The Mad King Ludwig – Ludwig II of Bavaria to his friends – was known to be a bit eccentric and actually declared insane. His famously unfinished Neuschwanstein castle serves as a reminder of his eccentricities. In Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig you get to be an architect for the king himself, helping to construct two neighboring castles with a lot of oddities included.
What is Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig like?
Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig is a mash up of two games; Between Two Cities and The Castles of Mad King Ludwig. If you have played one or either of these games then you will quickly pick up how to play Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig. If you haven’t played either of them, let me take a few minutes of your time to explain how it plays.
Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig plays over two rounds. Each round plays the exact same except for the direction you pass the tiles. At the beginning of the game each team starts with a throne room which provides a Wall Hanging and scoring opportunity for tiles that are placed surrounding it. For example, a throne room may want food and/or activity rooms directly above it while another throne room may want sleeping and/or utility rooms to either side. Each throne room is the size of two tiles and can score a maximum of four points at the end of the game.
In Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig players work together with the player on their left to construct one city and the player on their right to construct another. To start the first round each player takes 9 tiles and selects 2 of them. Once all players have selected their tiles they flip them over and decide, with their respective partners, which tile will be placed into the cities on their right and left. Each tile provides scoring potential depending on surrounding tiles, all tiles in the castle, location, etc. In addition, each tile type provides a unique bonus once there are 3 of that type in the castle. If you get 5 of one type in the castle, then you can add a special room into the castle which all score in different ways.
The round continues with players taking two tiles at a time, placing them into their 2 castles and then passing the remaining tiles to the left. Once only 1 tile remains, the round is over and players take another set of 9 tiles, choose two and play continues with the tiles being passed to the right instead of left. After the 2 rounds are complete the game is over and each player scores one of the two cities they helped construct. The winner is the player with the highest score of their lower scoring castle. For example, if the castle to my left scored 60 points ad the one to my right scores 50, then my final score is 50.
I am a big fan of both of the predecessors of Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig. I think Between Two Cities is an amazing lighter game that plays really well at for higher counts and Castles of Mad King Ludwig is excellent for a deeper strategic game. So, it’s no surprise that I really like this game as well. It combines the mechanics of both of these games into a streamlined version with greater depth than Between Two Cities, but not quite as heavy of a game as Castles of Mad King Ludwig.
The simple nature of each turn, taking two tiles and placing them into two different cities makes for an easy to teach game, but the strategy of which tile is best for each city requires a good amount of strategic thinking.
One of the best feelings in the game is when you get a bonus for placing the 3rd or 5th tile of a specific tile type. When that happens, you get to do something more than the rest of the players, which always feels good. If you work the bonuses really well, you might get to activate more than one bonus in a single turn and that feels oh, so good!
While most people would probably say the theme is weak, I would disagree. It is accurate to say that the game does not simulate the building of an actual castle for King Ludwig, but what it does really well is provide some fun in constructing really odd castles. I love that you can build a castle without any living rooms, but 5 food rooms and 3 bedrooms. I mean, that sounds like my kind of castle!
- The ease of play allows more people to play a strategic game than might normally
- The tension of making sure each of your two cities score well and similar
- The rooms and their thematic scoring add a nice touch
- The icons for scoring are easily understood after learning one example of each type
- Always looking at how many rooms of each type can be a bit tedious
- It is easy to miss scoring rooms while looking over your castle if you aren’t careful
- It is difficult to grasp how well your castles are doing compared to each other during the first play.
The game is not difficult to learn the basic mechanics. To understand the intricacies of the strategy, bonuses, etc. can take a little while to learn. The most difficult thing to learn is the scoring and will probably take a full playthrough in order to completely understand. Overall though, you can learn the game quickly and after a single play understand it well.
- Players: 2 – 7
- Playing time: 45 – 60 minutes
- Suggested age: 10+