Friday, April 19, 2024

‘Between Two Castles Of Mad King Ludwig’ Is A Game Of Magnificent Multitasking

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It’s a beautiful day in Bavaria and you are an incredibly stressed out castle designer. The Mad King Ludwig II has tasked you with building a bevy of extravagant castles to fill the verdant hills of his kingdom, but out of all the designers…only one can be declared the master. That is your task in Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig masterful game of tile-laying strategy, a collaboration between Stonemaier Games (Wingspan, Red Rising) and Bezier Games (Ultimate Werewolf). It’s been out since 2018, and spawned a digital edition and a more modernized version published by Stonemaier, Between Two Cities. Now, it’s getting its first expansion this June, and Stonemaier was kind enough to send a copy of the game over to check out! Would this design impress his majesty, or are these castles destined to crumble?

What’s In The Box?

Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig box art

Between Two Castles Of Mad King Ludwig is, as one would expect from a team-up between Bezier and Stonemaier, a stunning and exceedingly high quality game. The box art and internal art are rendered in a painterly style that really pops, with lots of little details and even jokes baked into even the smallest piece. It also features the thing that I perhaps love most in a game: wooden meeples! And not only that, but each one is shaped like one of the historical castles built by King Ludwig himself, including the famous Neuschwanstein Castle which inspired Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. And, as usual, the partnership with Gametrayz means all of the lovely components are organized and protected between games.

How’s It Play?

Between Two Castles tiles and gametrayz

The game is a fairly straightforward tile-placement game at it’s core. Different combinations of rooms give different point values, and certain rooms can only go into certain places. The twist is in how you acquire tokens and how much control you have over your castle. Because you’re not working on your castle alone, no, it’s far too big a job for that. Instead, you’re working with two partners on two different castles. And you can’t talk to them when selecting what rooms to add to your castle. So what you end up with is a game of deduction and what I call “co-ompetition,” where you try to maximize your points without giving your partner too much. And even then, it’s the LOWER of your two scores that is counted for victory, meaning you can’t just dump all of your bad rooms onto one castle and screw over a partner. It’s a fantastic mechanic that adds a lot of depth to an otherwise pretty simple game.

The actual play of the game is rapid, with each round only needing one room to be placed by each person. Once they’re selected secretly, the tiles are revealed and you actually can talk about where you might want to put it. The tiles range from the obvious to the silly, and there’s plenty of puns to be had. The random nature of tiles means you end up with some wildly nonsensical end results, like a castle made entirely of gardens or a one story castle with six levels of dungeon.

The Verdict?

Scythe Room Art
It’s the Scythe room. Get it?

I really like this game, and it’s no wonder it’s been so popular since its release in 2018. It’s fast paced in a way that similar games of this size and quality often aren’t, but with a depth that means it’s replayable and a good challenge no matter how often you play. I also found it pretty simple to pick up and teach, thought the amount of variables means that it can take a second to click and might take a game or two to really get an idea of the possibilities available to you. But once you’ve settled in, it’s a rousing game that lets you have plenty of laughs, plenty of competition, and create something truly special on your table.

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You can pick up Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig from the Stonemaier shop or on Amazon, where it retails for about $36. You can also preorder the Secrets & Soirees expansion, due for release later this month!

Images via Stonemaier Games

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