50 Games in 50 Weeks: Castellan

Dec 10 2012

Castellan, courtesy of GeekDad on Wired

Castellan, courtesy of GeekDad on Wired

Castellan is an unusual building game. Each player lays out plastic towers and walls, connecting them into courtyards, limited by the pieces listed on special cards (new cards are added and old ones removed as the game progresses).

As soon as you enclose a courtyard, it’s yours, and you get points based on the courtyard’s size and the number of towers around it.

However, both players are connecting their pieces to the same structure, so you’re both building the same castle.

It’s a neat concept: each player is happily slapping down little walls and towers, imagining the little people who live there, eyeing large spaces. You enclose a courtyard. Success! But your opponent encloses another space. How could you have prevented that? How might you take advantage of that new courtyard’s walls?

As with so many of the Steve Jackson games I’ve played, Castellan has solid, clear mechanics and an unusual premise.

It also has the appeal of building something. You mold a castle with your own hands, seeing it grow over time. Shades of SimCity hover in the game’s shadows.

It’s also a game that took some getting used-to. The limitations placed by the cards combined with the different towers and walls kept me off-balance. I liked that; I felt like I could play the game a number of times before my mind could map out the connections.

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