A word to the OCD out there: if you play this extraordinary game, you will need to accept inefficiencies as they come. You will not be able to exploit every tile to the fullest extent. It’s impossible. But that’s also the fun of it! Trying to nail that balance between tile types, tile position, tile bonuses, and collaborating with your co-builder gives this game one of the highest replay values out there. It may just take a couple of rounds to squelch the OCD monster. =-)
Play as a master castle builder needing to meet the crazy King Ludwig’s demands to build more castles. But you can’t go it alone! Collaborate with the players next to you on your two castles. Choose a tile to play for each castle, collaborate with your fellow builders on its placement, then watch the rewards stack up.
I have truly never played a game that scales so well. Due to its pass-and-play turn mechanic, game time magically does not increase with an increase in players! Playing with seven players is just as fun and captivating as two (with a phantom King Ludwig!). There is no waiting for others to take turns, and interest and attention are held throughout the hour-long game length.
Of the 147 regular room tiles, there is not a single duplicate. Each is unique with uber-detailed artwork and engaging themes. The downstairs rooms are my favorite as they include some dark and ominous rooms (check out the Laboratory, Pit of Despair, or Snake Pit!). There is even some very subtle humor if you look close enough!
You’ll get sucked into the theme and feel like an actual 19th Century castle-builder. I feel safe guaranteeing that you’ll be left thinking about the game afterwards, probably for hours and hours. =-) You’ll think of what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what you should change for next time it hits the table.
You will also love the interweaving yet simple interaction of each of the seven tile types. For example, Utility tiles gain value from connected tiles of one other type, the Outdoor tiles gain value from tiles of a single type found anywhere in the castle, and the Sleeping Quarters rely on all six other types to gain value. There are also symbols on each tile from which the Corridors gain value. You’ll need to capitalize on intentional placement of combinations of tiles to pull off the victory.
Tips & Tricks
- Tile bonuses are really valuable. You simply won’t have enough tiles to get them all, but if you can help it, try not to end the game with close but incomplete tile bonus sets.
- Do not, I repeat, do not discount or ignore either of your castles. As your final score is the lower of the two castles, this will be to your demise. This seems obvious, but there is a tendency to focus heavily on one over the other.
- Be sure to collaborate with your partners before you look at the next tiles to place (you’re not allowed to work together while you decide!). Discuss areas of focus and prioritization while hoping that you don’t double up too much!
Scoring & Wrap-up
Overall, as a mid-weight strategy game, I give Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig an extremely high 9 out of 10 (“Excellent – always enjoy playing it” on BGG’s scale) for the following reasons:
- It scales flawlessly between two and seven players. I have truly never played a game that scales so well. Game time does not increase with an increase in players!
- The balance between collaboration and competition is unlike any game I have played. It is masterful and fulfilling.
- It sucks you into the theme of your artfully-crafted castles.
- The help cards are expertly designed, concise, and actually helpful (there are many out there that are not so helpful!).
- Every single room tile (147 of them!) is unique with exquisite and detailed artwork.
- The rulebook is as good as they get.
- There should be more score cards included in the game (or an option to have more delivered for free). Each completed castle takes up an entire side (so a 7-player game uses 4 score cards).
After much consideration, I have placed this game in my current top 10 board games list. It is easy to learn, difficult to master, and delivers a satisfying balance of working together and competing against each other.
Buy Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig here!
Disclaimer: I received this game for free in exchange for my review, but believe me, I post authentic reviews every time and will be brazenly blunt if needs be.