Game Length: 45 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 2-4 players up for building a castle
It’s 19th century Bavaria, and King Ludwig II has commissioned you to build a castle! You’re not quite sure why, as castles have been almost obsolete as defenses since the advent of gunpowder, and there are much cheaper and more comfortable forms of opulent housing. However, he’s the King, and he wants his castle!
In Castles of Mad King Ludwig, the players are each trying to build a castle according to the changing whims of King Ludwig II. The players each take turns being the Master Builder, who prices the castle rooms available for construction that turn. The Master Builder needs to carefully choose the prices of these rooms – if she makes her opponents’ desired rooms too cheap, they will snap them up for next to nothing, but if she makes them too expensive, they may decide not to build at all, denying her the money she needs for future turns. At the same time, the Master Builder needs to make sure the room she wants doesn’t get snapped up by another player, as the Master Builder is always the last player to build each turn.
In addition to pricing rooms, players also need to build the castle itself. They will build a range of different rooms, each of which has different rules for scoring, and provide a bonus for completion – that is, building rooms off each of the exits. Choosing which rooms to build and what bonuses to go for is an important part of the game’s strategy. Your castle starts to take form over the course of the game, from a simple foyer to a collection of gardens, courtyards, bedrooms, kitchens and dungeons.
Some may find the gameplay of Castles of Mad King Ludwig a little shallow, however. You will not be building an engine or an economy, but trying to get the best result for yourself from turn to turn. The randomly drawn ‘upgrade’ cards, which are kept hidden for each player, can gain you more points than best fulfilling the King’s wishes, and this can make the final outcome feel a little random.
All the same, the game has a lot going for it – the Master Builder mechanic is unique and compelling, and encourages players to be aware of what their opponents are shooting for so they can choose the most profitable arrangement of building prices, and it’s enjoyable watching your castle grow over the course of the game.