Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig

Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig

How many fking castles does this guy need?

 

Between Two Castles is, as the name does not make any effort to hide, a mash-up of Between Two Cities and the Mad King Ludwig franchise. The core gameplay comes from Between Two Cities—there are two rounds, and at the start of each round, each player takes a stack of tiles. Draft two tiles, pass to the left, draft two tiles, pass to the left, until only one tile remains, which is discarded. You’re building a castle with each of the people adjacent to you, and your score is the lowest of the two castles you help build, which means you can’t let one of them suck.

 

The Mad King aspect is how all the tiles go together. There’s no spatial aspect like the original Castles of Mad King Ludwig; instead, you have several types of square tiles which can be placed around the core of your castle, the throne room. Like Castles, each tile has a type, and most tiles have a way to score points that relates to other tiles in the game. The most common adjacency rules are to score for tiles in the eight spaces around a given tile, or for all tiles above a tile, below it, or both. These can relate to the room type itself (utility room, outdoors area, etc), or the second icon on these tiles (swords, a mirror, and so on).

 

Another similarity to Castles is that you have much more freedom to build your castle however you want. Most rooms have to be built at the ground floor (the level of the throne room) or above, but there are downstairs rooms that can go below. Tiles have to be placed adjacent to other ones. The castle can go as high as you want, but all rooms must be supported by actual room tiles beneath them (you can’t place a tile above an outdoor area). Alternately, you can go as wide as you want—whatever works for your grand architectural plan.

 

Also like Castles, you get bonuses for fulfilling certain basic requirements. In this case, if you place three of a tile type, you get an associated bonus, and if you place five of one type, you get a specialty room tile that can add substantially to your final score. It takes some getting used to the bonuses; none of them are hard to understand individually, but understanding them well enough to grab them quickly in the flow of the game can be hard.

 

And if there’s a flaw in this game, the bonuses are it. Between Two Cities is a fantastic game. Castles of Mad King Ludwig is a game I don’t like playing, but which I can’t deny is well-designed—I’m just crap at spatial awareness. Putting together a castle in the Ludwig vein, according to BTC rules, is quite fun on a basic level. But the draft mechanic works best when everybody sorts through the available tiles, picks two, then everyone plays their tiles together and moves on to the next decision. When people get bonuses, new players will often overlook them because they want to move on to building more castle pieces; once everyone’s used to grabbing their bonuses, then the game either slows a bit while decisions are made (some of the bonuses require players choose from tiles or bonus cards), or some people move on with their next decision and are left to wait while the bonus earners catch up.

 

I didn’t have a chance to play this with a group who was experienced enough to blow through the bonus-grabbing process, so it’s theoretically possible the game plays very well once everyone is on point. Thing is, BTC is a fairly casual game, and it’s unlikely this game (especially with a bigger group) is only going to have experienced players in it. The rhythm of Between Two Cities that this idea relies on gets thrown off by the Mad King Ludwig aspects. Thus, while the idea is sound and the baseline game is pretty good, it winds up being about 90% as good as what you’d hope to get when putting two games of this quality together.

 

Still, when you’re working at this level, 90% is solid. If you liked both of the component games, you’ll probably like this. If you liked one and didn’t play the other, it’s worth trying. If… look, just play the game if you get the chance.

 

(4.1 / 5)

Dr Eureka

Dr Eureka

Dr. Eureka is a manual dexterity game designed to keep kids entertained, if the box art wasn’t enough of a clue. The BGG community is wise in this case; the game is listed as being for ages eight and up, but the community vote is for age five and up, and they’re probably right. If you like watching small children fumble objects all over the floor so you can feel more accomplished in life, they’re definitely right.

 

You start with three test tubes, each holding three balls of a single color—red, purple, or green. A card is flipped over with a way of sorting the balls in the test tubes. There may be any number of balls in a given tube (up to the five they can hold); some cards have an empty tube on them. Your job is to figure out the most effective way to move the balls from tube to tube until they match the pattern on the card. The catch is that you have to tip one tube into another to move the balls. You can’t move them with your hands. And if you drop a ball, you’re out of the round. First person to complete the pattern wins the round, takes the card, and the first to five cards wins.

 

That’s the whole game. Is it fun? Yeah. It’s not going to amuse adults for more than a couple playthroughs against each other. Kids might get a kick out of it if they’re at a level of coordination where this is a challenge, but a doable challenge. (Actually, by that standard, a lot of adults might like it too.) It’s something you want to find for cheap and stick on a shelf if you know you have to deal with kids that like to constantly do things with their hands.

 

(3.3 / 5)

The Mind

The Mind

Can you read your friends’ minds?!

 

No. Stop trying. And if you do want to try, find another way.

 

This is what you do in The Mind: Everyone has a hand of cards equal to the level of the game. One person plays a card. Then another. Do that until everyone’s hands are empty. The goal is to play the cards, numbered 1 through 99, in numerical order while hardcore pokerfacing everybody at the table. You cannot speak, you cannot make expressions that potentially give away any information about your hand, nothing. (Of course, that’s necessary, since clues would make this game idiotically simple.)

 

Your group starts with a certain number of lives and throwing stars. As you pass through the levels, more of these become available. Lives are lost if someone plays a card and another player has a lower card in hand; throwing stars are used to allow everyone to discard one card from their hands. Run out of lives, you lose. Get to the end with any lives left, you win.

 

If you’re familiar with The Game, this is extremely similar, just with slight tweaks to make it more engaging. Its main advantage over The Game is this: The Game requires you to go through the whole deck, which means a bad shuffle can make it extremely difficult to finish. The Mind never has you deal out more than about one-third of the deck, so while you certainly can end up with a bunch of cards with similar values spread among the players, it’s less of a problem.

 

Problem is, they’re just tweaks, and it’s not much more engaging. The instructions have a bit that say “Don’t read until you’ve finished a game”, at which point they say this is a game about timing—the longer you wait to play a card, the farther away from the current card you probably are, so the players need to get a sense for how long each other will wait before playing a card X number away from the current one. They’re not lying; that’s what this game is, to the point that’s basically all this game is.

 

This is the kind of game that might have value with kids who need to learn teamwork, especially if you need them to shut up for five minutes. And there will always be people who enjoy this specific brand of mental cooperation. But as a game, it’s just.. not much of one.

 

(3 / 5)

Adventures of the Super Sons #1

Adventures of the Super Sons #1

Super Sons is incredible, and if you think otherwise you’re wrong. Tomasi has created and continues to improve on his best work in his entire career, and that’s really saying something. I love everything this man writes, but Super Sons is a total treasure, and that’s why when the original Super Sons comic book was canceled by DC Comics I nearly had a mental breakdown. Unbeknownst to the fans, despite Super Son’s numbers, the 16 issue comic book run would come to and end and return a few months later as Adventures of the Super Sons. I have no idea why they made this change, and everything here seems like a direct continuation of the Super Sons story. Perhaps Tomasi had to put the comic book on hiatus for a short while and DC would rather rebrand and renumber than break their monthly schedule? Perhaps Tomasi still has something different in mind for the comic book he couldn’t originally do under the last comic’s title. It’s a bit of a mystery, and Tomasi was pretty quiet about the whole ordeal, say for thanking all his fans for all the support and clearing up some of the outrage behind Super Sons’ sudden and unexpected cancellation. Despite the rebranding, I’m 110% on board, and excited to read more.

Banter between Damian and Jonathan has never been better, and as they stop an animated golden statue of Superman from rampaging across Metropolis, they have to make sure to get to school in time before they’re late. Luckily they have a little bit of leniency with it being the last day of the school year. Despite being a little cruel since summer is wrapping up and everyone in the real world is started to head back to school, the Super Sons are planning out their summer vacation for 3 months full of Superhero badassery. With their underwater base fully functional once more, having been severely damaged toward the end of the Super Sons run, and the rest of the Justice League busy with bigger problems, the Sons are out to clean up the streets. Under the nose of the League however  there appears to be some alien invaders, though it’s unclear whether they’re from a different planet, or a different time. To both super’s surprise, the dastardly gang of new villains look an awful lot like Batman and Superman villains in kid form. Joker Jr. and Kid Deadshot, just to name a couple. They know way more about the 2 kids than they should, and it appears they know and have harnessed their weaknesses as well.

Super Sons in all its light heartedness is a wonderfully written and executed comic book through and through. It’s funny, action packed, entertaining, and the Damian Jonathan combo has a seemingly unlimited amount of chemistry. Like I’ve mentioned before, the reason why Superman and Batman work so well is their polar opposite personalities. They fill each others negative spaces really well. The super sons work very similarly, but in a much more comical and campy way, and with Tomasi at the helm it makes for a near perfect duo. As long as these two characters can work off of eachother, story and setting simply doesn’t matter. Tomasi can run any weird and wacky entertaining story arch because it’s not what you’re reading the comic book for, it’s just gravy on top. Super Sons is just as good as it’s ever been, and that’s all you can ask for. Anything better would simply be unrealistic.

 

(5 / 5)

 

Villainous

Villainous

Oh god. Disney IP at work. This can’t possibly be good.

Right?

Villainous is a game where up to six players take on the roles of some of Disney’s most nefarious villains: Maleficent, Jafar, Captain Hook, The Queen of Hearts, Ursula, or Prince John (animal version). Each player has a board with four sections full of actions they can take on their turns, a deck of cards, and a second deck of Fate cards to throw them off track, but that’s largely where the similarities between the characters end.

In keeping with the small but growing trend towards asymmetrical gaming, Villainous offers a different win condition for each character, a different deck of cards with different items and abilities, different Fate cards (which reflect that character’s nemeses—Captain Hook has all the children from Peter Pan, for example)—and different sets of actions on each of their four board sections. In fact, not all characters have access to all four sections on their boards at the start of the game, or at any point—Ursula constantly has one end of the board or the other locked off.

Each turn, the player takes their very well-made pawn and moves it to a board section other than the one they were just on (think Scythe). They then perform all the actions on that section. This can be partially thwarted by their enemies; one action is to play a Fate card off someone else’s deck, which can be used to cover the top two actions on one section of that player’s board. These heroes can’t be defeated unless the player puts minions on, or moves them to, the same space with power equal to or greater than the hero’s. Items can be attached to minions to make them stronger, but the same goes for the heroes. It’s a take-that mechanic without the rage inducement; rarely does a player not have any board options without all of the actions on it available unless they’re winning handily and everyone is coming after them, in which case, hey, be a better villain.

For a deck-based game, the balance between when people reach their win conditions is pretty remarkable. This isn’t to say that everyone gets there at about the same time, but rather that everyone has a win condition other players can see coming. Whoever’s closest to winning can get slowed down, but not to a degree that effectively stops them from being able to win unless they get dogpiled hard (which is itself just a strategy that hands the game to someone else). It could have been successful with any theme; the game is strong.

But beyond that, Villainous has more flavor than atomic wings. All the minions, heroes, items, abilities, and everything else associated with each villain is spot on. The game even allows for some seriously messed up situations; for example, Jafar can hypnotize Aladdin and make him kill Jasmine. If you don’t think that’s great—not the domestic violence aspect, but the sheer evil in the act of making it happen and the fact you can get so dark—this game might not appeal to you as much as others.

It’s a really good game, though. Play it. You want to be bad. You do. You doooooo.

(4.2 / 5)
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