Worker Wednesday – Castles of Burgundy

castles of burgubdy

Worker Wednesday; the day of the week we get to enjoy the games using Worker Placement as a key mechanic. Today, however, we mix it up as we look at a game that many would not consider a Worker Placement game, but I am not one of the many. I am, however, right…. or at least I think I am; the game, Castles of Burgundy.

Released 2011
Designer: Stefan Feld
Plays: 2-4
EPT: 90 minutes

Before I explain why I consider Castles of Burgundy to be a worker placement game let me explain the way the game plays.

In Castles of Burgundy players are seeking to earn the most points by developing their estate and developing it with fields, castles, mines, and learning. The game plays on a main gameboard used by all players as well as individual player mats. There are 4 matching player mats and 8 mats that are laid out differently adding an optional asymmetric aspect to the game. For first time players I recommend starting with everyone using matching mats. Each player is given 2 dice of their color in addition to the play mat, 1 castle to be placed on the center of their mat, 3 random ‘goods’ tiles, and 1 silverling. They then place the marker that matches their color on the board in the 0/100 location on the score tracker and set the other marker aside until turn order is resolved.

The main gameboard is set up with five ‘goods’ tiles placed face down on each of the board’s phase section squares A-E, place the bonus tiles on their respective squares, and set the silverlings, worker tiles, and colored hexes next to the game board. We have found it much easier to actually leave the hexes in the box in case of table bumpage.

Turn order is determined by the roll of the die; or a more entertaining way of your choosing – I recommend the most recent player to have visited a castle or made a blanket fort be designated player 1. The first player receives one worker tile; the second player two, the third player three, and the forth player four. These workers can be used to add or remove 1 value from a die (make a 3 a 4 or a 2) the dice loop in this regard so a 6 can become a 1 and vice versa. The players then place their remaining colored marker, previously set aside, on the turn order tracker.

The game plays in 5 phases each composed of 5 rounds. The phases begin with a setup in which all six sided tiles on the gameboard are removed and replaced with new tiles (this is ignored for the first phase) then the goods are taken from the appropriate phase space (A-E) and placed 1 on each of the 5 round spaces; then fill the black market locations with the black backed tiles. Then the first of the five rounds begins.

The rounds begin with players rolling their two dice; the first player also rolling the white die. Once all die have been rolled the first player takes the good on the current round space placing it on the square corresponding to the roll on the white die. Players then go in turn order with the first player using both of their dice to take an action according to the rolled value plus/minus any worker modifiers. The dice can be used to purchase a tile from the depot that matches the die’s value; placing the tile in the storage space on their player mat, or they can place a previously purchased tile from their storage area onto their estate; the placed tile can only go on a location that matched the tile’s color and matches the spent die’s value. Various tiles have different abilities when added to the estate that can score points, alter turn order, grant bonuses, gain additional goods, etc. The first player to fill all the vacancies for a given tile color scores the ‘large bonus tile’ granting an additional 5, 6, or 7 points (the more players the higher the score) while the second player to do so gets the ‘small bonus tile’ scoring 2, 3, or 4 points.

There are additionally non-tile based actions players can take with their dice such as selling goods; when selling good a player must sell all the available goods of the type being sold in which they receive 1 silverling and 2 to 4 victory points per tile sold (points depending on the number of players) the sold goods must also match the value of the die allocated, a player can also use a die of any value to take two worker tiles from the supply and add them to their reserve. There is an additional non-die based action players can use in which they spend 2 silverlings to take a tile from the black market and place it on the storage space of their player mat.

After the last player completes their turn a new round begins following the same order as the previous round; note any changes in turn order. After the fifth round the phase ends and players receive any phase end bonuses they may have from mines or knowledge tiles; then the players move on to the next phase’s setup. After the fifth phase’s fifth round the game ends with a final scoring round. In final scoring players get 1 victory point for every unsold good, remaining silverling, two unused worker tiles, and various amounts of victory points based upon VP-earning yellow tiles placed in the player’s estate.

Why do I call this a worker placement game when many others do not? The mechanics according to Board Game Geek are: Dice Rolling, Set Collection, and Tile Placement. All of these are mechanics used in the game and many of my friends would state these are all the mechanics used, I disagree. In worker placement games you have a set number of workers which you spend to get a reward; in Castles of Burgundy you have a set number of dice you use to get rewards. Some argue the use of dice makes this not a worker placement; I disagree. I love the idea as dice as workers. Castles of Burgundy is a worker placement game that has conditions to where the workers can be placed; they can only land upon locations matching the die’s number (post worker modifiers). I would argue Castles is a thus not only a worker placement but a game that pushed the limit of worker placement in a manner that it spins the mechanic around and shows it in a new and marvelous light!

I may be slightly biased in this regard as before having player Castles of Burgundy I told a friend I wanted to design a worker placement game in which players used dice as workers; there would be certain locations that only certain values can use and other locations that offer a reward in various degrees based upon the roll of the die used on the location. When I played Castles I saw my idea held its ground as that was much what Feld had done, using dice as workers.

When I watched the game being placed on the table I was very excited; as I mentioned in a previous blog I love games with plenty of little bits; and with all the tiles and tokens in this game it does not disappoint there. As the game progressed it was interesting to watch various player’s strategies adapt to their rolls; I was personally going for agriculture as it has a clear instant gratification while other players went for black market tiles, goods, and knowledge. I was quickly impressed by the variety the game offered; we were playing with the same player map layouts but even those could be altered.

The game itself is a puzzle; fitting as it come to us from Ravensburger who I know more for puzzles than games. Each game is different and the variables many and exciting. There is room for Analysis paralysis as players analyze their options which can change in an instant as another player takes what you wanted and yet the game progresses well despite the occasional AP bump in the road. The visuals are fun and it is clear what most of the tiles do; though the knowledge tiles have some iconography that requires frequent use of the rule book’s description pages.

The game when coming down to the rubric score a 8 out of 10 and is a great game to try if you want to experience a merging of dice rolling and worker placement, but be careful who you play with as AP is a potential problem. With the right group, however, the replay value is fantastic.
Visuals – 1.5 // 2
Skill/Luck – .75 // 1
Pacing – 1.5 // 2
Theme/Immersion – 1.5 // 2
Mechanics – 1 // 1
Fun Factor 1.75 // 2

Join again tomorrow when we look at a party classic BANG! Until then you can catch us on social media
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