Board Games, Uncategorized

First Play: Castell

I met up with my friend Oscar to play a couple games at Game Empire this week. It was my first time playing Castell and Oscar’s second time. I’ve been looking forward to trying out Castell ever since I first heard about it a couple of years ago. I’m always on the lookout for meatier games that aren’t too dry or that fall into typical euro game theme categories. Castell, on paper, looks great. It’s a euro game that’s not about trading or bidding. Castell is about the Catalonian tradition of creating human castle-like structures. If you haven’t seen it in action, google it, watch it, and then come back. I’ll hold your place.

You’re back. How was it? Pretty neat huh?

In Castell players lead a troupe of castellers as they travel across Catalonia, recruiting new members, training their skills, and performing at local competitions.The game is centered around the puzzle of creating pyramid-shaped tile arrangements within the constraints of your team’s abilities. Players can recruit new casteller tiles and expand their abilities by traveling to different regions on the board and using the recruit and practice actions, respectively. The attributes you are able to train (width, base, strength, etc.) exist on the board as randomly arranged tiles on a rondel that corresponds to the various geographic locations on the main area of the board. The rondel moves after every round, changing where you are able train certain attributes. You need to train your team in order to claim valuable local exhibition tiles which are worth victory points. It’s an interesting approach that keeps you thinking about your future turns and actions, planning to train certain aspects not only to perform locally, but also to participate in the larger competitions that provide you with a good chunk of your overall score.

The tiles you need to expand your team of Castellers are randomly placed on every region in-between rounds, so it’s entirely possible that while the current round’s festival requires a certain type of Casteller, there might not be any of that particular type on the board. So, combine the randomness of the Casteller tiles with the moving target presented by the training rondel and you have a very tactical game that is often tugging at you from multiple fronts, putting pressure on you create Castells that not only abide by the requirements of the festivals and exhibitions on the board, but that are also restricted by the constraints of your troupe’s training upgrades. Don’t get me wrong it’s an interesting tactical puzzle to work out, but I’m not entirely convinced that the mental acrobatics result in game that is fun to play–at least that’s my initial impression. Looking forward to giving another shot. Thanks for teaching the game, Oscar.

Castell is designed by Ander Vanderbeek with art by Ossi Hiekkala, Jeanne Torres, Paul Tseng, and Dan Wagne and is published by Renegade games.

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