Bezier Games have adapted their great tile-laying game Castles of Mad King Ludwig to an app, developed in-house with the same app wizard as their Suburbia release, Jeremiah Maher. With the beautiful art translated perfectly into the digital realm, this release also has not just a base game (with AI and pass ‘n’ play) but a great campaign to play through to keep things exciting and fresh. I got to play through this in the beta phase on my Android device – if you haven’t already jumped on getting this app, here’s my thoughts – I highly recommend.
Selecting a ‘new game’ will let you set up game with 2 – 4 players – this can be you against all AI, all people, or a mix of the two! I like this level of customization, because if you and a friend don’t just want to play a pass ‘n’ play a 2 player game, you can throw in the AI to mix things up.
The play itself is very smooth – after selecting your bonus cards, play progresses in turn. If you’re the master builder, drag the building tiles around until you’re happy with the arrangement, and then the round will begin. On your turn, you can tap buildings to see them in larger detail, and also drag them down to see what works before committing to your final decision. Rotate and place the building, and you’re good to go! (My only complaint here is the one-way rotation button, but that’s fairly minor.)
If you don’t have time to finish your game, the app’s got a great ‘save & quit’ feature so you don’t have to lose your progress. Just make sure you go into ‘Restore’ rather than starting a new game, or your progress will be lost! I’ve used this a fair few times in cases where I’m playing a 4 player game and just don’t have time to finish, and it’s definitely necessary in strategy games like this.
For folks that might not have ever played CoMKL, there’s 9 short training levels to play through that cover the basics of the game – building rooms, rotating tiles, how bonus cards work, and the like. These levels also give a quick primer on the functionality of the app (though that is fairly intuitive if you want to just dive into a game knowing the rules!). The training module is a precursor to the campaign, but if you feel confident with the game itself, you can skip to campaign (but you get a bonus if you complete the training!).
The campaign mode of the app is what will keep this from being just another board game app to waste some time. You’ll actively be in there working your way through the castles along the Rhine, being challenged by the unique competitions and setups for each round – trying to reach point/area majority goals, creating just the right castle in a wee tiny space, making castles where you can’t rotate tiles, etc. As you complete goals and gain crowns, you will unlock more and more castles along the Rhine, each providing yet another challenge. I enjoyed the out-of-the-ordinary goals (such as the levels where you have to aim for really large castles) and how different each stop is.
I do find some of it quite challenging, and at times it feels really tough to hit each of the goals necessary; the completist in me wants to go back and work hard at unlocking all the crowns for each level so I can not only up my rank, but just feel the satisfaction at having worked out the best combos to achieve these goals.
Other than these big features, I do like the option to share your castles during/after a game. Whenever I play this as the physical game, I almost always snap a pic for Instagram/Twitter, because there’s something about having the finished product to share, and no two castles are quite alike! Not only that, but the game’s graphics are really nice, and the delicate art’s been well replicated so it’s nice to share how it looks. The main sharing option is via Twitter, but there’s a generic ‘share’ button that allows sharing through multiple platforms.
I have played through this primarily on my Android tablet (Samsung Galaxy Tab), but I did test it out on my Android phone (OnePlus X), too. The graphics scale down surprisingly well, and seeing as tapping on most things like game goals, bonus cards and building tiles brings them to a larger size, so seeing the detail of the game is not hard at all. Zooming in and out – as well as panning around – on the play space is very smooth, and again allows to see quite a lot of detail either on a big or small screen.
Apart from all of this, the only big thing that I could see complaining about is the lack of online play in this app. I am not surprised, considering Suburbia didn’t have it, and it seems to be quite an undertaking (especially with a cross-platform app). I do hope they manage to introduce this down the line, because with how great the app is, I’d love to be sharing games with my friends all the time!