Castles of Mad King Ludwig is a rather creative, um, castle-building game from the same guy who gave us Suburbia. And while the two games have certain similarities of design, more of it is unique to the game and quite interesting indeed.
Where Suburbia feels very structured and almost rigid at times given its hexagonal tiles and it's particular tile placement rules. For Castles, the game is indeed the product of a Mad King since we you end up with some pretty strange designs that may or may not make sense in real life.
Castles of Mad King Ludwig is a strategic tile placement / castle-building game created by Ted Alspach. The game supports 1-4 players and already has a first expansion, Secrets.
So the game has players in charge of building grand castles of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. However you'll be building your castle one room at a time based on whichever room tiles came will come up. And this is where the madness comes in.
Similar to Suburbia, the game has a sort of a marketplace where room tiles of different sizes and types will be placed, thus determining the value of the room. What makes things different is that each player will play the role of the Master Builder, and this lets you determine the order of these room tiles in the market. When players buy rooms during that turn, they pay you, given you are in face Master Builder. The only caveat is that you will buy rooms last. Thus your time as Master Builder is your main opportunity for income in the game. Thus you want to sequence the rooms in a way that makes them attractive enough for players to purchase, but at the same time you need to leave a room for you to buy for your own castle.
Rooms come in different sizes ranging from 100 square meters up to 600 square feet. Rooms also come in different types like Food rooms, Utility rooms, Outdoor rooms and Underground rooms, to name a few. Like Suburbia, there will be a number of goals that could be based on having the most of a certain type of room, the most square footage of a certain type of room or other such stuff. But again you will have access to Utility cards that give you additional ways that you can score bonus points that are like secret goals for you alone.
A key mechanic in the game is that when you complete a room, there's a chance certain bonuses will trigger. Some get bonuses when they connect to one another through doorways. There are bonuses that trigger for every certain room type you have in your castle. And you have annoying Activity rooms that have penalties based on rooms that are adjacent to them, typically indicated by walls touching.
At first it felt a little disappointing since the bonuses were mostly driven by adjacency and room types whereas Suburbia has tiles that have clever interaction rules. But the differences are also because Castles relies on symbols to convey its rules instead of text on the tiles. Once you accept that change, you'll find the subtle nuances of the game and how the strategy works out in the long run. It's not quite as fun as a two-player game, but it really works with 3-4 players.
Castles is a nice game that shares a lot of Alspach's prior game but is still a unique experience. And I just love what sorts of castles we end up with after all is said and done. Thus the game get a great 4.5 crazy castle rooms out of a possible 5.