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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Tuesday 24 April 2018

All about the base:- Castell

Game: Castell

Publisher: Renegade Game Studios

Designer: Aaron Vanderbeek

Year: 2018

Castell is a 2-4 player tile laying strategy game in which you take control of a colles castelleres touring Catelonia performing at festivals to create the tallest and most impressive human towers. You will need to recruit new members to your team and train in various skills in order to have a chance of winning the many festivals that are taking place across the region. Even if you can't reach a festival in time you can always put on a show for locals in order to gain renown.

In Castell you begin with a handful of tiles each representing a person numbered from 10 to 1. You can use these to create your human towers, at the start of the game you are limited to a maximum width of 3, and each layer must all be of the same number and must have 1 fewer than the layer below. As you learn skills you can break and bend these rules. The mix skill lets you combined numbers on a row (tiles are different heights so only certain numbers can be combined). The strength skill lets you place a person on top of a layer of the same number (a 1 on top of another 1 for example). The width skill allows you to gain 1 width, so you can make layers with 4 people, while the base skill lets you have 1 layer with no limit to the number of people on it. Finally the balance skill lets you build a layer at the same width as the one before it.

Castell set up ready for a 2 player game. Each player can only make a very limited tower at the moment.

On your turn you may perform up to 4 separate actions, each one you can only perform 1 time: moving allows you to move from the city you are in to an adjacent city, very useful for reaching the next festival. Training allows you to learn one of the 5 skills, each region has a different skill available every turn, so you'll need to make sure you are in a useful spot. Each skill can be trained up to level 5, allowing you to use it multiple times. Recruiting allows you to take 2 of the people tiles in the region to add to your team. Finally you can use one of your special tokens to use a special action, these allow you to perform a local performance (make certain tower shapes or use certain skills in your tower to get points), move an extra time or recruit 1 more person.

The meat of the game is the festivals, every turn after round 2 there will be at least 1 festival somewhere on the map, if you end your turn in that region then you may perform in it, the performances reward points based on the height of the tower and on the number of people of the selected numbers used, each festival has a different combination of numbers.. Castell works on a high score bases, you only track your best towers score which will become your starting points at the end of the game. In addition to these you will score bonus points for each region your performed in, your ranking at each festival you performed in, any local performances you managed to do, and any number tokens you claimed (by having the most of that number in your tower at a festival).

Castell has some incredible ideas, I love the theme and the tile laying tower mechanics are both thematic and unique. Unfortunately where the game falls apart is in it's two player mode. You see the festivals are randomly assigned at the start of the game, and there are two decks, ensuring that each city appears once, and only once, in each half of the game. However when you don't play with a full player count you use less of them, which means it's extremely likely that certain regions will never have a festival. Given that one of the end game scoring mechanics is to perform at every region this can make things a challenge. To make this worse this also means that you have no choice, most round have 2 festivals in them, but play with 2 and only the last one does, so if you don't have the right stuff to perform in a festival, or if it is simply too far away from the last one, they you are flat out of luck. To top this off the lower the player count the less people on the board to recruit at any one time, this makes acquiring the rarer numbers particularly difficult, further limiting your abilities to perform.

Each round the dial rotates, changing which cities let you train which skills.

So Castell is a game that I want to love, but the reality is I'm almost always playing games with 2 people, and it hurts that that is where Castell is weakest. The game can also suffer from AP, as there are often ways that using your skills in certain combinations may eke out that extra 1 height, or allow you to perform a local performance that otherwise would be beyond you. While this makes for a nice mental puzzle, for everyone else around the table it isn't quite so fun. I wouldn't say no to playing Castell again, particularly at a higher player count, but as a two player game it's simply not worth the time.


Castell was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available for an RRP of £57.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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