When I first started playing “hobby” board games, I remember being a little intimidated by a few of the games I would see at board game meetups and conventions. For the most part, it was those that had a ton of pieces, or what looked like complicated player boards. Double that concern if there are hexagons – it’s just such a menacing shape.
So when I first came across The Castles of Burgundy several years ago, I was hesitant to try it out. There were just TONS of little bitty hexagons inside of that plastic tray, seeming to have no rhyme or reason. The player board was a hexagon made out of hexagons… that’s almost a 6-6-6 thing, and you gotta avoid that.
But little did I know that now, almost 6 years later, I would still be trying to play this game every chance I get.
Just Like Real Life
The Castles of Burgundy puts players in that age old story of a French aristocrat controlling a small princedom. We’ve all been there, right? Round by round, you’ll be building out your land by adding… well, all sorts of stuff. Try your hand at raising farm animals. Develop several different types of structures, like churches or banks, or even big, fancy castles. Increase your trade with cargo ships, or your wealth with silver mines. You can also add knowledge… yeah, that last one doesn’t work as well for me, but whatever.
The way this happens in the game is a pretty simple drafting and placement mechanic. The game is played over 5 phases of 5 rounds each. Each round, you’ll roll two dice, which you then use to take actions. You can draft tiles, as long as your die roll matches the position where the tile has been placed on the game board.
Another option is to place drafted tiles, as long as the hexagon on your personal board features the value of one of those dice you rolled. You can also ship goods, but again, you need to match your die to the type of goods you want to ship! Finally, you can hire workers, which help you manipulate die rolls on future turns.
There are a ridiculous number of ways to score points in The Castles of Burgundy. Your player board is divided up into several sections of connected similar tiles, and every time you complete a section, you’ll get points. The earlier in the game you finish these sections, the more points they will earn you. You can also get points from shipping goods, or from bonuses from the special knowledge tiles.
Players continue to take actions using their dice through the five phases, and whoever ends up with the most points by the end of the game wins!
Finding the Fun
If your only experience with The Castles of Burgundy comes from the above description, you’re probably wondering why I like it so much. The thing is, that’s an incredibly brief description. I’ve left out quite a few details that have to be explained before you really start playing. Honestly, it could take a little while, and you’d probably be left wondering why everyone loves this game so much.
But once your turns get going, you’ll start to see it all come together. Much of the magic happens with the structure tiles. Most of them give you bonuses when placed on your player mat, like allowing you to take an extra tile from the board or some extra workers.
The castles are even more special, as they give you a free action of any type, as if you had rolled whatever number you want. You can also get bonuses from knowledge tiles that allow you to gain extra benefits or even break some of the placement and drafting rules.
So once you get to about round 3 or 4, you’ll start putting together some really nice rounds. There’s a tremendous feeling of satisfaction when you’re able to draft and place just the right tiles to grab a ton of points. When I was playing earlier today (on Board Game Arena), I managed to place two castles and two other tiles all in the same turn, gaining me 39 points. I couldn’t help but have a big smile on my face after I finished the turn. It just felt like such a great plan had come together.
Beauty is More Than Skin Deep
There’s only one major issue that I’ve ever had with the game, and that is the storage. The edition of the game that I have – and the one I’ve seen the most – doesn’t really have much in the way of organization. It just offers shallow dips in a big piece of plastic where you’re supposed to keep everything. The tiles do not stay there at all, so if you transport this game at all, add an extra 10 minutes to setup so that you can sort all the tiles before you get going.
The artwork is also not my favorite, but it has grown on me over the years. I will say that I tremendously prefer the artwork from the older editions versus the illustrations from the 2019 version of the game. I don’t quite understand why they went with the art style that they chose, as it is so different from the previous entry that veteran players will likely need a player aid. Plus, I just don’t think it looks good at all.
A True Classic
Here’s the truth: I played two games of The Castles of Burgundy while I was writing this review. Even though it’s 1 AM right now as I’m writing this sentence, I’m a little tempted to play another game. It’s just so much fun. Chaining together your actions to pull off a high scoring move is so satisfying. Filling up your player board with all those little tiles is wonderful.
The game is simultaneously so very simple, yet elegantly complex. And it works well at different player counts! I’ve enjoyed this as a two player game with my wife several times, but it’s probably even better at three and four players (though it can get a bit long).
Whether you’re new to board games or you’ve been in the hobby for a long time, if you haven’t tried this game out, do yourself a favor and STOP READING THIS. Go play. Go! Right now!
You can find a copy of Castles of Burgundy at just about any board game shop or purchase it through Amazon today.
- There are so many strategies you can utilize
- That feeling you get when your turn goes just right
- The organization, at least in my box, is terrible