. The pieces are organized in Game Trayz containers (we LOVE these) and nothing moves around in the box. Just perfect.