Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Harald Bilz


No. of Players:
2 - 4



The building of a medieval castle has been used as a background theme for many a game, but the castles which are built by the players in the new game Castles by Harald Bilz are quite unlike the well-known standard castles and palaces. Indeed, each player tries to build a castle on his own building site, and the building site boards handed to each player feature a grid of 4 times 7 spaces on which the players can place tiles featuring wall parts and towers. However, only a few simple rules need to be observed when a player wants to place new tiles on his board, and this process may result in quite extraordinary constructions.

The bottom line of 7 spaces on each player's building site is the ground level, and all newly placed castle tiles must be placed either in direct or indirect contact with the ground level. As it seems, the kingdom in which the players are building their castles does not know wizardry, and so this rule makes it illegal to have any walls or towers floating above ground level. In addition, the whole construction needs to be stable, and so wall sections on the side of a tile must be matched by the walls on a following tile which is placed adjacent to it. Walls must be connected to walls, and sky to sky. A partial overlap would be illegal as well!


If these rules are observed, the players may use the great variety of available castle tiles to come up with fascinating structures. But how do they acquire the tiles? At the beginning of the game a central quarry of face-down castle tiles is prepared, and for each player an identical set of various castle tiles is shuffled into the quarry. Then, during during a round of play, each player draws two tiles from the quarry and decides how he wants to use them:

  • If the player decides to keep the tiles, he must keep both of them. Kept tiles immediately can be added to the castle in construction, or, if the player wants to wait for a better placement which cannot yet be made, the tiles may also be added to the player's individual storage area which may be used to keep up to 8 tiles. Tiles in storage may be used for construction at any time, but tiles remaining in the storage area at the end of the game will be penalized with the loss of some victory points. If a player cannot use or store one of the drawn tiles but wants to keep the other one the useless tile will go to the player's separate stock of "architectural crimes", meaning that the tile may not be used anymore but - once again - it will cause the loss of a victory point at the end of the game. But what happens if a player draws two tiles which he cannot use and which he does not want to store?
  • One possibility here is the discarding of both tiles. This results in the removal of the tiles from the game, and the end of the player's possibility to build something for this round.
  • However, if the player wants to try his luck again, he may give the two useless tiles to one of his competitors, provided that this player has not yet received tiles from any other player during this building round. The player who has given the two tiles now may draw once again two tiles from the quarry, but these tiles now must be used, stored or discarded as an "architectural crime". There is no possibility to discard the two tiles anymore. On the other hand, the player who was given the two tiles may end his round by adding the tiles to his castle or his storage area. If he does not want to use or store the tiles, he may simply discard them without facing any penalty.

The game ends after a round in which the quarry was depleted so that there are not enough tiles available for the following round. Alternatively, a player also may cause the end by placing his 16th castle tile on his building site. Both alternatives will trigger the final evaluation of each player's castle, and now the players will be awarded victory points and penalties on a number of factors. First off, one victory point will be scored with every castle tile which has been placed compliant to the rules, but afterwards points will be deducted for tiles remaining in the player's store, for tiles featuring open (unfinished) sections of wall, for "architectural crimes" and for wrongly placed tiles. After these deductions were made, the final score determined which player has won this building contest.

The game plays really quick, especially after the players have become familiar with the types of building tiles available in the game. Due to the special composition of the quarry during setup the players know that each type of castle tiles will be available in every game, and since the variety of available tiles is not as big as in games like Galaxy Trucker the players may speculate which kind of tiles they may draw. However, after some games of Castles there comes a point when the players start to ask themselves whether the game could be enriched with some additional playing depth, and here the included expanded rules will guarantee renewed playing fun. Now the players will be awarded additional victory points for building the biggest areas using each type of wall tiles, and also for crowning their towers with tiles showing spires and flags. Here the player with most spires gets additional points as well as those players who have used only flags of a single colour. All in all, the extended rules mean a great challenge to the players' skills for speculation and timing, since the additional possibilities for scoring must be kept in mind in addition to the regular building rules. Now the players will feel quite confined by the limited capacity of their storage area, and so the whole decision whether to use a tile or keep it for later gets much tougher.

All in all, Harald Bilz succeeded in creating an interesting brain teaser which serves splendidly for any short gaming interlude!

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany