Updated: Jul 6
OK, before we start the review, lets explain the origins of this game as it can be a little confusing!
Back in 2014, Bézier Games released Castles of Mad King Ludwig. In this game, players took turns to be the master builder, setting the prices for the rooms available, selling said rooms to the other players and then choosing from the remaining options. Then in 2015 Stonemaier Games made Between Two Cities. A tile drafting game for 1-7 players where you build two Cities at a time, one with the player either side of you in a grid. Then in 2018, Stonemaier and Bézier came together to make a mash-up of the two games, Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig, where players needed to make a Castle with either player beside them, taking ideas, themes, and mechanics from both games.
This new version played 2-7, but is at its best three and up. I always sensed this bugged Jamey Stegmaier, who likes all his games to work at solo too. So, in 2021, the first expansion for the game was released which expands the game to a 1-8 experience, with a revised two player option. Secrets & Soirees.
In this review we first look at the base game, then the expansion new cards and rules, then the new two player variants, and finally the solo option.
Between Two Castle of Mad King Ludwig
The base game is an absolute delight for tile-laying fans. Building your two castles, working with your two neighbours, you will be delighted with the number of tiles on option, and the variety within them. It will take multiple games before you see all the tiles. I am certain some will still delight and surprise you well into your later games.
The game works very much like Between Two Cities. Starting with nine randomly drawn tiles, you will pick two tiles. One for the Castle you are building to your right, and the other for the one you are building to your left. Both of your neighbours will be doing the same, and you can work with both players to make these decisions. As your castles expand and develop, you will work in new ways of scoring, and expand upon existing scoring options.
You may lay a tile that scores for each surrounding Utility room, and then later place a Utility room next to it, which also scores for all connected Sleeping quarters. The Sleeping quarters themselves score four points if you build one room of each type, otherwise they score just one point. So, getting a few of these in a well-equipped castle can be fruitful.
Each time you place the third type of any room, you immediately score a bonus action. This can be the opportunity to place an extra room tile, a bonus tile such as the Fountain, Tower or Grand Foyer, which all score their own bonus points. Or the chance to take a bonus scoring card or Royal Attendant. All of which give you yet more opportunities for end game scoring.
All in, this is a point salad of a game with 13 different ways to score at the end of the game. The provided score pad is both well designed and much needed! The only complaint here that some have said that the end game scoring can take as long as the game itself. Each game of Between Two Castles is very quick. You play just two rounds, with eight tiles from nine used each round. Everything can be over in 10-20 minutes for experienced players, especially in lower player counts. But then the scoring can take just as long again! Personally, I savour this part of the game. Watching the scores build up for each room type, player by player is exciting to watch. You could all score simultaneously, which would make it a lot quicker. But I find watching each player tally their respective points, room by room, highly entertaining! It is also impressive to see how some players have found clever combinations from certain scoring rooms.
Before I move onto the new expansion content, it’s essential to mention the fantastic Game Trayz inserts that come with both the base game and new expansion. They serve as a fantastic way to sort and store the game, as well as assist and speed up set-up and take down. This is the industry standard all should aspire too! They look great and are highly functional.