Castles of Burgundy The Card Game from Stefan Feld is the first game in the new Alea ‘Very Small Box’ series. It’s small indeed. With a few tiny cards it tries to create the same atmosphere as its brother in the big box. Does it succeed?
It does. Kind of. You can do similar things with the cards, but, I must say, it feels less tense. But I’m jumping to conclusions here. Let’s explain the game first.
The cards are used for many things. As your dice. As your buildings. There are different types of buildings, with different special abilities, and you try to collect three of a kind to get points. You can say that the nicer the special ability, the lower the amount of points you get when you have a set of three. You also try to collect animals, different ones this time, and ship goods. All for points and the one with the most points at the end of the fifth round is the winner of the game.
Yes, this all sounds like a classic Feldian point salad. Some people like it, some don’t. So you know, I do.
A round goes as follows. You place the six dice cards, cards with a die face on it, on the table and draw a certain amount of cards, depending on the player count, and place them below every ‘dice’. Some dice get more cards than others. Then you give every player six cards face-down. These cards basically function as your personal die rolls. You draw two of the six cards and at the start of your turn you pick one of these two cards to use. Only the die matters in this case.
Apart from a depiction of a die with value one to six, a card has a colour, a special ability and a point value.
Let’s say you can choose between a card with a six and a one. You can do one of six different things with one of those cards. Your first option is to take a card from below the die cards in the middle of the table and place it next to your project card. In this case from below the one and the six card.
Secondly, you can complete a project, which means move a card from next to your project card to your estate. Only cards in your estate can give you points. You complete a project by matching the number on your own die card with the number on a card below your project card. So, you can build a project card with a six or a one this turn. When you build a card, you immediately execute its special action. If it’s the third of its kind in your estate you get a bonus. If you are the first player that completed a set in a certain colour you get a bonus point. You always must pick one of the many bonus actions. The earlier in the game you complete a set, the better the bonus. For instance, if you complete a set in the first round you may get three points or three silver, while later you may get only one silver as a bonus.
The third option you have is sell your goods. Your die card has to match the die on the goods you’ve collected throughout the game and then you can ship the goods, convert them into points. When you sell, you also become the first player the next round. Here you can ship the brown good, because you have a six die card.
Other options are take one silver, restock your worker cards up to two or exchange silver and workers with points.Here the die value doesn’t matter.
If you discard three silver you may draw three cards from the stack and use one of them for a bonus action. Worker cards can be used to modify the die on your card with one pip. Workers and silver, combined if you wish, can be turned into points with an exchange rate of one point per three silver or workers.
Well, all of the above sounds very familiar when you have played Castles of Burgundy, doesn’t it?
Oh, I almost forgot. The bonus action on the cards. Pretty important.
When you place a grey mine, a set of three is worth four points, you can get two silver. When you place yellow knowledges, four point per three, you take two workers. With blue ships, four points, you can get one good from the supply. With green pastures, worth also four points per set, you can get one animal card from the supply. The brown buildings have different abilities, like take a ship from the display, take three silver or take a point, and for a set of three cards you get three points. With the dark green castle cards, worth only two points, you basically get an extra wild bonus die that you must use immediately. Lastly, we have the purple cloisters. They don’t have an ability, but when you build them they can be added to other sets. However, on their own, in a set of three purple cards, they are worth the most, a stunning amount of six points.
That’s it, the most important stuff you need to know about this game.
Well, I quite like this little card game. I think I like the board game better, because I feel that the old game is more tense, like I said above. More than when you play the card game you get feeling that you HAVE to do a specific action at a certain moment. I have to take these goods, I have to take this building tile.
But, it has to be said. Stefan Feld created a card game that feels almost identical to its older brother. You are racing to complete the different sets, similar as completing the different areas on the board, to get bonus points. Plus, you want to complete them quickly, because you can get a better bonus action earlier in the game. You then can get more workers, animals, goods or silver.
And you really want silver. It is very, very important to get silver. I’m pretty sure you cannot win if you silver management skills are bad. These bonus actions, when you discard three silver, are crucial. In this way you can act out multiple actions in one turn, like get a building and build it too. Or you can get the last two buildings in the supply, for instance.
What you do miss, and what I really liked in classic Castles of Burgundy, is the spatial element of placing the tiles on your board, starting at one point and then spreading out. Like I already said, you then sometimes had to use a die for placing a building tile, because otherwise you got stuck. In the card game the order of the cards doesn’t really matter. You just build different sets. It’s not that you can only start building grey mines once you’ve finished a set of yellow cards. This was the case in the big game, you then had to build a yellow building first before you could start mining.
Overall the game played pretty quick. The first couple of turns of a round are the most interesting, because when the round nears its end there are no or very few cards left in the middle of the table, so there are just fewer, or less interesting things to do. And that’s why I also recommend this game with fewer players. It has less downtime between your turns and the turns themselves also go quicker, because you don’t have to pay attention to three other players.
Concluding, Castles of Burgundy The Card Game is a fine game, but I still think the board game is more interesting, more fun. The card game, however, is three, four times cheaper, maybe that’s something you find important when you have a smaller gaming budget.
I would give Castles of Burgundy four thumbs up, so I think this one should get somewhere between three and four thumbs. Round up or round down? Let’s be positive, shall we?
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