The Castles of Burgundy

Don’t judge this book by its ugly cover, you won’t regret it!

2-4 Players
60-90 minutes
(it says 30-90 minutes on the box but there’s no way that’s possible!)

I have to say I was sceptical when Jess bought this game, the look of the cover and the theme just didn’t excite me. But The Castles of Burgundy has become one of our favourite games and I enjoy it just as much with every play.

It’s a game all about building castles and surrounding lands in the region of Burgundy in the 15th century (I know, I know, what an overdone theme right?!). Your two dice will give you your action options each round, but how you use those values is up to you! You gain victory points through farming, construction, research and trading as your region expands, the player with the most points at the end of five rounds is victorious.

How the game works

The game takes place over 5 rounds, each consisting of 5 turns. On each turn, every player rolls their own two dice, and then decides how to use those dice.

The general aim is to fill in your player mat with the various land types; castles (dark green), farming (light green), ships (blue), mines (grey), knowledge (yellow, not sure how you can classify knowledge as a land type, but there you go) and buildings (beige). Each land type scores points in different ways, and you also score a bonus every time you finish off a connected group of tiles of the same colour – the bigger the group and the earlier you complete it, the bigger the bonus!

So how do you fill in your map? At the start of the round, a series of tiles are placed on the main board next to different dice values from 1 to 6. Using one of your dice you can pick a terrain tile a matching area and place it into your storage area. Later on you’ll be able to place that tile onto your player board using another dice which matches the space you wish to place it. However you can only place a tile adjacent to a tile you’ve already placed- so you might not always be able to place a tile.

Which tiles should you take? All the tile types are useful in their own way.
Farming tiles score you points for every animal in that group of animals- including in adjacent tiles. So placing a tile with 3 pigs will score you 3 points, if you later place a tile with 4 pigs on it adjacent to it, you’ll score 3+4=7 points. Keep an eye out on your opponents so they can’t get lots of the same animal!
Ship tiles bump you up the turn order and allow you to take goods from the main board which you can sell later on for VP and silver. Turn order is vital in Castles of Burgundy so don’t get stuck at the back!
Knowledge tiles give you either end game bonuses or ongoing benefits through the rest of the game. Really really handy if you can get some good ones early on.
Castle tiles are few and far between and don’t score any points (other than the ones for finishing off a group), but give you the chance to use an imaginary third dice that turn, using whichever value you want. So good!
Mining tiles don’t give you victory points directly but you’ll gain 1 silver per mine tile between each round, so building these early will reward you greatly!
Building tiles vary depending on the building (there are 8 types), some give VP, some give you bonus actions, some reward you with worker tiles that allow you to change your dice values up or down. Very useful tiles!

This is how your player board might look mid game. A lot going on but the player aid on the left is so useful for reminding you what each building means. The bottom right shows you what actions you can do. The bottom left has your worker supply and up to three tiles ready to be placed into your map. The top left has your supply of silver, goods you can sell and then a key showing how many points you get completing areas of different sizes during the game.

You gain points in many ways- mostly through finishing off groups of same-coloured tiles, but also through trading goods, end game bonuses, certain building tiles and you also get bonuses if you’re the first to completely fill in all of a tile colour on your board- worth bearing in mind. After 5 rounds of 5 turns (a turn is using both your dice) the game ends and a winner declared! Sounds pretty straight forward so why is it so good?

Castles of Burgundy is a very beige affair (we have the old version) there is a newer edition which looks slightly more modern, but it still doesn’t look great in my opinion. The tiles are a bit dull, the player boards flimsy and not very colourful or inviting and the box art hardly draws the eye, but my word what a reward you will get for not judging this book by its cover!

There are many paths to victory here and strategies you can take- its crunchy and thinky but not overly complicated. I think it can be a bit overwhelming at first as there’s a lot to take in, but soon it’ll all be second nature and the game will fly by! Also the rulebook is superb, there is in-depth instructions for when you’re learning the game, but in the margins there is simplified text which allows you to refresh the rules extremely quickly. I wish more games did that!

There’s so much you can do with your dice on your turn it really feels like you have a lot of meaningful choices. With a roll of a 4, I could buy a mine, ship, farm or building tile, I could place any buildings from my reserve onto a 4 space on my player board, I could sell all my goods which have a 4 value, or I could swap my dice for two worker tokens for later use. I could even use the worker token I already have to change that 4 into a 3 or a 5, increasing my options even further! There are so many ways to score points it is important to keep track of, otherwise it’s easy to forget whether you counted the points from the previous turn or not.

Because there’s a lot to think about, the player boards have an excellent player aid, reminding you what actions you can take, and what all the different buildings mean. It minimises the number of times you need to check back to the rules or ask the other players what buildings get what bonus.

I like how the player turn order will change over the course of the game depending on how many ship tiles each player has placed. Don’t underestimate the importance of going first as it gives you the power to potentially block your opponents from taking the tiles they desperately need. There’s a finite number of each tile available each round, snatching the last available castle for example could really ruin someone else’s plans.

The main player board with the scoring track around the outside and a lot going on on the inside. The six sections with different colour tiles in match to a dice roll, so you can use one of your dice to take a tile from the corresponding pool.

Another great mechanism in the game is how you can mitigate the luck of your dice roll through the use of worker tokens. If you have some in supply, you can spend them to manipulate the values to get what you need on your turn and means you can’t moan!

There’s minimal downtime during the game as the turns are so quick, most of the time you’re very much interested in what your opponents are doing in case they steal the tiles you want from the main board!

There isn’t a huge amount of replayability, the only real thing that changes from game to game is that you can use different map layouts, but that doesn’t drastically change the gameplay. It does also take a little while to set up due to various tile types needing to be shuffled before the game.

Another slight criticism from me would be it doesn’t really do much with the theme – other than having pictures of buildings on it there’s nothing really to do with 15th century France. That doesn’t concern me too much as the gameplay is so great but I know some people really want the theme to come through in a game.

I don’t really mind any of the minor flaws in the game, or the fact it’s ugly to look at. This is a fantastic game full of decisions, different strategies and the right amount of “take that”. I will always enjoy playing it (despite the lack of variation in the game), and will never say no when someone suggests it at a game night. Brilliant game, highly recommended.

Get this game
Check this game out on Board Game Geek

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