The Castles of Burgundy

The Castles of BurgundyIt’s always satisfying when you take a chance on something and it pays off. I had at least half a dozen friends recommend that I try The Castles of Burgundy, but I couldn’t find anyone who had a copy in my area, so I went ahead and purchased a copy without having played it first.

My FLGS, the Crazy Squirrel, ordered it for me, but after I picked it up, I put it in my game cabinet and it sat there, in shrink, for months. I would look at it and think, “Hey, I should open that up.” Then I would think some other thought like, “Hey, I’m thirsty” or “I have a hole in my sock.”

I finally opened it up this weekend, and I’m really glad I did.

Die Burgen von Burgund is a game for 2 to 4 players, designed by Stefan Feld. It was published in 2011 and was on the recommended list for the 2011 Spiel des Jahres. It has enough complexity to live up to the 12 and older claim and it will take about an hour and a half to play. That seems a little long for a game like this, but I really don’t mind. This game keeps my attention and I feel like I am making important choices all the way through.

The game comes with a main board, six double-sided player boards, dice, and a whole bunch of tiles. So many tiles, in fact, that it can be overwhelming at first, especially for baggers. Relax, and punch through to the end. Gather up the tiles by the colors on the backs and then bag them. After placing them in the standard 4″ x 6″ bags, I realized that they didn’t really fit into the box insert like I wanted, so I went to the craft store and bought 3″ x 4″ bags. That was much better. I am not insane. I am organized.

The goal of the game is to build up your estate, which is something that 15th century French aristocrats liked doing, I’m told. Each round, the players will roll two dice and these dice determine how you perform your actions. You have ways to manipulate the results of the dice, but you still need to be able to weigh your choices carefully. Is it the right time to ship goods? Can you set up a better move that you can execute in a later round? Is it the right time to buy that special tile? Do you, in fact, have a hole in your sock?

The game is complex enough that a rules explanation would violate the vision statement of this blog, but I can talk about some of the ideas that make this a winner for me. There is a mechanism that I feel makes all the difference in this game. The tiles that you use to build your estate are taken from the main board, using the dice value; however, you cannot move a tile from the main board directly onto your estate. The tile is placed into a storage area on your player board, and then must be placed onto your estate using another die. You have to build out from a starting location on your estate and you only have enough storage for three tiles. It’s this flow of tiles and resources from the main board to your estate that I think really makes this game.

I’ve only played The Castles of Burgundy a few times, but I’ve enjoyed it more with each play. I have a feeling that this one will stay in my collection for many years. It’s a very good game even with just two players, and I’m eager to see what my wife thinks of this. I hope we can make some time to play it over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Happy gaming!

3 Comments

  1. MiddleClassJoe

    Considering that I stared at the board in utter confusion for the first 5 minutes, I ended up enjoying this game more than I would have guessed. It definitely earned a second play.

  2. teabo

    I also bought this game without playing it some months ago, on the strengths of recommendations, the designer and the publisher. Plus it just sounded good.

    I’ve only played once so far and I felt the game got bogged down a bit as we learned to interpret the iconography and meanings of all the tiles.

    I’m very eager to enjoy it, though, and this post emboldens me to take another crack at it and see if I can get over the hump.

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