Recap: Castles, Princes, and a Notre Dame Asterisk
The this week was to tear into a number of the new games that I had received as part of my birthday haul. Unlike normal people, I tend to forgo most kinds of presents and ask strictly for new board games. Among them were Castles of Bugundy and Notre Dame which I got to the table for the first time. But Notre Dame includes a huge, undeniable asterisk on the play.
Castles of Burgundy. I had previously played Castles only once before and then in a four player game. A friend of mine showed up a little early so we decided to give it a try as a two player game. We adopted very different strategies. He got most of his points through shipping and selling whereas I got most of mine by filling in my board and having an entire pasture of cows. In the end, though, the score was 163 to 164. So close!
Castles worked very, very well as a two player game. I guess, in a sense, that isn’t unexpected. After all, player interaction is low and indirect. There are no spite cards and no way to directly attack another player. The indirect competition is easily managed by limiting the number of available tiles in a two player game. As a result, it feels a lot like the full game. It’s just that, in a four player game, your perfect tile comes out and you have to hope the other players don’t steal it. In a two player game, it’s unlikely your favorite tile will be revealed, but you don’t have to worry too much about the other ones getting stolen.
I’m really enjoying my plays of Castles and I don’t typically like dice games. But castles make it work. There is a lot that can be done with your dice, so they act more as randomizing agents than hard decision makers. Well, most of the time. Sometimes the bad roll does happen, but that’s usually pretty rare.
Princes of Florence. It’s probably been three or four years since I last played Princes of Florence. When I used to play it, we would always have five players. In a five player game, competition for the Jesters was fierce. You were lucky to get two, you generally only got one, and they were always expensive. I did pretty darn well by staying out of that feeding frenzy and getting what I wanted for comparatively low prices. I sat down for a three player game and decided to dust off that strategy. Bad move.
In a three player game, there is a lot less contest for Jesters. So, even though I was able to jump to an early lead, and had some significant money early on, my opponents were able to accumulate two and three jesters early. Being able to add 4 and 6 dollars to every work was something I just couldn’t compete with. In the future, I will remember that Jesters are more available and powerful with fewer players.
Notre Dame. Notre Dame was an interesting blend of tactics that seemed to go really well together. There’s an action selection/worker (cube) placement portion. But there is also a card drafting mechanism where you are giving potential actions to your opponents. It seems ripe for a 7 Wonders style hate draft.
And, like other games, your cubes come in both a personal supply and a general supply. Part of the game is taking actions that will get you more cubes and thus allow you to take different and better actions later on. Well, apparently one player spaced out on that whole explanation and rule discussion.
One player had a huge point advantage and was running all around the board with his carriage. At about the end of age 2, though, he took the take more cubes action and did it wrong. When I corrected him, I realized that he had never taken a “get more cubes” action, yet he had about ten cubes on the board. What? Turns out, he thought the whole supply was available to him from the beginning! So that kind of broke the game. But it’s a great story and that we will laugh (at him) about for some time to come.