Whenever alea releases a big box game, the Eurogamers sit up and take notice. Since the label’s inception in 1999, they have produced a number of the most respected games out there – Ra, Taj Mahal, The Princes of Florence, Puerto Rico, Notre Dame, and In the Year of the Dragon all sit in the BGG Top 100. Of course, they also have relative duds like Fifth Avenue, Rum and Pirates, and Mammoth Hunters, but their overall pedigree is pretty good.
alea’s 2011 big box release is Die Burgen von Burgund, coming out later this year as The Castles of Burgundy from Rio Grande Games. It was designed by Stefan Feld, an increasingly respected designer who has designed the last five games in the alea big box series (Rum & Pirates, Notre Dame, In the Year of the Dragon, and Macao are the previous ones). Art for the game was done by Julien Delval and Harald Lieske. The Castles of Burgundy is a game for 2-4 players aged 12 and up, and takes about 90 minutes to play.
When I first heard about the game, I was pretty sure it was part of the glut of wine games we’ve been seeing over the last year (including Vinhos, Grand Cru, Toscana, King’s Vineyard, and maybe some others). I don’t drink, so I’m completely uninterested in that theme. It also makes it difficult to listen to podcasts like Garrett’s Games & Geekiness, where virtually every episode has some sort of wine related content, even in passing. That’s beside the point, however – this game is NOT about wine. You’re a 15th century prince that is building your province up to prominence by trading goods, building up your city, researching, and collecting the necessary VPs to win. That’s right – this one has Eurogame written ALL OVER IT.
The game comes with 164 hexagonal tiles (representing buildings, animals, knowledge, castles, mines, and ships). There are 42 square goods tiles, 20 octagonal “Silverlings”, 30 square worker tiles, 12 square bonus tiles, and 4 VP tiles (marked 100 and 200 for when you cross those scores). You also get 8 playing pieces, 9 dice (in player colors, plus a white die), a game board, and 6 double-sided player boards. Each player begins the game with a player board, a start castle, three random goods tiles, 2 same-colored dice, one piece to mark VPs, one piece to mark turn order, a VP tile, and one Silverling. The start player also receives one worker tile, with the next players in clockwise order receiving 2, 3, and 4 worker tiles. The start player controlls the white die.
There are five rounds in the game, with each round consisting of five turns. At the start of each round, remove all six-sided tiles from the board and draw new ones to place on matching spaces in the numbered depots on the board. You’ll also place 5 goods tiles on the turn spaces of the board. In each turn, players begin by rolling their dice simultaneously. This means everyone is rolling two dice except the start player, who is rolling three. The first available good in the turn spaces will be taken and placed in the square depot that matches the number rolled on the white die. After this, each player will carry out their turn.
In a turn, you get to carry out two actions, one per die. Worker tiles can be used to increase or decrease a roll by one. Your action options are to take a hexagonal tile from the game board, add a hexagonal tile to your estate, sell goods, or take worker tiles.
TAKE A HEXAGONAL TILE: Take one hexagonal tile from the depot matching the number on your die. This tile goes into your storage area, not onto the estate. If you have no available storage, you must discard a tile.
ADD A HEXAGONAL TILE TO YOUR ESTATE: Take a tile from storage and place it onto your player board into an empty space that shows the number on your die. The tile you place must match the color on the board and must be adjacent to previously placed tiles. Stuff happens immediately based on the type of tile you placed:
- If you placed a yellow knowledge tile, you’ll get a special benefit based on the tile placed. I won’t go over them all, since there are 26 different tiles.
- If you placed a blue ship tile, you can take all good tiles from any one depot’s goods space, adding them to your storage. You also move up one space in the turn order.
- If you place a light green animal tile, you get VPs based on the number of animals on the tile. Every time you add new animals to the board, you score again.
- If you place a dark green castle tile, you get an immediate extra action.
- If you place a grey mine tile, you get one Silverling in income at the end of each round.
- If you place a beige building tile, you get to take advantage of that building’s special effect, each of which is shown on your player board.
SELL GOODS: Sell all goods of one type from storage for one Silverling and 2-4 VPs per tile depending on the number of players. The die result indicates which type of good you can sell.
TAKE WORKER TILES: Choose any dice result and take two worker tiles from the supply. Again, worker tiles increase or decrease die rolls by one.
After 5 turns, the round ends. After 5 rounds, the game ends. Each unsold good is worth 1 VP. Each remaining Silverling is worth 1 VP. Every two worker tiles are worth 1 VP. Each VP bearing knowledge tile gets points based on the tile. The player with the most points wins. Ties are broken by having the fewest empty estate spaces, and then by the player who was later in turn order.
OK, so what do I think? Well, I’m finding more and more that I really have to look at rules before I can get excited about Eurogames. Don’t get me wrong – I do like Euros. The themes are just BORING. But to me, this game looks pretty interesting mechanically, and that’s why I want to play. It doesn’t seem very difficult, and it falls squarely into the genre of games that has been very popular of late: dice games that are not so dependent on luck. Another Euro I covered on this blog, Troyes, seems like a much more involved game that falls into that same genre. You can also look to Alien Frontiers, which is much more interesting thematically, as another example.
I’m not THAT experienced with Stefan Feld’s games. I really enjoy Notre Dame, and I’ve played Die Speicherstadt on yucata.de. I enjoy them both, and he definitely has his fans out there. So I’ll keep this one on my radar – I have a feeling it’s a lot more interesting than its theme would suggest. Thanks for reading!