Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Carbon Copy Castles

Stefan Feld is one of my favorite board game designers. He has more than 20 games to his name, with a wide range of themes and mechanics. I'd be hard-pressed to pick a "favorite," but one that would certainly be a contender is The Castles of Burgundy. So I was more than willing to try Feld's newest game, an adaptation of that past success -- The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game.

Just as in the progenitor game, players in the CoB: Card Game are developing their estates in the Loire Valley. You must weigh the importance of taking certain actions before your opponents can get to them, prioritize your focus on certain types of development (while minimizing others), and look for ways to mitigate any bad luck that comes your way.

If that all sounds vague, or applicable to any Eurogame, it's because I can't get into a detailed description of this card game that doesn't come off sounding exactly like the original board game. This isn't a Puerto Rico vs. San Juan situation, where similar ideas have been rendered in slightly different ways. Like Caylus and its spin-off card game, the CoB: Card Game is trying its utmost to be a one-for-one conversion of its parent.

It's thus easier to talk about what's different. And while you could probably get into a longer list of minor differences, the major difference boils down to this: the dice of the original are printed on the cards in this adaptation. On each of your turns, you must discard a card for its printed die value (ignoring its other attributes) to turn around and use that "roll" for an action that's incredibly like the original Castles of Burgundy.

I'll just come right to the point: the whole experience really just made me want to play The Castles of Burgundy again. It's been quite some time, and I'd sort of forgotten how much I liked that game. The Card Game was close enough to remind me of that, and yet didn't feel like it scratched the same strategic itch. It was probably faster than the original (slightly), if that's a point in its favor for you. But it's not especially more compact -- you need to spread cards over a wide area to play. The strategy is not especially easier, as the card game has tried to preserve as many of the same decision points as it can. It's substantially the same thing, just on cards.

As a result, what Stefan Feld has done here intrigues me more as a game designer than it satisfies me as a gamer. He's adapted his own work to a new medium, impressively preserving almost everything about it. But I already have this game. And from a designer who has showcased such variety, that's a bit of a disappointment. I'd give the awkwardly titled The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game a B-. If you've never played the original, this might wow you. But then, the original is still available. You should just play it instead.

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