Main Event Games · Reviews

Review of Between Two Castles of the Mad King Ludwig

IMG_20180907_161918_372Game: Between Two Castles of the Mad King Ludwig

Designer: Matthew O’Malley, Ben Rosset

Published: Stonemaier Games

Players: 2-7

Playtime: 45-60 Minutes

Play Type: Tile Placement, Tile Drafting

Synopsis:

King Ludwig requires only the best castles, and it is simply a task above just one measly designer. You will be working with another designer to build a magnificent castle fit for a king. You must compete with other pairs of designers to build the most impressive castle in the world.

Game Play:

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Set up for Between Two Castles of the Mad King Ludwig is especially simple because of the inserts that are included with the game. Players will place the inserts within reach of all players and then shuffle the throne room tiles. Then place a throne room between each pair of players. Then shuffle the bonus room cards and place them in the smaller tray. Finally ensure that all players have a player aid.

The goal of Castles of the Mad King Ludwig is to place tiles in such a way that both of your castles have the highest number of  points. It is important to remember that your final score will be that of the lower scoring of your castles, not the higher.

To begin game play each player will take a stack of 9 tiles from the insert. They will then draft two of those tiles, one for each of their castles. Then the remaining 7 tiles will be placed under the castle marker on their left. Then players will reveal their tiles and discuss which tiles would work best in each of the castles. Players may also discuss during this tile the tiles that are being handed to the next player to help make this decision. Once a conclusion has been made, players place the tiles in the castles of their choosing. After a tile is placed it cannot be moved. Then each player will grab the tiles under the castle to their right and repeat the process until there is only one tile left. The final tile will be discarded face down.

After the first round is complete, the players will play an almost identical second round taking 9 more tiles from the insert. The only difference in this round is that players will pass their remaining tiles to the right, and pick up their new tiles from the left. After both rounds have finished, players will move onto scoring the game using the scoring pad provided.

If players are familiar with Castles of the Mad King Ludwig, published by Bezier Games, then the types of tiles would not be a surprise. Each of the tiles in the game represents a different room that could be seen in the castle. Each type of room is easily distinguishable by both color and symbol, and scores points differently based on where they are placed in the castle. The different types of rooms also have restrictions on where they can be placed in the castle, such as if they may only be in the basement, if the must have no rooms above them or if the must be on an upper floor. After all, it would be ridiculous to have your subterranean tunnel on the third floor.

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All of that information may have been difficult to remember, however the game comes with a great player aid that helps keep all of that information clear to the reader. The player aid gives all the information that players may need when placing tiles such as what level the room must go on, how the tile scores, and what the bonus is for having 3 of the same type of tile.  Those bonuses help the players in a variety of ways, for instance allowing the player to place an extra tile, place royal attendants that score points at the end, or allowing players to place a special tile such as tower or fountain. All of the bonuses add scoring benefits, though each does so in a unique way.

While I am not going to go into how scoring works for each of the individual rooms, be aware that they all interact in some way with the castle around them. For instance, gardens score points based on the total number of rooms of a certain type in the castle, while a tower scores points for the total number of rooms below it. Other examples would be that sleeping rooms want to have a variety of rooms in the castle, scoring points for having a set of the six different types of rooms, while living rooms want to be surrounded by the same type of room.  As you can see, these different stipulations for scoring make choosing a strategy early on  important.

Components:

The components in Between Two Castles of the Mad King Ludwig are very well done. The two included inserts are such a time saver for playing this game. Having the game set up download_20180922_100202right out of the box is absolutely wonderful, especially since there are so many tiles included.

The tiles themselves are sturdy and well made. The art on them is vibrant, and often includes little Easter Eggs from Stonemaier’s other games. Many of the tiles are humorous as well, and cause interesting discussions during the game. Frequently in our house there are great debates about who gets the Cattery in their castle, the Scythe room or the Game Storage room. Whether or not those are the strongest strategical decisions is always up for debate.

While the the game insert and the tiles themselves seem like obvious choices for favorite component, I have to say that the detailed player aid takes the ribbon for me. I think that without the player aid, I would have a completely different perspective on this game. The player aid really streamlines game play and makes it easy to explain to new players. I am someone who always appreciates a detailed, yet not too busy player aid for that reason.

 

Overview:

Positives:

  • Replayability
  • Beautiful Artwork
  • More Complex than Between two Cities
  • Variety of Scoring Options
  • Plays well at High Player Counts
  • Encourages Competitive Collaboration
  • Quick Set Up
  • Great Componenets
  • Player Aid

Negatives:

  • Game Tray Set Up Confusing in Some Parts
  • No Solo Gameplay
  • A Lot of Symbols/ Scoring Types to Remember
  • Scoring Pad Eventually Will Run out

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As someone who frequently uses Between Two Cities to bring new gamers into the hobby, I was intrigued when Between Two Castles of the Mad King Ludwig was announced. After playing it, I am honestly impressed with how the game plays in such a way that feels familiar to its two namesake games, but also stands on it’s own as something completely unique.

The most frequent question I have received since posting about the game is “If I have Between Two Cities/ Castles of the Mad King Ludwig is it worth purchasing this game?”. I wanted to cover that first, before diving further into the pros and cons of the game. The answer to both of those questions is most likely yes. I say most likely because this game is different from both of those games in a way that it might not appeal to all players who enjoy those games.

For instance, I consider Between Two Cities to be a great game to teach to new gamers. The rule set and scoring for the game is very simple. Additionally it is nice to have the capability to place new players between experienced players and have them be able to collaborate with multiple experienced players. It takes only about 20-30 minutes to play.  I would not suggest Between Two Castles of the Mad King Ludwig though for new players. While many of the base mechanics of the game are the same, the added elements of tile restrictions, bonuses and far more tile types may become confusing to new players. I would however suggest it to players who already enjoy Between Two Cities and are looking for something with a little more complexity.

There are also differences to consider with Castles of the Mad King Ludwig and Between Two Castles of the Mad King Ludwig. For players who are seeking a similar tile placement experience that balance the placement of the different types of rooms, I would definitely suggest Between Two Castles. However, they are definitely not the same game in the other mechanics present. Between Two Castles does not have the auctioning and master builder mechanics of Castles of the Mad King Ludwig. Instead, it adds the mechanic of working collaboratively with players that you are also competing against. While they seem similar, they stand on their own as unique games.

Personally, I have all three in my collection and will not be getting rid of any of them. They each serve a different purpose and have game play that is unique enough to stand on their own within a collection.

There are many reasons I am excited about adding Between Two Castles of the Mad King Ludwig to my collection, and some of them do have to do with the differences between the games. For instance, we generally when playing games are playing with between 5-7 players. The higher player count that is seen in most Stonemaier Games really works well for our group.

Additionally, Between Two Castles has more complex game play than its predecessor. The  decision making that comes with the complexity leads to greater direct player interaction and discussion. There is a lot to consider when placing tiles, and often times we look back and realize that if tiles had been placed differently, our scores would have been much higher. The sheer amount of consideration though can lead to some analysis paralysis when placing tiles. Luckily though, players are working with a partner, which can help speed that process up for players who tend to struggle with those decisions.

Between Two Castles of the Mad King Ludwig is definitely a main event game, which is also different from Between Two Cities. The games we have played have all taken right around a hour to play. The nice thing though about this, is that there is not a lot of time added for set up. The ability to just take out the inserts and be able to play makes the game a lot shorter than it would have been if players had to set up the stacks of 9 and separate the different types of tiles each game.

That being said, during the first game’s set up, I feel that the directions for the insert could have been a little clearer. The slip of paper that details how the game should be set up, did not mention that some of the stacks would have more than 9 tiles. It caused some confusion when setting up the insert, especially because we had not yet played and didn’t realize that there would be extra tiles because of the food room’s bonus. Once we realized that, the set up was very simply though.

Overall though, I would highly suggest Between Two Castles of the Mad King Ludwig to players who enjoyed Between Two Cities. The game adds some complexity, and with that complexity comes replay-ability and more interesting decisions to made throughout game play.  I would also suggest it to players who are looking for a good tile placement game for a higher player count. Players who enjoy The Castles of the Mad King Ludwig, Carcassonne, or Isle of Skye may also enjoy this game.

If you are interested in purchasing this game, be aware that it will be available at retail on October 19th, but it is available for pre-order now.

2 thoughts on “Review of Between Two Castles of the Mad King Ludwig

  1. Thank you for another great and thorough review. I do like your articles and how they’re laid out. The game looks great – especially because I did like the look of Between Two Cities and Mad Castles of King Ludwig and wanted to buy both games. Now I might just buy this one.

    Like

  2. Okay, I think you’ve convinced me! I now definitely want this game. Between Two Cities is my second favourite game, and while I love it for its simplicity, I’d love to have something as a bit of a step up in complexity without being difficult to teach. This seems to fit that perfectly!

    Now I just need to convince my wife…

    I have to ask, have you played this at just 2 players? I wonder how it works at that count if you don’t have the automas used for solo play like Between Two Cities…

    Like

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