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Board Game Review – Castellan

2014 December 6
by Michael Schroeder

Plastic castle pieces? Count me in! My review of Castellan by Steve Jackson Games.

Castellan by Steve Jackson Games

Castellan by Steve Jackson Games

Designer: Beau Beckett

Number of players: 2-4 (w/another set)

Age: 10+

Time: 45 minutes

What’s the game about?

A description from the publisher…

Two players work together to build a castle. Wall and tower pieces link to form courtyards. The player who finishes a courtyard claims it with a Keep.

Your cards determine what pieces you get each turn . . . but you decide where to put them. If you’re clever, the pieces played by your opponent can end up scoring for you!

Castellan includes 108 detailed castle pieces and 28 cards, and plays in less than an hour.

If you combine red/blue and green/yellow Castellan sets, you can play with three or four players.

Basic idea in my own words…

In Castellan, you and your opponent(s) are building a castle together from a shared pool of plastic pieces in the hopes of building better opportunities for yourself in the process. The way you score is when you close off a courtyard with walls and towers, you place your color  castle keep within that courtyard. When you place a keep, you count the number of towers directly in/on said courtyard and that is how many points you receive, at the end of the game. The goal of the game is to think ahead and maximize your opportunities while trying to provide little or no opportunity for the opponent(s). It’s not as simple as just picking up pieces and laying them down though. You are limited to cards in your hand. The randomly selected cards tell you what pieces you can use on your turn.

Tower Keep, tower, short and long wall pieces

Tower Keep, tower, short and long wall pieces

Setup:

Each player selects a color and takes all tower keep pieces of that color as well as all the cards of that color. Separate the two different types of cards into two separate piles and shuffle each deck and place before yourself. Each player then draws two cards from each deck for a starting hand of 4. Choose a starting player and you are ready to begin.

How do you play?

On your turn, you…

  • Play card(s) – On your turn you may play as many cards from your hand as you wish but you must play at least one. As you lay the cards down, take the pieces from the box that are illustrated on the cards 
  • Build – connect the pieces any way you wish and can. On your first turn however, you must connect all pieces therefore, you must use 1 tower. You can never build inside another courtyard and you may not start another castle.
  • Claim courtyards – this is where you place your keeps within any closed courtyards. One keep per courtyard. The whole point of the game is having a courtyard with many towers around it. Once a keep has been placed, it cannot be moved. Also, once per game, you may place a keep on top of another, which will double the points for that courtyard
  • Draw – you may draw 1 card unless you played a card with another card on it, in that case, you may draw that many more cards in addition to the base, 1, card
  • Discard – discard the cards you played this turn and put them in the game box. They will never be used again in this game

Game End:

Play like this continues until 1 player has no more cards left to draw. Upon which, each other player will receive one last turn and they get to draw all of their remaining cards. Scoring occurs only at game end. Count up the towers attached to closed off courtyards with keeps inside. The high score wins! It’s advised to turn the towers on their side as they’ve been counted so you can keep track. Castellan felt very much like Chess to me or a puzzle. I enjoyed it.

Breakdown

Components: 3/5

Castellan is filled with plastic castle pieces, which is cool. The cards are good stock; the box leaves little to be desired and I don’t understand why but there is two boxes in this game. One outer box and a smaller box to keep all the game pieces in. The outer box seems like a total waste to me. I’m thinking it’s to highlight the “cool” plastic pieces which will attract peoples eyes in the stores. The box also serves as real estate for more of Steve Jackson Games advertisements.

Theme: 5/5

Give me castles and castle building any day. I love castles, ’nuff said! Well, actually, the theme in this game isn’t important at all, at it’s core, the game is an abstract puzzler.

Luck Factor: 3/5

There’s not a tremendous amount of luck in this game but there’s enough from the random drawing of cards for you to play. The game in my opinion is more about strategy.

Strategy: 4/5

There’s a good amount of strategy in this game. Like I said, I really feels like playing Chess.

Overall Feelings: 3/5

I enjoyed Castellan. It’s a fun puzzler game that doesn’t take too long and I love the plastic castle pieces. My only gripe is that it’s only a 2 player game. If you wish to play 3-4, you must pick up the other version of the game. There’s a standard or US version with red and blue keeps then there’s an international version which contains green and yellow keeps and and cards. Luckily, I have both. The game is simple enough that I think when my kids get a little older, they’ll understand and just about anyone can pick it up, while it can satisfy that itch with more hard core gamers.

Review copy kindly provided by Steve Jackson Games.

Thank you to the kind members of Board Game Geek and SJ games for providing images of gameplay and product.

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