Saturday, July 30, 2016

I LOVE...Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game

Guys, I have something to confess. I...have never really played The Castles of Burgundy.

*Mob collectively gasps*

Look, I have nothing against the game. I just never had the opportunity to play it. At all. And yes, it's been around for a while now AND has been on sale numerous times before, but...y'know how little time I have for game nights with friends. That, and I play solo board games a lot.

*Sounds of disgust*

But hey, I saw The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game on the shelf the other day for the price of a decent Thursday lunch. Y'know, the one you get that's a bit above your $10 limit and you justify it by saying you're only buying lunch once a week. Well, on the back it touted how its solo variant was challenging, so on a whim I just bought the game, not knowing whether I'd like it or not. At first, the card sizes surprised me; I wasn't expecting Euro cards, so I had to refine my shuffling skills. And the cards with dice icons were peculiar, because there were no dice in the game at all. Were there dice in The Castles of Burgundy?

*Guy faints in back*

Uh...anyways, the game plays quite well as a solo game. Sure, there's a bunch of setup to go through, but after a few games, it's become easier to get ready to the table. Basically, the goal of the game is to earn as much points as you can. You can do this from building sets of same-colored cards in your estate, selling or exchanging goods, and raising livestock. In each round, you lay out the 6 die cards, and put one estate card - the red-backed ones - next to each die card, regardless of the die icon on the card. The seventh card's the only one you place on the same location as the die card, so there's always one with 2 estates. Once you deal yourself 6 estate cards face down - this will be your draw deck - and have taken a livestock, good, one silver and one worker, you're ready to start. Did the original game have silver and...

*Gloomy glares from mob*

Ah. So, the round starts by drawing the top cards from your deck and ONLY looking at the die value on the cards. I love this multi-card aspect of the game a lot. Part of me sees the value of the die, but the other part of me is quietly acknowledging what card is not in play. It's a subtle thing I enjoy about multi-card systems, because it makes you more aware of what cards you discard, and is quite an efficient way to consolidate your game to maximize your time spent during gameplay. I mean, you don't have to roll any dice! Isn't that ni-


With that card, you can perform 6 different actions. You can move the card by the matching die value to the die cards to your projects. You can move any project cards with that matching value to your estate and build them. You can sell all goods you own with that matching die value for points. Or, you can just exchange it for silver, workers, or just exchange your silver and workers for points. Don't have the precise die value to perform your action? Not a problem if you have workers, which perform a +/-1 each that cycles around. So, you can go from 6 to 1 with one worker. Once you play your card, you draw another card, bringing your hand back to 2 cards, and you keep going until you played all your cards. Really, this game is quite good.


Oh, the solo part! I nearly forgot the most ingenious part of this game, the thing that I LOVE the most. You play against Aaron, "An Almost Real OppoNent." His entire role in the game merely involves you creating 5 piles of cards at stacks of 3/4/5/6/7 cards. Before the each round, you reveal one stack (for example, in round 1, you reveal 3 cards), and lay them out in his estate. You then calculate what points he has for the round. After that, you play your round to completion, with the goal of matching OR surpassing his current score. This creates a much-needed change to the typical point-chasing solo variants that most other games perform. And really, Phil, who doesn't love change?

*Phil angrily pets his sheep*

This generates a dynamic change in strategy between rounds. Let's say Aaron reveals his 4 cards for round 2, and suddenly has two complete sets before you. Because he completed them before you, he gets a bonus point for being the first to do so, and now suddenly you have to beat his score of 9 points that round. The next thing you know, you're suddenly abandoning your set collection and trying to figure out other means to gather enough points just to survive and continue to the next round. Because should you ever not catch up by the round's end, you just lose. Period.

The reveal of Aaron's estate cards per round is always a thrill, because you never know how you're going to play until that very moment. I've had consecutive rounds where Aaron seemed to be a docile puppy, just barely getting points while I happily trounce him each round. Then the fourth round comes along, and suddenly I'm 11 points behind. All the gears suddenly churn in my head, trying to optimize the best move I can with the cards I have. Remember, you only have 2 cards at a time, so sometimes your own moves can thwart yourself as you draw the next card and OH NO, I WASTED THAT LAST CARD WHEN I COULD'VE USE THIS ONE! I mean, it's like playing with an actually-smart human player, right?

*Girl clenches fist, crushing Burgundy box*

Right, well...being a person who has never played the original game, I absolutely adore this card version. It's affordable, offers one of the best solo gameplay structures I've played in a while, and it forces me to change my tactics at every round. I mean, I can be quite happy to continue playing this without ever playing Castles of Burgund-


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