Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig

Disclaimer: This review is from a review copy of the game that was provided by Stonemaier Games at a reduced cost to Open Seat Gaming, but opinions are our own based on several plays of the game.

Game: Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Publisher: Stonemaier Games in conjunction with Bezier Games
Design: Matthew O’MalleyBen Rosset
Art:
Laura Bevon, Agnieszka Dabrowiecka, Bartłomiej Kordowski, Noah Adelman
Mechanisms: Drafting, Set collection, Tile placement
Number of Players: 2 – 7
Game Time: 45 – 60 minutes

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Description: Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig sees players building castles semi-cooperatively in an attempt to score as many points as possible.

The game begins with a random throne room tile being placed between each pair of players, along with a castle token. Players then each take a stack of 9 tiles from the insert and the first round begins.

The game is played over 2 rounds, each lasting 4 turns. Each turn, players select 2 tiles from their hand of tiles that they will play that turn and place the remaining tiles underneath a castle token adjacent to them (under the left castle’s token in round 1 and under the right castle’s token in round 2).

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Once all tiles have been chosen, players place 1 tile into each of the 2 castles adjacent to them, collaborating with the other players adjacent to those castles in order to ensure best placement. Tiles fall into different room categories and score points based on the category of room and the specific scoring condition on the tile. Tile placement will also trigger bonuses, as playing the 3rd and later 5th tile of a single room category yields extra rewards (such as bonus tiles to place, cards with endgame scoring to acquire, etc.)

When there is only 1 tile remaining under each castle token, those tiles are discarded. Players take a new stack of 9 tiles from the insert and round 2 is played with the same format as round 1 (though, as mentioned, with the hands of tiles being passed the other direction). At the end of round 2, castles are scored with the included score sheets. Players will have 2 scores associated with them, one for each adjacent castle, and the lower of those 2 scores is each player’s personal score. The player with the highest personal score wins!

Review:  One of the first Kickstarters I ever backed was one of Stonemaier’s last: Between Two Cities. The game was relatively affordable and I was just sorting out my collection (now look at us, haha!). I’d always liked Carcassonne, so something else with tile laying? I was all in for it.

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Anyway, Between Two Cities has always been a game we really enjoy, and we recently bought the Capitals expansion (but haven’t played it yet). So, of course, when Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig came out, we were very intrigued. We’d always liked the theme of Castles of Mad King Ludwig, but the game hadn’t clicked with us.

Now, we got the opportunity to give it a spin, and let me tell you – we really dig it!

The components (and the trays that they’re in) are top notch. Good job Game Trayz – you always get it right, and I appreciate having nice inserts right out of the box instead of buying them third party. All of the tiles are nice and chunky, the art is vibrant and it’s easy to tell the difference between most of the symbols.

The art is really fun, too. There are callbacks to Stonemaier titles and Bezier titles in several of the rooms. And dude, there’s a puppy room and a bunny room. Who the heck would not want a puppy room and a bunny room in their freaking CASTLE? The rooms you end up with in your castle give you a really big smile.

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Speaking of the art, that’s where my only issue is, as well. The tiles are quite small – which I totally understand, not every game can have HUGE tiles like Kingdomino. But, as a result, the symbols and words are quite small. If you have someone with poor vision in your group, they may need some help to be able to figure out what some of the tiles say.

One of the biggest differences between this game and Between Two Cities is the fact that you’re not shoehorned into a 4 tile by 4 tile grid. That’s where the Castles of Mad King Ludwig vibe really makes this stand out – the original Castles of MKL had you making castles with all sorts of weird rooms and corridors. The castles end up looking crazy (hence the theme of the game).

They take that idea and put it on that Between Two Cities theme and it makes it perfecto. MWAH! Chef’s Kiss. Seriously, the ability to end up with wild setups like this one pictured below makes this game hilariously fun.

All in all, I believe that there’s room for both Between Two Cities and Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig in our collection. Between Two Cities is a more serious game, and the 4 by 4 restriction actually makes it feel quite different than Between Two Castles, and in a good way.

Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig is a goofy, thinky title that will keep hitting our table again and again.

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Try, Buy, Deny: If you like either of the original games, this one is definitely worth a buy. It takes the best from both and makes it that much better for both of them!

Even if you didn’t like the original Castles of Mad King Ludwig (Sarah and I aren’t huge fans of it), it’s well worth a try. The addition of all of the elements from Between Two Cities makes it a lot of fun!

Game On!
Marti

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