The evil Menace is threatening the dream world and you, as the commander of the mighty fortress Castellion, have to defeat it in this solo game from the brilliant designer Shadi Torbey.
How do you play the game?
The dream world is under siege and you have to defend it. Every game you have to overcome three ordeals. Build your castle right and you might win the game.
At the start of the game you need to add 12 traitor tiles to the pile of dream/ defender tiles and shuffle them, before you place them in stacks on the table. Next to them you have to place the shuffled stack of ‘safe’ dream tiles, with a blue back. At the start of the game you also draw three ordeal cards. These ordeal cards tell you which formations you have to build and the amount of time you have before it has to be done.
Time is represented by the traitor tiles. Every time you draw a traitor tile you have to place it next to the first ordeal. Once you’ve drawn the amount of traitor tiles that’s depicted on the ordeal card you have to check if you have built the formations on the card and have a complete foundation. If not, you lose the game. If you have, you go to the next ordeal card.
You have to take into account that a formation is cancelled if there’s a tile of the same faction next to it. Imagine that you have to make a tower, a vertical line of four tiles of the same faction. You succeeded in building a tower with four Jugglers. Now every Juggler you place right next to this tower will cancel the formation, so make sure you think about that.
I’ve said you have to place a traitor card next to an ordeal card if you draw one, but you have a choice actually. You can also discard it, but then you have to remove four defender tiles from you castle.
How do you build your castle? Every turn you have to draw and place or discard a defender tile. On these tiles you find a faction and a shape. To place a tile you have to follow these three rules. One, each tile must be placed orthogonally adjacent to another tile. The grid size is 6×6. Two, each tile, except the bottom six (the foundation), must be placed above another tile. And, three, you may never place a tile with the same shape next to each other, except for the foundation tiles.
When you decide to discard the tile you’ve drawn, you trigger the ability of the tile’s faction. With the blue Seer you can reveal four dream tiles and place them face-up on the table to draw from before you can draw from the face-down tiles again. With the green Chameleon you can search the discard pile and place a discarded tile instead. The purple Pyro gives you the chance to move a tile in your castle to another position, but you need to remove another tile to do so. The orange Juggler can change the positions of two orthogonally adjacent defender tiles. The Pyro and the Juggler action don’t have to follow placement rule three, so this way you can place defenders with the same shape next to each other.
You win the game if you overcome all three ordeals and loose if you don’t. It’s that simple. Or is it?
There are no cards, but tiles in the newest game from Shadi Torbey. It could have easily been done with cards, but the tiles are nice for a change.
The game itself feels different from his earlier games, Onirim, Urbion and Sylvion. It feels less tense, less punishing. The traitors are a threat, but there’s enough you can do to manage these threats. In the other three games there were situations where I really had no hope at all, but here I always have, except when I messed things up myself.
Everything is in your own hands, you really have to think about where to place which tile. Thinking ahead is key here.
I do think the ‘introductory game is a good way to play your first game, to familiarize yourself with the game mechanisms, but the base and expert level game are the way to play. That doesn’t mean that the base game is more difficult to beat, I even find the base game easier to win than the introductory game, but the base game is more interesting in terms of gameplay. The faction powers just give you more things to think about, which also means that there are more ways to get yourself out of a difficult situation.
The expert game is where the fun really begins. Now your formations also have a power, but the ordeals are hidden and are much harder to overcome. You do have the possibility to complete an ordeal without satisfying the building requirements in this level, but you’ll have to remove a lot of tiles and still have a foundation to do so. And that’s hard to accomplish.
The illustrations in Castellion are gorgeous as all the illustrations in Shadi’s games are, it’s pretty easy to learn and it plays really quickly too. The first interesting bit comes with the making of the different formation and the rules you have to follow when you place your tiles. Like I already said, you have to think ahead. Can I afford to discard a tile? There are only so much tiles of one colour and shape. Don’t let it come to the point that you can only place one specific tile in a crucial spot, or otherwise you might have to dig trough the draw piles until you have found it, and in the meantime Traitor tiles will pop up.
The second interesting thing are the Faction powers. You don’t have to execute them when you discard a tile, but they might help you a lot, maybe most importantly, because they don’t have to follow the ‘same shape’ placement rule.
The ordeal cards are more difficult when you play the base game and even much more difficult when you play the expert game. Every level has its own set of ordeals and they will be different in every game.
All in all, I like Castellion. The content of this box offers a lot of cool stuff. There are mini expansions for every level of the game, so you won’t get bored easily. I have not played this one as a two-player game, because I’ve tried to play his earlier games with two, but it wasn’t any good that way, so I won’t even try the two-player variant this time. As a solo game, Shadi’s games are top-notch and so is Castellion.