The White Castle is the second game in a trilogy of historical titles by Devir Games, with The Red Cathedral being the first game. The game is for 1-4 players and can be played in an hour. The game is recommended for players 12 and older. The game is designed by Israel Cendrero and Sheila Santos. The game has a theme that focuses on Japan’s famous Himeji Castle, a landmark of Japanese architecture built in the 14th century and made famous by films like Ran and You Only Live Twice. Devir has been making great euro games lately and I have been more and more interested in what they keep on doing.
What’s In The Box?
- 77 cards
- 82 tiles
- 5 boards
- 85 wooden pieces
- 15 dice
- 1 rulebook
The components are high quality with wooden meeples used, dice of 3 different colors, and cardboard tokens. The game comes with 3 cardboard bridges that you will construct when first opening the game. Blocks are used to keep track of resources on player boards, and cards are used to change actions throughout the game.
How’s It Play?
Players will be taking turns choosing one of the dice on one of the three bridges to take actions with. The game consists of 3 rounds where players will take 3 turns in each round, so 9 turns total. When choosing a die to perform your action with, you can choose the higher value die of a certain color, or the lower valued die of a certain color. The color will determine what actions you can perform on the board, and how much money you will gain or possibly pay. So an orange die will activate orange actions and the difference between the selected die value and either the value shown on that spot printed on the board, or the die that has been placed already on that action spot.
When taking the lower valued die, you will pay the difference of values when placing it on a higher number spot to take its listed action. But unlike when taking the high value die, when you take the low number die you can activate your later reward which can get stronger and better as time in the game goes by.
Actions can give you resources like coins, daimyo seals, clan points, or one of the 3 resources that you track on your player board. Some actions require you to pay resources to take an action.
Dice can be placed to take actions in the castle, outside of the walls, the well, or the player’s personal domain. In the castle there are 5 different rooms you can visit, placing a die in those locations. Each location is a little different but might have one or even maybe two actions listed that match the same color of die that you use. This means, sometimes you can use a certain color die to take 2 actions instead of just one.
Actions done by placing a die outside the walls will let you take the action shown on either the left or the right, and this action is not restricted by color. The well can always be visited no matter what, and will let you gain resources, this way you can always do something on your turn.
The actions on your player board can be activated when placing a die, and you will take the shown resources. As you placed out certain type of clan members, you will be able to gain additional resources as those spots get uncovered.
Players are trying to get each type of clan member to a good place to score points by the end of the game. Usually when placing out clan members you might need to pay resources but you also might combo additional actions. Gardeners are placed out and you take the action where you decide to place it, and this action will possibly get reactivated at the end of the round.
Courtiers are trying to climb the social ranks inside the castle. The higher they get, the better actions and points will be scored. Courtiers will also change cards placed on castle sections and cause new actions to replace old ones.
Players will continue taking turns until all 3 actions have been performed. The round ends, and new turn order is determined by the distance players are on the passage of time track. Gardeners get reactivated, and die are rerolled for the next round. After 9 totals turns, the game ends and players score points. Coins and daimyo tokens turn into some points, points are awarded for how far you made it on the passage of time track. Lastly, each clan member is scored. The player with the most points, wins the game.
I like the choices in the game. First, your choosing one of the available dice, and choosing the lower valued dice will also let you activate your lantern reward, and then the higher valued die will let you earn more money when performing that action, so there is definitely pros and cons either way.
You then have a choice of several actions, some which depending on the color of die you choose can activate two actions. But other actions might help get you what you need to better position your clan members in better positions on the board. The game opens up with better actions as the game goes on, and possible combo actions where you can do something that will cause your clan member to move up and activate another action that activates another clan member.
The game is just nine turns, but when you place all the combo actions into the game, you can see how you can do so much more, especially in later turns. This is like a dream come true for those who don’t enjoy euro games because they are too long. You get the nice crunchy decisions, but in a faster game.
Each turn supplies you with either setting up for future turns, or with good decisions between so many available. But you will want to ultimately not ignore pushing your courtiers up in the castle spaces, as that’s a big way to gain points at the end of the game. In fact, your warriors don’t even score if you don’t have any courtiers inside the castle. And gardeners give you even more actions that trigger again at the end of the round.
Of course depending on how many players you have in the game that determines how many dice are rolled, sometimes a bad roll will leave payers will some less interesting decisions. In just 9 turns, you need to start producing some big actions at the very beginning of the game, don’t just wait until you have enough resources and then decide to trigger those big combo actions, start with it at the beginning of the game.
The game can get confusing as you are matching colors in different ways, and players can get confused thinking they are taking a certain action just to realize they have been scanning the board wrong and looking at actions they can’t even take that turn. After playing the game, you tend to figure out how colors match up, so this really is only a problem for newer players.
Overall, this is a very solid fast playing eurogame. You only have 9 total turns, so you will need to get going from the beginning of the game. The game provides lots of choices, and chance for combo moves to do multiple things in one turn. This is the second game in this trilogy and can’t wait to see what the 3rd game does.
You can grab The White Castle from the Devir Games site (though you’ll want to get on the restock list) and your FLGS at an MSRP of $39.99!
Images via Devir Games.
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