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CASTLES OF BURGUNDY: THE CARD GAME

Reviewed by Herb Levy

CASTLES OF BURGUNDY: THE CARD GAME (Ravensburger/Alea, 1 to 4 players, ages 12 and up, 30-60 minutes; $13.50)

 

If you’ve been paying attention to a lot of the successful board games published over recent years, you might have noticed a trend. It seems that profitable board games will give rise to card game versions of themselves. Castles of Burgundy is such a game as its success since its release in 2011 (featured in the Summer 2011 GA Report) has inspired designer Stefan Feld to come up with a card game version appropriately titled Castles of Burgundy: The Card Gamecastlesburcards2

All players begin with three cards: one to indicate their “estate”,  one to hold up to three “projects” and one to designate the storage area for goods, silver, livestock and workers. Everyone also receives 1 silver, 1 good (at random), 1 livestock (also at random) and, if not going first, 1 or 2 workers.

The “board” is simply six cards carrying die faces from 1 to 6 which are arranged in a line to form the display. The deck of action cards is shuffled and a number of these cards (from 7 to 13 depending on the number of players) placed, one at a time, next to the six display cards. (The odd number card is placed with the display card that matches the die number on that card.) Then, everyone is dealt six action cards but, unlike many other card games, you may NOT look at your “hand”. Instead, the cards are stacked in front of you and the first two drawn. This serves as your “dice roll” for your turn.

Despite being packaged in a small Alea box (measuring roughly 7″ x 5″), Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game holds lots and lots of small cards – 240 of them to be exact. Cards represent three types of goods, silver, four types of livestock, workers and more but the most important are the action cards.

Each action card is, essentially, divided into two parts. The top depicts a die with a value of from 1 to 6. The bottom of the card depicts the set (color-coded) to which it belongs as well as any special actions you will receive once you have built that particular card. castlesburcards2

Each turn requires a player to use one of his two cards as a “die”. A card with a die value matching the row of a card in the display allows that player to claim that card and move it into his project area. Cards already in the project area may be “built” if the die value on the card played matches the die number on the prospective project. (Workers can be used to add or subtract 1 to a die value making matches a bit easier, particularly as multiple workers may be used and die values “wrap around”, e.g. a 1 can become a 6 by using a worker as a minus 1.)

Built cards are moved to a player’s estate with the special, one time use, power of a card activated. These powers range from taking an extra free action to getting more silver, more workers, more goods, more livestock and more projects (cards) to build. Cards come in seven colors. If you manage to build one of each color, you will receive a bonus (of from 4 to 1 Victory Points). But your main focus should be on getting three cards of the same color.

Making a set of three cards of the same color allows you to “bank” it, gaining anywhere from 2 to 6 Victory Points (plus a 1 VP bonus card if you were the first to bank that color trio). You also get a reward of your choice which can range from more VPs, or goods, or workers, or silver – but speed in achieving these sets is important as these rewards lessen each round. (Reportedly, the rule about this in the English language edition is a translation error. Only the person who banks the set gets the bonus, NOT all players.) But suppose there is no card you wish to take from the display or no project for you to build? Then there are other choices available to you.

You can discard ANY card (regardless of die number) to get up to 2 workers (you can’t use this to go beyond 2 workers in your storage) or 1 silver. You can also burn a card to “cash in” workers and/or silver for VPs at the conversion rate of 3 goods/silver for 1 VP. You can also sell goods.

Goods come in 3 varieties with the die values of 1/2, 3/4 and 5/6. Discarding a card with the matching number allows you to sell ALL cards you have of that number. Each card sold is worth 1 VP (and placed in your estate) AND you get 1 silver per card. Silver can be a valuable commodity but not for buying. If you turn in three silver, you can draw three cards off the top of the action card deck and use any ONE of them as either a project or for its die number, in effect, an extra turn.

When everyone has used his “hand” of six cards, that round is over. The player who last sold goods becomes the first player for the next round. (If no one sold, then the first player card rotates clockwise.) Any cards remaining in the display are discarded, a new selection of cards dealt and all players gets a fresh “hand” of six cards to use. After five rounds have been completed, VPs are calculated. To the ones earned for completed sets, sold goods and bonuses, players also receive VPs for livestock (a full set of four different animals is worth 4 VPs, three different worth 2 VPs and two different 1). The player with the highest total wins!

With The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game, Stefan Feld has masterfully captured the essence of the very popular boardgame. Although, there is no board, the ebb and flow of building your estate, albeit less “visual”, is, nonetheless, there with decisions to be made. For example, the purple cloisters have no special powers when activated except…. they can be used as wilds, helping you complete a set of another color. Or, you can hold them and try to complete a purple set which is the most valuable at 6 VPs. You can also try to set yourself up for your following turn by claiming a card displaying a number that you already have before you –  a “min-engine” of sorts and a guarantee that you will be able to activate that project next turn. In this way, the card game is more forgiving than the board game as there is almost always another card to draw (another die roll to use) which can help rescue you from a precarious position.

The small box and the fact that this is, after all, a CARD game, might mislead you into thinking this is a game that won’t take up much space. Wrong! Be sure to have a big table available as the display, the estates (with room for projects and storage) and the stacks of resource cards (workers, silver etc.) claim a sizable chunk of territory. Pictures of all the cards are provided along with descriptions of what the special powers of the cards do which is a good thing. What is not so good is that, because the box is small, the rule book is small too and the pictures of the buildings are not as easy to identify as they could be. This is somewhat mitigated by the excellent iconography which soon becomes second nature. Although solitaire rules are provided (creating a sort of “artificial intelligence”), the game works best with live opponents and scales well with 2, 3 or 4 players. Knowledge of the board game is neither required or necessary.

With The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game, fans of Stefan Feld’s work will find another gem to enjoy. For those unfamiliar with Feld, this is a great opportunity to get to know one of the stars of the modern field of game design. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


 

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