The Castles of Burgundy Review
Stats at a glance
15th century France: a century dominated by the Hundred Years War, and culminating with a declaration of war on Italy.
Also, the inspiration for The Castles of Burgundy — a board game that somehow manages to avoid any mention of bloodshed altogether.
Masonry, agriculture, and trading abound in this tile-heavy Eurogame.
Read our The Castles of Burgundy Board Game Review below.
Brief Overview of The Castles of Burgundy
The Castles of Burgundy is a classic competitive Eurogame. Playing as the prince of a grand estate, your role is to build and trade your way to victory.
This is a tile-placement game in which players’ actions each turn are guided by the roll of two dice. You must carefully choose your tiles and grow your estate in return for various rewards. Ultimately, you want to be the player with the most victory points at the end of the game. However, there are lots of different ways to earn them.
Versions & Expansions
There aren’t any expansions to The Castles of Burgundy, however, there are two games in the same series it’s worth mentioning.
The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game
The card game in the series follows many of the same themes as its predecessor. However, this is a well-made game in its own right. The game revolves around card management and is a good alternative for those that want to satisfy that Castles of Burgundy craving, but don’t have time for a whole game.
The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game
Again, many of the same ideas come through in The Dice Game, however, you don’t have to be a Castles of Burgundy veteran to enjoy it. The aim is, again, to grow your estate and earn victory points. This time, though, you’re rolling five dice.
The Castles of Tuscany
Unboxing The Castles of Burgundy
The Castles of Burgundy certainly isn’t a game that tries to hide behind its components. These include:
- 164 six-sided tiles
- 42 goods tiles
- 20 Silverlings
- 30 worker tiles
- 12 bonus tiles
- 4 victory point tiles
- 8 playing pieces
- 9 dice
- 1 game board
- 6 player boards
I say that because everything about how Castles of Burgundy has been produced screams, “that’ll do.” When you open the box, you’ll notice that everything feels just a little… pastel. The colors are quite plain, while the artwork feels like it’s been taken from a stock image site (if there is such a thing for 15th Century medieval graphics).
Similarly, the quality of the components clearly wasn’t a priority, either. Nothing is inadequate, but the thickness of the card, for example, doesn’t scream “sturdy”.
That said, once you start playing the game, this doesn’t get in the way. When your estate starts building up, it actually does look quite impressive on the table. It may not be made of sturdy stuff, but everything fits together fine, and nothing moves around too much.
Considering the price you can often pick Castles of Burgundy up for, it’s not surprising and certainly shouldn’t put you off.
How to Play The Castles of Burgundy
Aim of the Game
The aim of The Castles of Burgundy is to earn the most amount of victory points. You do this by growing your estate and achieving rewards and bonuses. For example, you can get victory points for:
- Placing certain buildings or tiles on your estate
- Selling goods
- Farming livestock
- Scientific research
- Placing tiles on an entire region
Each player gets a Player Board which represents their estate. It is split into 37 colored regions, representing different landscapes and terrain, such as pastures, rivers or cities. Players get given some worker tiles to start, depending on turn order, and various other resources, too. The player to go first places their pawn on the turn order track, followed by everyone else, and is given the white die.
Take five goods tiles and place them face-up on the round spaces on the main board. Finally, place as many six-sided tiles as there are players into each numbered depot (one for each side of the die). These are the tiles that can be chosen by players on each round.
The game is split into five phases, each comprised of five rounds. The rounds all follow the same pattern. Firstly, everyone simultaneously rolls two dice. Then the first player takes their turn by choosing two actions, one for each of their dice. There are four options:
- Take a tile from a depot – the tile you take must correspond to the die roll. You then put it into the storage space on your Player Board.
- Add a tile to your estate – you can add any tile in your storage space to your estate. However, the space in your estate you choose must:
- Be adjacent to an already-placed tile.
- Correspond to the number you rolled on the die.
- Match the color of the tile.
- Sell goods – you can exchange goods for Silverling (the main currency of the game) and victory points.
- Take two worker tiles – worker tiles can be played at any time, and can adjust the result of a die roll up or down by one.
Building Your Estate
There are lots of different tiles you can place into your estate, all of which grant the player various different benefits.
For example, by placing pasture tiles you can earn victory points straight away. If your pasture tile is placed next to another pasture tile that shares the same animal type, you can earn even more. A ship tile, on the other hand, will earn you goods. While mines grant you Silverling at the end of the phase.
There are also buildings you can place, including banks, markets, and churches, which grant you immediate benefits.
If you place tiles on every space in a colored section, you are also granted bonus victory points. The amount you get is determined by how early on in the game you achieve it, and how big the region is.
Ending a Phase
After five rounds, the phase ends and various phase-end effects take place, depending on the tiles players chose.
The next phase then begins and continues as before. Players evolve their estates how they sit fit, racking up points and preparing for the final scoring.
Game End & Scoring
Once all five phases are complete, the game ends and final scoring takes place. Bear in mind that, throughout the game, players will have been gradually moving up the Victory Point Track.
At this stage, players are awarded points for the goods remaining in their store, unspent Silverling and unused worker tiles.
Whichever player has made their way furthest around the Victory Point track wins!
Your First Game of Castles of Burgundy
The first time you play The Castles of Burgundy, and probably every game after, make sure you keep the rulebook handy. This is an easy game to learn, however, you cannot be expected to remember all the finer details, such as the specific benefits you get from certain buildings or scientific research. You will find yourself regularly leafing through the pages to answer some of these points.
On rules, remember that in order to place a tile, it must first be placed into your storage depot. That’s not to say you can’t pick it up and place it. But this will take all two actions on your go. It’s easy to get excited and skip out the storage depot when you’ve been waiting for ages for the right die roll.
Finally, it seems obvious but think carefully about where you’re placing your tiles and the long-term effect of each one. Once placed, they can’t be moved. Farms, for example, can be a real boon if used properly. So pay attention to what’s on the board, and don’t back yourself into a corner.
Pros & Cons
- Simple rules, lots of strategy
- Loads of ways to score points
- The satisfaction of building an estate
- Works great with two players
- Minimum player interaction
- Plain artwork
I love tile placement games. The experience of growing an empire bit by bit and then milking it for all its worth it simply enchanting. The Castles of Burgundy ticks this box firmly. Never will you feel quite so close to being a rural aristocrat, surveying his estate from the comfort of his castle. The numerous different tile types mean your estate will nearly always differ in nature to the last one.
That said, as tile placement games go, you maybe don’t quite get the satisfaction of similar games like Carcassonne (or its expansions) that allows you to build long winding roads or cavernous (albeit ugly) castles for maximum point-scoring. Instead, most of the tiles operate entirely siloed from one another.
The number of tiles also means that there are lots of different ways to win (and lose). For me, risk management was the key here. I loved figuring out a strategy that had high potential rewards but that was also going to earn some decent points along the way. You may choose, for example, to focus on completing a region, but if the right tiles and dice rolls don’t come out you might end up realizing it was all a waste of time.
This variation doesn’t make it hard to learn, though. The mechanics of the game are simple, and all the benefits of each tile are clearly laid out in the rulebook.
Two-player gamers will be pleased to know that this works fantastically with two players, as well. So much so that Game Cows co-founder Bryan actually seems to feel it works even better as a two-player game than when played with three or four people.
One thing I did notice with The Castles of Burgundy is that there’s very little you can do to thwart an opponent. Your only real option is to take tiles that you can see they might need to finish a region or somesuch. Instead, the focus of the game is almost entirely on building your own empire and scoring as many points as possible. This isn’t going to be to everyone’s tastes, however, it’s perfectly possible to engage with other players throughout about their own strategies, as everything is very much on the table.
Finally, a word on presentation. I do like the look and feel of Castles of Burgundy, especially considering how cheap it can be. However, as empire-builders go, it’s not the most picturesque. While you might have visions of building a provisional city-state such as Avignon, the reality is that your estate will end up looking a little more like a 90s fold-out tourist map. Luckily, I like 90s tourist maps.
The Castles of Burgundy Review (TL;DR)
Castles of Burgundy is a thorough tile-placement game that puts you in the shoes of a 15th Century French prince. Your goal is to grow your estate and earn more victory points than your opponents.
There are loads of different ways to win this game, something that makes Castles of Burgundy really stand out when it comes to strategy. Not to mention, the wanna-be city planners out there will not be disappointed with the complex estate you’ll have developed at the end.
If you’re trying to ween someone into the tile-placement genre of game, Castles of Burgundy is a great place to start. Not just because it’s relatively simple to pick up, but because it’s fantastically entertaining, too. I love being able to gradually watch my estate grow – you end up becoming quite connected to it by the end. So much so that it’s hard to pack away when it’s over.
The main draw of Castles of Burgundy, though, is that there are so many ways to notch up points and, subsequently, win. You can start moving up the victory track from the very first turn, or bide your time and wait for a big payload further down the line. Whatever you decide, you can develop an entirely new strategy each time. It gives it fantastic replayability.
Artwork-wise, the theme is a little weak. But this isn’t a big issue. Once you’ve started placing some tiles, it’s hard not to survey your estate and start feeling like a little prince.
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