Designed by, Illustrated by, and Conceived by (and Published by) Andrew Harman (Games and Book Author).
YAY GAMES has done what all good, new games companies should do, quickly followed up their first game, FRANKENSTEIN'S BODIES, with another game that is aimed at the same playing group - families who like a little devil in their gaming. SANDCASTLES consists of a beautifully laid out Rules booklet, filled with colourful illustrations and examples and 140 Tiles. The tiles have four types, 1 x Big Wave (endgame tile), 30 x Attack Tiles (10 of each Crab, Bucket & Seagull), 80 x Sandcastle Tiles and 29 Bonus Point Score tiles.
SANDCASTLES is a fast-paced, family, fun, tile-laying game, with a gameplay system based on variations of traditional games like Boxes, Snake, and the age-old Scissors, Paper, Stone mechanic. In SANDCASTLES instead of Scissors, Paper and Stones there are CRABS, BUCKETS and SEAGULLS. Crabs beat Buckets, Buckets beat Seagulls and Seagulls Crabs. This is clearly shown by the illustrations on the "attack" Tiles which each show a centrally located large colour picture of the attacker and a smaller colour shot of the defeated plus a circular set of arrows that follow the connection - the circle of beach life! This is a practical Family game but just by adding a few Gamer-style House Rules there are some interesting variations that can be easily found.
Each of the Sandcastle tiles shows one of the three antagonists, Crab, Bucket, Seagull, plus one or more crenolated castle walls running from the central illustration to the edges of the tile. The idea of the game is to create Sandcastles and score points when you complete them (the tiles are collected and put aside to count as points at the end of the game). If you can create a Sandcastle that meets the necessities of one of the Bonus tiles on display then you get to place that Bonus tile in front of you face up, and sometimes with an arrow pointing towards the centre of the table - the value next to the arrow on the tile being equal to the score just made. Bonus Tiles can be taken from players by other players if their new Sandcastle beats the current highest; Bonus tiles can change hands more than once and the Bonus only counts for the player who has the tile in front of them when the game ends.
On their turn players can play one tile from their hand of three. The options available when playing this tile are; you can either begin a new Sandcastle, Add to any existing Sandcastle (either yours or an opponents), Attack an opponent's Sandcastle or Exchange a tile (from the open display - there are always 3 Tiles face up on display). After playing a tile you draw a new one to make your hand back up.
One of our House Rules we added when we played our games of SANDCASTLES using the test rules we have is that we came to the conclusion that because of table space, plus the way Sandcastles can expand where the walls are open at tile edges, it is best to have a rule that each player may only ever have one Sandcastle under construction. Once one is completed they can begin another.
We also determined that there is no problem using the Rule that allows players to begin numerous sandcastles at the same time, if you have enough table or play area space. It should however, be remembered that incomplete Sandcastles and tiles held in hand never count towards a score.
Another House Rule we implemented when allowing multiple Sandcastles is that the tiles of an incomplete Sandcastle count as negative points - this dissuades players from just laying out single Tiles for the hell of it.
The Rules imply that you can only play Tiles on your own Sandcastles but the GGO variant allows for the playing of Tiles on other player's Sandcastles. This may result in giving your opponent extra points, but it also means you could possibly complete or redirect their Sandcastle and thus prevent them scoring a valuable Bonus.
The Rules for Attacking and Defending define that "Attack" Tiles are also "Defence" Tiles. You can Attack another player's Sandcastle by playing one of the "Attack" tiles against a Tile in their incomplete Sandcastle (completed Sandcastles are safe - in fact they are stripped down and removed from the table - face down in front of each player for scoring at game end). To attack, you play the correct Tile from your hand against its target Tile, ie you play a Bucket against a Seagull. However, attacks aren't automatically successful because the player being attacked can now use a Tile from their hand to defend against the attack - in this case they would need to repel the Bucket by playing a Crab. Then the attacker can add to their attack but this time they need to defeat the Crab, thus a Seagull is the correct Tile. The defender can now defend against the Seagull (with a Bucket) and so on until one player wins. The winning player gets to keep ALL the cards involved in the fight - with the exception that the Tile first attacked, in the Sandcastle, will remain in place if the defender is the winner. If the attacker wins though they don't get to add the target Tile to their VP stack, instead they have to immediately play it onto an own Sandcastle.
YAY GAMES are running this on KICKSTARTER as they did with FRANKENSTEIN'S BODIES and there is no reason it shouldn't have the same success. It is a simple game, well devised and majestically illustrated, with rules that players from quite a young age will have no problems understanding as they will most likely already be au fait with the mechanics from playing in the schoolyard and they will equally understand the logic of the Crab, Bucket, Seagull rotunda. As it's a Kickstarter game there are likely to be stretch goals.
At the time of writing I have no idea what these may be so I'm just going to let my brain cell run into imagination overtime: Stretch One: The game author gives you Crabs. Stretch Two: YAY arrange an all expenses flight on a Seagull (or a trip to watch Brighton & Hove play). Stretch Three: YAY help you kick the bucket. None of these are true of course, but they may give you another smile to add to the many you will having while playing Andrew Harman's SANDCASTLES.