You know the old story. A crossover of two series brings in audiences of two separate (but often complementary) products, to create a new world full of opportunities (oh and a fresh revenue stream). BETWEEN TWO CASTLES OF MAD KING LUDWIG Stonemaier Games have fused BETWEEN TWO CITIES and PALACE OF MAD KING LUDWIG together. The former is a world builder which sees two global cities (From Rome, Beijing, Sydney etc) being built by players, with tile drawing and placement at its heart. The latter, well needs a little explaining. Mad old King Ludwig is based on a famed German king. Dashing, charming and funny as he was, he also was taken to flights of fantasy. Or to be more frankly speak, he was mentally unwell. In the PALACE OF MAD KING LUDWIG, we were assigned the task of building his palace as architects he has called to his newly created grandeur ego location. Via tiles and tasks, we do just that but all while trying to decipher his will. No mean feat indeed.


The box itself has a nice but fairly broad image of a series of castles under construction. This nods toward BETWEEN TWO CITIES imagery more but its target is family. Inside the box the components are a thick rule book, which is quality enough, seven castle pieces, you get two plastic organisation trays (one red and one yellow) that are more than sufficient to store the other item in the box, lots of tiles (which need to be explained a little bit and are not in the eyes of us.) They are split into various types of rooms. Halls, gardens, bedrooms, kitchens, toilets…all the trappings of a palace. Take the one sided tiles and place them in the red tray (shuffle them….Shuffle them hard!). Take the two sided tiles and place them in the yellow tray. There is also a set of orange cards that go into the yellow tray. The other items in the box are a score card and a very valuable player guide that outlines all scoring and placement options for the tiles. This is essential and will become your best friend!


Setup is simple enough. Depending on the number of players (3 to 5 is best) sit in a circle and be in close proximity of each other. Pull out the trays and place them in the centre of the table. Red on top, yellow below. Each player takes a card that is the centre of the castle or the throne room. You will be building a castle together with the person on either side of you, so make sure it is visible to them and theirs to you. You then get to start round one (of two) draw 9 tiles from the red box and then you draw two tiles secretly. One will go into each castle. Place the 7 others under the castle piece you have been given. From this and show them to your partner on the other side. You are allowed to discuss at this point, which tiles will be placed. Once agreed, you place the tiles (referring to the card). To note, you must have a firm foundation for this tile to sit on. No half way or quarter way etc. Two pieces are placed, one by you and one by them. To note at this point, players are scored on the lowest valued castle, so play as hard as you can! Keep going. Now you draw 9 more tiles which come from the red box and you do the two tile draw again. Instead of going right, you now draw from players to your lefts pile. You then shift this round and round until one tiles is left each and you discard this. Round two, follows the same process but it is in an anti clockwise process. The game has bonus tiles, if you say place 3 garden tiles, you get a fountain etc. Sleeping rooms get you a Tower etc. Its explained (very detailed in the booklet) but I would recommend the excellent video by Watch it played (linked in the Stone Maier games website among many other places). You need to understand the process, in order to get the most out of the game.


The look of the contents is very, very good. Details are fun and it feels like the development of the game had an eye on the player wanting a varied experience each time. Once we got the processes down, we liked the use of pick and play, discussion and placement processes. They are both exciting and eventful. The game is intuitive enough to get players placing tiles without looking to outdo someone.


Two things made us gripe. One is the booklet, that convolutes and doesn’t explain enough of the basic set up details. Two, the pieces in the box for setup are a little weak and you can, if you push to hard, rip and damage pieces. This is annoying.


The game is not as much a re-tread of BETWEEN TWO CITIES and PALACE OF MAD KING LUDWIG, as a delineation of the better aspects of those games and the addition of some more dynamic, interactive play. This benefits older players. It also benefits seasoned players and this leads the game to 60 plus minutes. I preferred BETWEEN TWO CITIES as a game playing experience but BETWEEN TWO CASTLES OF MAD KING LUDWIG has enough in it, to make it worth buying. With the use of rounds being its most clever introduction. It is complex but still subtle scoring, to make you return. You might not pull it out and replay it often but you will like the games cut and thrust if you have say 5 people looking for a semi advanced game.

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