August 3, 2011

A Dangerous Obsession with Castles, which are in Danger

I bought the oddly named Castle Danger from designer Matt Worden last week. I fell in love with the game when I saw its simple appearance and elegant pieces. It reminded me of Stratego or a classic version of Risk. I loved the aesthetic.

Now that I've had a chance to read the rules and play the game a few times, I also love the game. I'm not going to blather on, as I feel it's a disservice to the elegance of the design. I shall be brief.

The goal of the game is to shoot the other player's King with a cannon. There are a few game pieces that help you accomplish this goal:
  • Wizard gives you 3 more moves each turn
  • Builder can build or remove protective walls
  • Cannons can shoot other pieces and walls
  • King should just not get shot
  • Walls can protect your pieces (and King!) from cannons
Each turn you get 3 moves, plus 3 more for each Wizard you have. 1 Move is used to take any action. So, 1 move to move your builder, 1 move to build a wall, 1 move to fire a cannon, etc. The final major mechanic is that each turn you may add 1 Wizard or 1 Builder or 1 Cannon. Choose, but choose wisely!

The game has a chess-like feel, without the overwhelming learning curve of chess. I've always loved the idea of chess, but have never been able to grasp the basic strategy. Castle Danger scratches that itch. It's so easy to learn, but has so many strategies to try. The first game I was clearly outplayed and lost. On the second game, I had the better strategy but made one fatal error and my opponent capitalized on the mistake and won.

Both games took right at about 20 minutes, which was perfect. I should add that reading and understanding the rules took all of 5 minutes. 

I am already hungry to play more. I want to find the right strategy and win. Should I start with wizards? Do I turtle up with builders? How annoying would it be if I got out a cannon on turn 1? There is a lot of depth, but not too much, which makes the game so easy to recommend. 

Check out Matt's website here. I also recommend checking out Jump Gate, which one GAMES Magazine's 2011 Traditional Game of the Year. You can also see Castle Danger on Board Game Geek.

Fun Fact: The name Castle Danger comes from a town by the same name in Minnesota. Don't believe me?

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