Castles of Mad King Ludwig - Board Game Box Shot

Castles of Mad King Ludwig

| Published: 2014

In the tile-laying game Castles of Mad King Ludwig, players are tasked with building an amazing, extravagant castle for King Ludwig II of Bavaria...one room at a time. You see, the King loves castles, having built Neuschwanstein (the castle that inspired the Disney theme park castles) and others, but now he's commissioned you to build the biggest, best castle ever — subject, of course, to his ever-changing whims. Each player acts as a building contractor who is adding rooms to the castle he's building while also selling his services to other players.

In the game, each player starts with a simple foyer. One player takes on the role of the Master Builder, and that player sets prices for a set of rooms that can be purchased by the other players, with him getting to pick from the leftovers after the other players have paid him for their rooms. When a room is added to a castle, the player who built it gains castle points based on the size and type of room constructed, as well as bonus points based on the location of the room. When a room is completed, with all entranceways leading to other rooms in the castle, the player receives one of seven special rewards.

After each purchasing round, a new player becomes the Master Builder who sets prices for a new set of rooms. After several rounds, the game ends, then additional points are awarded for achieving bonus goals, having the most popular rooms, and being the most responsive to the King's demands, which change each game. Whoever ends up with the most castle points wins.

User Reviews (5)

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“The King has lost his mind...and I'm reaping all the rewards!”

A couple of years ago Ted Alspach designed a tile laying, city building game called Suburbia. In it players purchased and placed zoning tiles to max a honey comb shaped city. It was a well designed and intriguing game, but lacked a hook. Two expansion and one off shoot later, the game was popular, but still felt lacking.

In 2014 the same team was working on the next version. Kinda. Instead of building a city players would now be tasked with building a castle. But not just any type of castle, no, these would be Neuschwanstein style castles of pure awesome.

It sounded great…but could the game live up to the concept.

Components

Cardboard. Lots of cardboard. Really, when you open the box for the first time, that’s what you are going to see. Just sheets of cardboard tiles to punch out, and a few cards, and a couple of markers.

The cards are of decent stock, and are smaller than a standard deck of cards.

The markers are round tabs like you’d find in other games.

The game board isn’t one solid board, but instead some thin cardboard pieces that you lay together…to form a castle. And this is where the components value becomes hard to rate. On the one hand the design is superb. On the other hand what artwork is on the tiles is limited and the tiles themselves are not made out of the best cardboard.

But after the game hitting the table on multiple game nights, I can say the parts are durable. But at the same time…I’d likely pre-order a deluxe version of the game with higher quality parts.

Set-Up

Once the game board is assembled, players will shuffle the room cards deck and place 11 room cards per player on the game board, discarding the rest. Next, shuffle the bonus cards and deal out two to each player placing the remaining cards on the board. Each player will select one bonus card to keep, and will discard the other bonus card to the bottom of the bonus card deck.

Next you will place the stair and hallway tiles on the game board, discarding 1 stair tile and 2 hallways for a 3 player game, and 2 stairs and 4 hallways for a 2 player game. Next, shuffle the small and large room tiles and place them on the their corresponding spots on the game board. In a 3 player game you will remove 1 tile from each of the large room stacks and 2 tiles from each of the small room stacks. For a 2 player game remove 2 large and 4 small room tiles.

Randomly select favour tiles and place them on the middle section of the board in each corresponding spot. This board is double sided with 4 spots for a 4 player game, and 3 spots for a 2 or 3 player game.

Each player will then take 15,000 work of coins.

Select a starting player and place their scoring marker at 0, and the next players marker at 1. Continue to place the markers on the next spot on the scoring track until all players tokens are on the board. Select the proper number of room cards (7 for a 4 player game, 6 for a 3 player, and 5 for a 2 player game) and you are ready to start.

Game Play – Basics

Castles of Mad King Ludwig is played over multiple rounds made of up three phases.
In the first phase the master builder will place the room tiles in any order he wishes. If there are not enough room tiles to fill up each slot, the master builder will draw cards from the top of the room cards deck until he has enough rooms. Once he has finished setting the price of the available rooms, play will proceed to the player phase starting with the player to the left of the master builder.

On the player phase the player may do one of the following actions:

take 5000 coins
buy a stair tile or hallway tile for 3000 coins
buy a room tile for the price set by the master builder

During this phase, and coins used to purchase tiles goes to the master builder. The exception is any coins used to purchase tiles by the master builder are returned to the general pool. Players may only buy a tile they can legally play. When playing a tile players will immediately score the rooms points, and any bonus points for connecting the room to a preferred room (preferred room type is listed on the center of each tile and varies from tile to tile).

Once all players (including the master builder) have take a turn, play proceed to the clean up phase. Any tiles that were not purchased get a 1000 coin placed on it. And finally the master builder token is passed to the left.

The game ends when there are no more room cards left in the room deck.

The player with the most victory points wins.

Game Play – Advanced Tactics

The game really comes down to two things…the auction phase and the building of your castle. While you can set the price of tiles in any order, and purchase any tile you want, there are some basic elements that will determine which tiles you may want to over charge for, and which tiles you will want to use to make up your castle.

The first thing is the King’s Favour tiles on the game board. Players can score additional end game points by having the most of a room type, the most square feet of a room type, or other goals. These goals are the same for all players, so the competition for tiles required to score these points can be fierce.

The next thing to consider is the bonus cards. Each player starts with one card that gives them end game points for completing certain task or building certain rooms. Players can gain additional cards by completing one of the orange “Utility” rooms.

That leads to the next tactic: completing rooms. Each room will has a corresponding room type. Players complete rooms by connecting any room openings of a room to other room openings. Once completed the player will get a reward:

Living Rooms (purple tiles) rescore the room points
Activity Rooms (brown tiles) score five points
Sleeping Rooms (blue tiles) add up to two tile from any one stack to the top of the room deck
Outdoor Rooms (green tiles) take 10000 coins from the general pool
Utility Rooms (orange tiles) take two bonus cards from the deck (keep one, discard one)
Food Rooms (yellow tiles)take another turn immediately
Corridor Rooms (grey tiles) take a hallway or stair tile and play it immediately
Downstairs Rooms (black tiles) the player picks one of the other 7 rewards for every other completed Downstairs room

Because of these certain room types, or room sizes may be worth more to one player. Paying 10000 coins for a room is costly…but if the room is a single entrance Utility room and can connect to an Outdoor room (and complete the green tile) the player gets a bonus card for no negative cost.

What all the ways to score points accomplishes is taking a simple game mechanic (tile laying) and give it a strong mathematical element.

Theme

From the rules:

“In the tile-laying game Castles of Mad King Ludwig, players are tasked with building an amazing, extravagant castle for King Ludwig II of Bavaria…one room at a time. You see, the King loves castles, having built Neuschwanstein (the castle that inspired the Disney theme park castles) and others, but now he’s commissioned you to build the biggest, best castle ever — subject, of course, to his ever-changing whims. Each player acts as a building contractor who is adding rooms to the castle he’s building while also selling his services to other players. ”

And really…that is the game. You are trying to build a castle that the King will prefer. Add in the fact that the player board itself is a castle and the games theme is incredible strong for a Euro style game.

Replay Value

Often it’s easy to point that games that rely on cards and tiles and variable and never play the same way twice. And that’s true here. But really, the main thing with this game is that it’s fun. Anybody who has played Suburbia will be familiar with the basic game elements, but the theme just adds another layer of fun.

Honestly, I’ve yet to play a game where a player hasn’t commented how much fun it is to just build the castle itself, regardless of the points.

Additionally, there’s a lot of social interaction in the game. Often it is in a player’s best interest to try and manipulate the master builder to ensure that other player’s have to pay through the nose to get the tiles they need.

But the best thing I can say about the replay value of this game is that after playing the game once, multiple other members of my game group bought their own copy…and the game still gets requested at game nights I host.

Over All Impression.

I love this game.

There is a lot to consider as the master builder, or deciding which player actions to take. A lot of Euro can break down in to a group of silent folks looking angry at cardboard. And that happens here…but than gets tossed out the window when the master builder curses himself for not setting the price of a tile just a little higher. I haven’t found that many meatier games that still have a social element as stong as Castles of Mad King Ludwig.

Add in the variable play and this game just works.

Do I wish the cardboard was a heavier stock? Sure. But as I said, this is a game that I will gladly pre-order a deluxe version if it becomes available.

Highly recommended for people who like Euro games…and even more so for people who want to play Euro games, but want a little more social interaction that the typical Euro.

 
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“The most fun you will have building a castle.”

Suburbia, subdivision, and now castles of mad king ludwig. These game are all great games to have come out recently. I think castles is a fun an interactive way to bring anyone into the gaming hobby and keep them in it. Castles is so simple and elegant that it will be open my collection forever.

How you play?
It’s easy you buy rooms and add them to your castle. That it. He fun comes in the variety of home and the integration of each room with the one next to it. There are 8 types of rooms that you could add to your castle in aims to receive completion bonuses. Each room will give you a benefit when you have filled every door way with another room or a wall from another room. Those benefits could give you money, points, extra turn, more bonus cards, ext…

Strategy and goal:
In the game there is a race for goals anyone could claim for their own. But also each player get bonus cards which give you a personal goal. Through out the game you are trying to clam as many of the goals that you can. Each player will also get turns to be the master builder. The master builder arranges the rooms that will be for sale that round and when people buy those rooms they pay the master builder for them. As the game moves forward the master builder position become powerful due to your knowledge of people’s goals. You are able to make the rooms they desire expensive and the ones you want cheap.

Thoughts:
If you have played suburbia and liked it you will like this game. This by no means replaces suburbia but is a great little brother. It’s a perfect game to teach and to play with anyone. It offers replay ability like no other. Sure what you do every games is the same but rooms, goals, and bonuses are sure to change what you do each game. If you have not played suburbia you don’t understand the wonderful feeling you get at the end of the game when you get to see your final castle built. It’s fun to see how things paned out and what rooms ended up next to each other. As you build your castle you also build the story of your castle, giving the reason for why the servants must walk through the Kings chamber to get to theirs. It’s a fun and visually appealing game.

If you are wondering whether or not to buy this game, wonder no longer. Go out and buy this game and I promise you will enjoy it.

 
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“Spätzle, Wagner and The Castles of Mad King Ludwig”

A few months ago I was sitting with my Dear German Friend, Tobias, at a Gasthaus drinking Heferweizen, eating Spätzle and talking. We were chatting about the three main ways of making Spätzle from the way his Grandmother made it by hand to the way his mother made it quickly with a press and to the way he makes it now (with a plastic shaker and whisk-ball squeezing it into boiling water) when, as we usually do, the conversation turned to our favorite subject to talk about, Richard Wagner (1813-1883). Although not the foremost authority on Wagner, Tobi is MY foremost authority on Wagner. We talk about the music and the plots of his operas, his life and most importantly, the Germanic culture that drove Wagner, the culture that Wagner drove himself and the culture that changed Germany and the world forever. Without Tobi’s insight to life outside the screaming fat sopranos I would never have started to LOVE, not just respect, the world Wagner created.

Tobi and I had just both conducted a the same work of Wagner’s and the in depth talk of that brought us to how in 1864 King Ludwig II succeeded the throne of Bavaria at the age of 18 and had brought Wagner back to Germany after being exiled 15 years earlier while in dire financial ruin. This young King Ludwig was the savior to the future of the the music we loved so dearly and in fact to all of western music yet to come!

Wait, Mad King Ludwig?
No, he wasn’t ‘Mad.’
Everyone says he was.
No, only the rich lords around him who wanted him out of power because he didn’t want to do all those things a King of the time was ‘supposed’ to do.
Hmmm
Yes, he didn’t want to go to war so he basically gave away Bavaria to the Prussians and that did him in.
I guess it would!
But he was an ‘artist.’ He loved the beauty in the world and thankfully he loved Wagner.

Which then, this week, brought me to buy Ted Alspach’s beautiful Bezier Game production of The Castles of Mad King Ludwig (which by the way the German title is Die Schlösser Des King Ludwig (omitting? The Mad)).

We’d played Alspach’s Suburbia, the mechanic this game is based on, as a rental from the library and although we liked the game VERY much, the art work just wasn’t something I wanted to throw on our table again, so we didn’t buy it – plus, I knew I could always get it from the library. But now I was fascinated by the personal connection to this Ludwig, his castles and by the artwork of the game.

I was amazed to see all those great rooms that aren’t just funny rooms to occupy your Mad King’s Castle, but are actual rooms from King Ludwig’s castles and palaces. Hulding’s Hut, inspired by Wagner’s Die Walküre complete with the Ash Tree in the center, the Venus Grotto, the Eastern and Western Tapestry Rooms, the pink and blue cabinet rooms and even the dining room where the entire table disappeared below so the servants could load it with food and not disturb the King are all from Schloss Linderhof. The hall of mirrors from his Versailles copy, Herrenchiemsee! The throne room, singer’s room and so much more from Neuschwanstein! Even the Queen’s writing room from Hohenschwangau. They are all in there. They are all there for you to free your hawk and live your inner dove to build to your heart’s content the most beautiful castle imaginable with the most beautiful rooms ever imagined.

I really like this game. It is a wonderful theme on a solid mechanic that will have us coming back to it again and again. Oh, I like a lot of games! But there are a only a few that speak to me when I play them. The ones that reach into my heart and pull something. The moments like in creating music that keeps my passion for it so alive… That aesthetic moment, when everything in life comes to this singular moment and this singular place and your senses come alive, more alive than ever before — the last 40 minutes of Sigfried… (don’t listen to it now, you have to start 9 hours before with the beginning of The Ring to finally get to that point – oh, and it would help if you had a Tobi with you for a few days before explaining the cultural references and the – oh heck, go buy yourself a copy of the BluRay of Zubin Mehta conducting Valencia’s production of Der Ring des Nibelungen – you won’t be sorry!)… Where was I? Oh yes… Those aesthetic moments where your pores open to life and the hairs stand up on the back of your neck!

Well, no board game has done that for me yet, but there are a few that come close and at least tell me that art and culture and life and board games can come together in AN aesthetic that is more than just commercializing my senses. Yes, I always cry at the end of Rudy (film from 1993–ROCKY ripoff about a kid who plays football for Notre Dame) – but ONLY because I’ve been manipulated to do so – let me shed my own tears for a man who was ahead of his time, misunderstood, loved the arts, inspired geniuses and whose castles inspired this game… Let me shed that tear on my own terms.

My Dear German Friend Tobias is at Bayreuth as I write this enjoying Wagner in the Halle designed by him specifically for his operas and after will take his vacation to Füssen, a stone’s throw from Linderhof Castle. When he comes back, we’ll have a lot more to talk about and drink over, I’m sure of that.

 
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“It's a Mad Mad Mad World - A castle full of good times!”

Overview
In Castles of Mad King Ludwig, players take turns being the master builder for old mad King Ludwig as you compete to build the most favored castle in the kingdom. Sharpen your chisels and prep your brushes, it’s time to go mad in the castle!

Pros
Shines at three to four players
Good components
Lots of variety

Cons
A tad more random with two players
Another analysis paralysis prone game depending on players

Gameplay
In Castles of MKL, players take turns being the Master Builder. The player’s role as Master Builder means determining the price of the next set of castle tiles on the market board. Players then take turns paying the Master Builder for the tile they want to purchase. They then place their tile and score it along with any special connecting bonuses for certain rooms and any “completion rewards” for completing rooms. Usually, players are going to pick tiles that will give them an edge on one of the three King’s Favors which are different each game or that line up with their secret bonus cards which they draw three of at start the game. Now, King’s Favors are important, because if a player places first in the type of room on the King Favor’s list, that player will get 8 points which is huge. Also, completing rooms are important, because they can help you set up scoring combos based on the type of room you are completing like food rooms giving you an extra turn or utility rooms allowing you to draw more bonus cards. As turns complete, the Master Builder goes last and will then purchase his or her tile by paying the bank, place it and score it. Now the Master Builder role then moves on to the next player. This continues until the room card draw pile is empty which ends the game. Players will then tally up who placed among the King Favor’s and add up bonus card points. Whoever scores the most points, wins the game.

Conclusion
Castles is not a deep strategic game, but it does allow you options to plan your castle based on the king’s favors that are in play and the secret bonus cards you possess. I enjoy the “tactical” nature of placing the tiles and figuring out how to price the tiles in the market as Master Builder. If you want to be good at the game, you’ve got to master the paying attention to what your opponents are building, so you can price the tiles during your Master Builder role accordingly. It is quite satisfying when you place a tile out of someone’s financial reach or force them to pay you through the nose to get the tile they want when you’re the Master Builder. It can make the decisions tense, and it keeps everyone engaged.

I really enjoy playing Castles of Mad King Ludwig. It hits on a lot of my buttons from the scoring combos you can perform when laying tiles to the decision making each turn to capitalize on your bonuses and king’s favors. At the end of the game, you have this colorful and wonky castle that makes you feel like you accomplished something cool. My kids and I like to make up stories at to why our castle is so strange like having no bedrooms because the king was an insomniac. However, it is better with more than two players, because you could get hosed by some of the tiles not being in the game from initial setup that you need for bonus scoring (you remove a lot of tiles in 2 player). It’s a really good game, and I think it would make a great game to bring out with family or casual gamer friends and still get that “gamer” satisfaction.

Gamer Recommendations

Family GamerYES – Colorful, puzzly, fun, and cool!
Social Gamer NO – too “thinky” for socializing
Casual GamerYES – not hard at all once you understand the scoring with simple actions
Strategy GamerNO – probably too random with the bonus cards, but does have long term planning
Avid Gamer YES – lots of variety, works with many groups
Power Gamer NO – Not a deep game.

 
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“Solo Review”

Castles of Mad King Ludwig – solo variant – in 3 courses

Appetizer – what attracts you to the game
Designer – Ted Alspach
Artist – Ollin Timm, Keith Curtis
Publisher – Bezier Games
Theme – Building a crazy castle!

Main – gameplay
Mechanisms – Tile Placement
Unique aspects – The Master Builder is one of the most unique aspects to a game that I have seen in a while. When it is your turn to be the Master Builder you decide the price of the tiles for that round and then whatever is purchased, the money comes to you!
Good/not so good – For the solo variant you lose the Master Builder aspect and that is disappointing and money is probably too tight to build a good sized castle, but it is still enjoyable for periodic play. I enjoyed the frustration that came with not having enough money buy tiles when the perfect tile came out, or the joy you find when you finish a couple rooms on the same turn and get the room bonuses.

Dessert – the best part
The best part of the multi-player game is the Master Builder, but in the solo variant, the best part is getting combos of completed rooms allowing you to do much more on one turn than is normal.

 

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