FTW Staff Picks - Castles of Mad King Ludwig
For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new.
Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Genre: Tile Placement
Designer: Ted Alspach
Player Size: 1 to 4 Players
Game Length: 60 minutes
For fans of: Suburbia, Quadropolis, Isle of Skye
Most tile-placement games give players uniform-shaped tiles which all fit neatly into a grid. Typically, there are adjacency bonuses awarded for the ways you build your tiles. In Castles of Mad King Ludwig, players have to work around a variety of imperfect shapes and odd fits to build their castles. Placing tiles in certain spots may possibly clog up doorways and lower your potential score. But such is the life of a builder.
In Castles of Mad King Ludwig, players compete to build the most extravagant castle for King Ludwig II. Each round, one player takes on the role of the Master Builder. The Master Builder dictates the price of each Room tile available at the time, and players will then decide which tile to buy and pay the cost directly to the Master Builder. Player may also opt to not purchase a tile in favour of gaining more money. When building their respective Castles, the rooms in each player's Castle must connect from one doorway to another. Each of the 8 types of Rooms give a bonus when all doorways lead to another room. And each tile gives a bonus or negative depending on what other types of Rooms connect to them. The player whose Castle scores the most points at the end of the game is declared the winner!
There's a lot of moving parts to Castles of Mad King Ludwig. First, you have to track individual Bonus cards. Then you have the King's Favour tiles to guide you. And if it wasn't enough, you have 8 different types of rooms that all grant distinct Completion bonuses. Oh and the different rooms are all shaped differently to make it feel like you're playing some variation of Tetris. And arguably the most important aspect of the game is taking advantage of your turn as the Master Builder. You want to price desirable tiles high enough that you can benefit from them, but not too high or else you risk players passing altogether. The auction dynamic makes this game far more enticing than something like Suburbia, which can feel rather dull and "mathy".
The first time I played Suburbia I felt let down by how much I didn't like it. I love tile-placement games and city-builders so I had such high expectations. But it just wasn't for me. Ted Alpsch won back my favour when he released Castles of Mad King Ludwig. It was all the things I wanted out of Suburbia and more. And while I prefer the quicker Isle of Skye as my goto tile-placer, I won't turn down the opportunity to play a game of Castles of Mad King Ludwig.