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.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Thursday 26 April 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Castell

Game: Castell

Publisher: Renegade Game Studios

Designer: Aaron Vanderbeek

Year: 2018

It’s not uncommon in board gaming to hear complaints about over-used themes – zombies, trading in the Mediterranean, generic fantasy. It is great to see new themes though, even though some range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Castell does seem like a somewhat ridiculous theme – building human pyramids, but it is a dare-devil tradition in Catalunya, Spain.

A unique theme is often enough to get me interested in a game, but the publisher, Renegade Games, has a marketing strategy that always gets me interested, as other reviewers begin to share thoughts on the upcoming titles. I heard some interesting things about how Castell might be a more of a brain burner than meets the eye, and this is certainly something that excites me, as we are starting to gravitate more and more to slightly more complex games.

In Castell, you are each collecting ‘Castellers’ – the performers that will take part in your human pyramid. The Castellers come in different sizes, and the artwork is a nice touch, as the smaller members of the team crouch as though they are tucking themselves into the upper levels of the tower, whilst the taller, lower members stand tall as the base of the pyramid. In each round there will be a competition in different towns requiring different sizes of Castellers to be present in your tower. There are lots of rules that dictate how you build your pyramid, but besides some exceptions that you can train during the game, it needs to look like a typical pyramid and smaller people must stand on taller people. You gain points for contests you enter as well as for building tall pyramids and entering one-off local contests.

For me, there are two puzzles in Castell. The first is crafting your route between the different cities. As we have played it more, I’ve started to do this at the start of the game, dismissing some cities if they’re too far off track, or feature types of Castellers that aren’t common to any other contests. I like how this then gives some overarching strategy to my game. The special action to move an extra space still gives me some flexibility to jump on an opportunity when new Castellers are drawn from the bag. This early planning seems particularly important in the two player game where most rounds only have one location that is active. In higher player count games there may be two active locations in each round, meaning your route can be more flexible and tactical.

The second puzzle is in training skills for your tower. Without skills you have to obey the basic tower rules, but the five skills allow you to start breaking these rules, building a wider tower, or stacking like numbers on two rows, mixing numbers on a single row etc. Different skills will be important to you depending what mixture of Castellers you pick up during the game, but we have found that some are more important than others and ‘balance’ seems pretty crucial to building tall towers with more numerical variety. You train these skills in different cities and this ties back into the overarching map puzzle, as you try and time your travel for when the skill wheel rotates to a region you are present in.

Castell set up for two players
Castell is not the most thematic game, but as you get used to the skills and they become more second nature, then it’s a little easier to start believing in the theme of the game as you build taller towers. The towers look cool on the table (you’ll need to be mindful of table space) and their colours and graphic design help the play to be intuitive.

I am a big fan of games with a puzzle, as well as games where the number of rounds, and round-by-round objectives are laid out in front of you at the start of the game. Castell is no exception. In our first game, the skills puzzle felt a little bit challenging to get your head around, but quite soon it becomes second nature. I think that Castell is a light-to-medium game, but that first game hurdle will make it challenging to teach to newer gamers. Although we play the game quite quickly, I can imagine that the puzzly mechanisms might be a challenge for those prone to analysis paralysis, as it’s certainly possible to try and optimize and plan ahead, way before it is perhaps enjoyable to do so.

Castell ticks a lot of the right boxes for me and for that, the Yellow Meeple gives it a 7.5/10.

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/.

No comments:

Post a Comment