Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 4 May 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Castles of Burgundy

Game: The Castles of Burgundy

Publisher: Alea/Ravensburger

Designer: Stefan Feld


Stefan Feld seems to be a polarising designer, with some people adoring the complexity of every game and others finding his 'point salad' style games too long, to AP inducing and dull. My first foray into Stefan Feld, with Bora Bora, was enjoyable but hasn't left any lasting memories or a desire to try it again, but when The Castles of Burgundy because flavour of the month in one of my Facebook groups, it caught my attention. With it's very high ranking on BoardGameGeek too (currently number 11), it was definitely worth a shot and thanks to the generosity of our friend Warren, we were able to do a bit of 'try before you buy'.

Here I could describe the theme, but let's be honest and say that this game is about placing hexagonal tiles on a board effectively to get the most points. The tiles represent different settlement types, such as castles, rivers and buildings which can only be placed on their respective terrain type on your player board. Mechanically, the game uses dice allocation to enable you to buy and place tiles as well as ship goods. Other than purchasing dice modifier tokens, these are your basic actions and with two dice rolled every turn, it's very much up to you how you focus your attention during the game. Other than making a personal choice where to focus, the yellow tiles you collect for your board can also direct you, as they either reward different actions more highly or give end game bonuses for different types of set collection.

A player board at the end of the game; bonuses are available for filling different sectors of the board and each terrain type has different scoring opportunities or bonuses.
As an older game, the component quality and graphic design are nothing to write home about. I still find it amusing that someone thought the best way to overcome a graphical problem with the score track was to make it snake at the end. The player boards and punchboards are flimsy and the art is frankly boring. Fortunately the one critical element of graphic design comes on the yellow tokens and building bonuses, most of which are quite intuitive in their meaning, so that looking up what they mean in the instructions is limited to just a couple of times per game.

A two-player game where only half of the spaces on the main game board are filled.
Whilst we had the game on loan for a friend I think we played it four times in the space of 2 weeks, only ever playing two-player. We then decided to buy the game for ourselves, but it sat on the shelf in shrink wrap for a couple of months. After playing again last week, I can confirm that we really love this game. There's no one thing that makes it great, it just works well as a whole, playing really smoothly, always causing tight scoring and with almost every turn feeling like you're really progressing your strategy.

When we play with two players, The Castles of Burgundy is a really meaty experience crammed into just 45 minutes. I'd quite like to share the game with other people, but I am concerned that it could easily become a slower game with people taking longer over each turn. The game has methods for scalability, giving a wider choice of tiles and different ranges of victory points. Beyond more people giving rise to more chance of players overthinking the game, I'm also concerned that as the available tiles will have more chance to change between your turns, the game will get more confrontational.

As a two player game, the Yellow Meeple is happy to give The Castles of Burgundy 9/10.

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