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Six years ago Stefan Feld introduced us, via Alea/Ravensburger, to the Castles of Burgundy board game. Now that same combination has given us the Castles of Burgundy Card Game for 1-4 players aged 12+ and it is an intense and exciting challenge.

Set in the Loire Valleyduring the 15th Century the players are wealthy and influential nobles, estate owners, and like many wealthy and influential people enough is never enough, so they plan to grow their estates and their trading to gain even more wealth, influence and, of course, prestige amongst their peers; so in a way the players are taking on the roles of snobs amongst the snobbish!


There are 240 cards of very good quality split into 114 Action cards (Castles, Mines, Cloisters, Knowledge, Ships, Pastures and Buildings, and 126 of Goods, Animals, Bonuses and many other different types, of which the players are each given one Project, one Estate and one Storage card plus one Silver and a randomly picked animal and randomly picked Goods. The rest of the cards are sorted and shuffled as necessary to form the required decks, noting the differences between the number of players etc. 

The setup for each Round is not too dissimilar to 6Nimmt! in as much as you lay 6 cards (numbered 1 - 6) in a single column and then other (Action) cards are laid next to them. With three players 10 cards are drawn from the top of the deck and in the order they come off they are placed next to the 1, then the 2, the 3 etc until all 6 numbered cards have one card beside them, the remaining four cards are then positioned in the row which displays their number; reiterating, the first 6 cards are placed against the numbered cards in the order they are drawn.

Players are given 0, 1 or 2 Worker cards and then dealt a small stack of 6 dice cards (deal 6 Action cards to each player face down to form these small stacks - they may not be looked at by any player and have to be used in the order they are laid, top cards first, without perusing the cards that lay beneath. There are Five Rounds in the game denoted by cards marked A, B, C, D & E with Round one being the A card and so on. These Letter cards have various bonuses that can be claimed during each Round, though once the A Round has ended (after 6 Turns) then the B Round begins and the bonuses for A are no longer available. There are other Bonus cards set aside that can be won by being the first to collect various sets of cards. It is easy to make the mistake of obsessing over collecting sets and not paying attention to the other options and possibilities available to you. Collections/sets are good, no doubt, but do watch what other players are collecting and don't blindly chase to beat them to the set at the cost of your own game; it is a clever balance of building and collecting, with the Dice cards providing the Luck factor and the Worker cards giving a plus 1 or minus 1 to help you with your luck.


The DICE Cards:
At the beginning of the Turn each player takes the top two cards from their own stack and looks at the Dice Number on them, disregarding ALL other text and effects, the card's are simply random number generators. From these two cards one is selected to be played and (we made things a little easier and less cluttered by altering a rule slightly) the unused card is placed face down on top of the player's stack so that it will be one of the two cards drawn next Turn.

The card you have chosen is used for its number only, discard it to the common discard stack and use the number. You may take any card from the row of cards corresponding to that number, notice I said the "Row", which means if your card is a "2" you may take any card in the second row down in the numbers (1-6) column. This card is placed underneath (not hidden but below and adjacent) to your Project card. You may have up to "3" cards in your Projects. To move a card from your Project to your Estate you must use the number on the chosen card and it must equate to a card already under your Project card, you never take a card from the number Row and place it directly into your Estate. Thus if your first turn had been to take a card with a value of "5" from the second row (having played a "2") if on another turn you play a "5" instead of taking a card from the fifth row in the column you may instead move the card valued "5" from your Project to your Estate.

The Dice cards are used as the main mechanic throughout the game and have many uses, not just the two described above. For instance if you have a Goods card with the same number as the card you play you can forgo taking a card from the row or from the Project but instead you may sell all Goods that bear the same number as your card, collecting One Silver for each Good sold. You may use the number card by discarding it and taking no heed of its number, instead you may build your Worker force back up to two (i.e. if you have no Workers gain 2, but only gain 1 if you have 1 already) or you may disregard the number and take One Silver. Workers and Silver may also be converted into Victory Points at a cost of 3-1 (the cards may be all Silver, all Workers or a Mix of both).


When you move a card from your Project to your Estate you may then and only then use its Special Effect, therefore it isn't just a matter of collecting cards it's also a matter of planning which cards you require by the effect they have on your personal estate. If you have 3 Silver on your Turn you may buy 3 Action cards from the top of the Supply Deck (not the Discards). Unfortunately you may only use One of them and the other Two are discarded. Using the card you have bought you may place it under your Project card or you can use the Die/Number on it as another Action, for example you could take a card from the Columns and then have your regular Action because buying the cards does not constitute an Action as far as your Turn goes. Obviously Silver is very important because there are so many useful things it can do in the game.


When placing the different card types under your Estate card you get bonuses according to the card's text: Mines = Two Silver, Knowledge = 2 Workers (you may go over the limit of 2 in this case, Ships give +1 Goods (take a Goods card of your choice form those on display), Pastures = 1 Animal from those on display etc. etc. etc. Buildings, Churches, Markets, Watchtowers, Bank, Boarding Houses, Warehouse, City Hall, Castles and Cloisters all have viable and well described Bonuses. Once cards are on your Estate they stay there and wait for other cards in their Sets until the end of the game scoring.


Lots of board games later have card games based on the same or similar theme and some work well while others look like they're just board games without a board. CASTLES of BURGUNDY is an exceptionally fine and meritious card game filled with option possibities, clever and thoughtful mechanics and elegantly delightful illustrated and easily understood cards. If you have the German language version you may get the English Rules from and print them off. If you do this onto A4 paper, single side printing, then ensure you have a couple of strong elastic bands to go round the game box as the printed pages don't fold into a small stack - they make the box lid bulge.

The CASTLES of BURGUNDY card game is, in my opinion, better and more balanced than the board game, and from memory (which I have already stated isn't so good these days) it is also a lot more fun and entertaining, plus according to Boardgamegeek it is also very inexpensive (around £7.00). If you can get a copy for that price you will have, as they colloquially say, "made off like a bandit" as it's worth twice, possibly three times that. Definitely one for your Wish List. 



© Chris Baylis 2011-2021