Castles of Burgundy is one of our favorite games of all time. It’s the most played non-card game in our collection and with the recent birth of my child, I thought now would be the perfect time to purchase and play the app release. As I own an Android phone and a Chromebook, I will only be speaking about the app in regards to those platforms. Sorry Apple and Steam users.
As I have already reviewed Castles of Burgundy in detail, this review is going to cover the port of it from a physical entity to a digital one. I won’t be covering how to play and the rules.
Castles of Burgundy has a lot of moving parts and I’m happy to say that the app manages this game perfectly. The information is easy to read and decipher and for items that you do have questions for, it’s easy to pull up the help instructions that detail what it is that piece does. The help icon is present on the screen at all times and tiles can be enlarged to see what their purpose is.
Since there is so much information to digest, some players may have trouble following along on a normal size phone screen. We had no issues but we also have a deep understanding of the game. I had no problem navigating the screen and clicking on tiles and placing them where I wanted them to go.
The app does a good job of including a handful of tutorial options for players new to the game and new to the app. I honestly only see these being useful if you’re brand new to the game.
The biggest change (besides going from physical to digital) is the updated three-dimensional artwork. The game keeps the same drab colors but updates the illustrations with 3-D buildings and animal noises for the barnyard creatures. The update to 3-D does make the buildings harder to differentiate at a glance but the game does allow players to tap and hold on an item to learn more about it. Once I got used to the updated artwork, I had no problems keeping track of them. I will say though that I think the tile art and the actual building render sometimes look too different for me to realize that I may already have that building placed.
Besides the artwork update, the game streamlines the bookkeeping and set-up that occurs between rounds. On the fastest setting (you can change how quick the animations occur), I could finish a two-player AI game in fifteen minutes and a two-player human game with passing in about twenty-five. Roughly, the added AI players add another five minutes as the game forces you to watch your opponents turns. I could do without this as I can figure out what they’re doing by what’s missing from the queue and the game allows players to view one anothers boards. If there was a way to skip this, I would totally sign-up so I could speed the game up even more.
The app incorporates a Game of Thrones opening credit feel with the mechanical circle gyrating between turns. It’s a fun aesthetic but provides nothing more than some ambiance.
Like other apps from Digidiced, Castles of Burgundy allows you to play a local game against AI (with three different difficulties to choose from), pass and play against another human player (and AI), connected play against a friend with the app and ranked matches against strangers.
When selecting the game, you are also given the option of playing the standard map, random identical maps, or random different maps. When choosing maps, Map A is always the standard map and Map B is the other. I wish they had it reversed as I always want to see what the different map is as the standard is always included. A weird exclusion from the app is the ability to choose a map. There are some maps I’d like to play more and think it should be available in offline mode at least.
There is a noticeable difference in the difficulty levels and I do feel like I’m playing a more seasoned player when facing the higher levels. The AI does have their tendencies (such as zeroing in on Silver Mines no matter what) but so do human players so I don’t take much stock in that.
The game features achievements and statistics for your pleasure but the achievements are really lame. There are only five and they range from playing an online game to winning 100 games. They don’t make me want to play to unlock them and they’re just there.
For bugs, I’ve run into a few items. One occurred where I had to re-update the Google Play Store. I have issues receiving notifications and sometimes, when I receive and click on them, it doesn’t take me to the game that is being played. It stays in a perpetual loading screen and I have to force stop the app. The last one I’ve noticed is that the second to last cargo sometimes doesn’t appear. It will show up when it’s that turn but leading up to it, you’ll have no idea what color it is.
I will say though that the app features a button directly on the playing screen that lets you jump between active games where you have an active turn seamlessly. It’s a great addition. In addition, the app features an undo button that lets you reset the game board back to the starting position for your turn. This helps you test possible scenarios as well as ensure you don’t pick the wrong item.
Regarding the difference between the two platforms (Android/Tablet), besides screen size, I didn’t see any differences between them. The app ran smoothly on both and the only gripe that would be for extended plays (multiple games in a row), the app will drain your battery regardless of what you play on.
The tan color for the buildings and the grey color for the mines was far too close to me at first and if it wasn’t for my familiarity with the maps, I would have easily gotten the colors confused. I’ve since gotten used to it but it was definitely an issue my first few plays.
The price was $9.99 which to me is high for a board game app, particularly one where I can purchase the physical copy routinely for ten dollars more. I tend to view board game apps as ways to try the game before buying physically or as a compliment for when I’m traveling (Patchwork being a prime culprit). I don’t know if the Castles of Burgundy app fills either of those needs. The app looks different enough from the physical edition (not including the deluxe edition, which we’re still awaiting news on) that you might love the artwork but hate what the other version has. I also don’t know
As of right now, there are no in-app purchases so the price is upfront and all you’re going to pay. I haven’t seen anything mentioned anywhere regarding adding the expansions for the physical version to the digital version.
All in all, I enjoy the digital implementation. I would rather play the physical game but as I sit here with a newborn and a lot of downtime, this is a nice app to pass the time.