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CASTLES OF BURGUNDY: THE DICE GAME

Reviewed by Herb Levy

THE CASTLES OF BURGUNDY: THE DICE GAME (Ravensburger/ALEA, 1 to 5 players, ages 10 and up, 15-30 minutes; $14.99)

 

Stefan Feld is one of the top tier designers in the World of Games. Among his very successful designs is Castles of Burgundy (featured in the Summer 2011 issue of Gamers Alliance Report). As is typical with a hit boardgame, spin-offs follow. Feld has already come up with Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game (Summer 2016 GA Report) and now, with co-designer Christophe Toussaint, has brought dice into the mix with a new “roll and write” offering: The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game. 

In this small box (similar in size to the Burgundy card game), you will find five dice, a pad of mapsheets, five pencils and rules.

Each player is given a pencil and a mapsheet which shows the duchy divided into different colored hexes and then marks ONE of the green “castle” hexes on his/her sheet. Each marked castle gives a player a bonus – either a “monk” (purple), silver (gray), worker (orange} or commodity (blue). There is room on the sheet to check off the appropriate bonus. The challenge of the game is to fill in as many of the various regions of the sheet as possible in order to score the most Victory Points and this is done by using dice rolls as advantageously as you can. One player (the owner of the game according to the rules) rolls all five dice each turn. 

All dice here are six-siders but several of the five are unique to the game. The first die to be consulted is the one depicting hourglasses. The game is divided into three phases with hourglass rolls determining when one phase ends and the next begins. If a single or double hourglass is rolled, one (or two) spaces are checked off on the sheet’s “time column”.  (A double hourglass can also trigger a “commodity” action. More on that later.) Then players turn their attention to the other four dice rolled and, simultaneously, must act!

Two dice are standard with values of from 1 to 6. The other two display the six colors of hexes that appear on the map. Players must choose ONE number rolled with ONE color rolled and fill in the appropriate hex on their sheet.  If no legal move is possible, the player receives a “worker” as compensation (and this is marked on their sheet). So what makes for a legal move? Being able to meet the restrictions as to filling in hexes. 

First, you can only fill in a hex that borders a hex you have already filled in. (For example, when starting play, the only permissible hexes to be filled in are those bordering your starting castle.) Second, all hexes have a secondary requirement that must be met for it to be filled. Monastery hexes (purple) require the roll of a purple with a number of 1 or 2. This is similar to the prerequisites for filling in Mines and River hexes (gray/3 or 4 and blue/5 or 6, respectively). Completing a connected set of spaces results in Victory Points (the bigger the area, the more VPs earned with more VPs gathered if you are the first to complete a particular color) but these spaces award a bonus too: a silver (for mines) and a commodity (for rivers). 

City hexes are in orange and require an orange die roll. Any number may be placed in a city hex but any subsequent number placed in a bordering orange hex must be DIFFERENT! Pasture (yellow) hexes need a yellow roll and any number may be placed there as well. However, ALL bordering yellow hexes must be filled in with the SAME number! Remaining castle hexes (green) will take any number but the number chosen must match a number in ANY adjacent hex. 

Now with all these restrictions, you might feat that filling in hexes would be extremely difficult with players becoming prisoners to the chaotic rolls of the dice. Fortunately, as the game progresses, players will accumulate monks, workers, silver and commodities and this is where you can modify rolls and bend them to your will. Crossing off a monk will allow you to change the COLOR of any rolled die while a worker allows you to change the number value of a die. Using a silver, allows you to make TWO moves on s single turn by using the dice twice! (You cannot, however, use the SAME two dice twice.) Commodities come into effect when a double hourglass is rolled. At that time, commodities may be “sold”, with earn sale earning 2 Victory Points for the player as well as 1 silver.

When the third and final phases is completed, VP totals for all three phases are added. The player with the most VPs wins!

Roll and write games have become very popular over the last few years (think of Qwixx, featured in the Summer 2013 GA Report) where dice are rolled and everyone applies them in some way through writing. With this one though, the use of modifiers – along with significant strategical decisions –  prevents the game from being just a dice fest. But with all those modifiers in play, this roll and write is not as easily accessible for casual players.

Timing is important too. In gaining VPs for completing areas, there is a certain urgency to the play (which amps up the tension) since completed areas are worth MORE in the first phase than in the second and worth even less in the third. So the need for speed in getting the most out of each die roll emphasizes and rewards those who use modifiers most successfully. As players respond to dice rolls, checking off hexes, they will gather up various modifiers at different points. This makes for some variability in the game which also is helped by including FOUR different map layouts so that colors and configurations of the duchy can change from game to game. 

In the very trendy “roll and write” category of gaming, The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game is an excellent entry and a fine follow up to Feld’s earlier excursions to the beautiful province of Burgundy. – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


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