I had heard good things about Castles of Mad King Ludwig from other board game bloggers. I’d looked at it, thought I would like it, but wondered if it would actually hit the mark with the people I play games with. It firmly resided in my wishlist, but with its fairly hefty price tag it never ever made it into my shopping basket. It was also often thwarted by the lure of other shiny and new releases!
This month that changed as we hired a copy from ‘Borrow a Game’. As a result, I finally managed to play the game and garner my first impressions. The first thing that struck me was that there was a lot of grey on my table. There wasn’t even fifty shades of it, more like two! The marketplace and tiles for the initial set up were a long way away from some of the beautiful productions my eyes have feasted on in recent times.
Once the game got going however, the mass of grey, fell into the periphery vision and the bonkers sprawling castle took centre stage. While the aesthetics of the many quirky rooms may be more akin to a retro computer game of the 1980s, they began to have a charm and whimsy about them that was more endearing after my second and third play. For example in one of my son’s mad castle creations, visitors to the castle would have to go through a fungus room and dungeon to get to the guest bedroom with en-suite broom closet! It made us both chuckle.
Where Castles of Mad King Ludwig shines is in the gameplay. The values of the rooms is ever-changing and is the first player bonus. This works in a ‘I split you choose’ way. The choosing of market values allows for a bit of manipulation of other players, as money for rooms purchased goes to the first player too. This creates a lovely dilemma of not putting what you want too cheap that others steal it, but not leaving what they really want too affordable either. This creates a quandary for all players as they balance maximising points from room placement with their bonuses and the fiscal costs involved.
All in all Castles of Mad King Ludwig is an interesting and highly strategic game which created an entertaining gaming experience. I wasn’t surprised how much I enjoyed it, but was buoyed that my wife and eldest son (12) really got to grips with it too. During September we notched up a handful of plays. I can now see it being upgraded from our wishlist to shopping basket very soon!
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