Castell: Climbing Up My Personal Favorites
Castell: Climbing Up My Personal Favorites
An As Per My Ability review by Shane Barnick
Edited by Andrew Davidson
Castell is a 2-4 player set collecting, pattern building game where players take up the mantle of a Catalonian castell team. Designed by Aaron Vanderbeek and published by Renegade Game Studios—a publisher who I hold in high regard.
"Castelling" is a Catalonian tradition of constructing human towers, stacking people on top of each other up to 8-10 rows high. In Castell, players send their team to different Catalan towns to complete exhibitions, recruit new Castellers, train in new skills, and finally, compete in festivals to become the best colla, or castell team.
On a player's turn, he or she may take up to four different actions on their turn. The different actions include:
1. Moving your castell meeple to an adjacent region.
2. Recruiting two new Castellers.
3. Training a specific skill
4. Taking a unique action that lets you either put on a local performance; recruit one more casteller, or even move again.
A player may do all of these actions in any order that they wish. Once players take their turn, there is a festival at one or two of the seven different towns on the board. At the festival, any player in that town will compete to make the best castell tower for that event.
Now to get into more specifics for these actions.
The move action is the obvious one, so it will not be discussed. The recruiting action allows a player to recruit two casteller tiles at the region they are currently in; these Castellers are drawn and filled in areas randomly every other round. The casteller tiles are numbered from 1-10, which determines their size and strength. The training action lets a player train in a particular skill. The skill you can train in is determined by an ever-turning wheel that tells you which skills you can prepare in which region. Skills allow players to break specific rules that Castell must follow. The different skills you can train in are strength, balance, width, mix, and base. The more you train these skills up, the more you can break the castell rules. Finally, the special action move will make you use up one of your seven unique action tokens available for one game. The different special actions being an extra move, recruit one more Castellers in your region and performing at a local exhibition. To perform a local demonstration players have to construct a human tower in the exact same shape as required by that city's local performance tile. If you can make that tower, you receive the tile for end game scoring.
After players take their turns, all festivals take place. To compete in a festival there are three requirements. First, your meeple must be located in the festival's location. Second, you must be able to make a castell at least four rows high. Third, you must use all of the required casteller sizes that are randomly determined for each festival during the game set up. If you can fulfill these requirements, you then compete for the best Castell. The best Castell is determined by the height of your Castell plus every casteller of the required size for that festival. Your score marker only moves during the game based on your highest festival score. The most points in a castell and you win first place in the festival and you are rewarded with a trophy—there are also secondary trophies for other players that competed; these rewards will contribute to ending game scoring.
Once all ten rounds have concluded, the game comes to a finish and all final points get added on to your current score. Your score marker only moves during the game during festivals, and you only move it to whatever your highest point total was during a festival. Add up points for all the regions you performed in, add in your earned prizes, bouses for the different size tokens used during festivals, and all of your local performance tokens. The castell team with the highest point total is the champion of Catalonia.
Strategy- This game is definitely high in tactics with little luck involved besides where the Castellers get refilled. It is a fun, intricate puzzle trying to time when and where to move to train the skills you need, compete in festivals, and put on local performances. Grade- A
Theme- Castell gives the feeling that I am a group of Castellers traveling around the country, putting on shows. The idea of this game is what made me want to try Castell. I knew nothing about the age-old Catalonian sport beforehand. It is so different from anything I've seen for board games and am so pleased with how well the theme worked with the mechanics. Grade- A+
Unique- Whenever someone describes a board game, a lot of times, they compare the mechanics and gameplay to another game. I am having a hard time analyzing this to anything I have played before. Between the gameplay and the theme, I would say this may be the most unique game sitting on my shelf. Grade- A+
Aesthetics- This is a beautiful board, along with some solid components. The art style works well with the theme of the game. It also comes with a giant bag that you pull your random Castellers out of. This game also has my favorite meeple, the meeple is actually a team of Castellers. Grade- A
Replayability- Castell has good replay value as the setup of the game is always randomized, causing a large variability from game-to-game. Also, not all local performance tiles are used in a game, so each game the tiles are shuffled and randomly pulled out to keep that ever-changing as well. Grade- A
Game Length- The game length is alright; the only problem is this game may cause some major analysis paralysis for specific players, making some turns drag on longer than others. Expect this game to take at least 90 minutes. Grade- B-
Rule Book and Ease of Play- I would say that this game is very streamlined and not challenging to comprehend. For a complex strategy game, Castell is relatively easy to understand, and all rules make sense. After reading the rulebook, you very seldomly will have to check back and reference it. Castell definitely has a large footprint on the table, having a giant game board, personal player boards, and needing room to build your cardboard castell towers. Grade- B+
Enjoyment- Castell has entrenched itself as a permanent member of my shelf and will be as long as I game. Every game is unique and fun to build up your own human towers. I bought Castell for the theme, but I stayed for the gameplay. You will often find yourself helping your opponents with how to build their castells because.... well, it's just fun to construct these human towers. Grade- A
Castell is currently ranked 1,135 on BGG, so I would definitely consider this a hidden gem. I would highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys puzzle and euro-style games. This is genuinely a Castellar game!