So, you’ve built a castle before I hear. And you think you know everything about them now? Unlikely.
Secrets of all sorts rest within the confines of Mad King Ludwig’s castle, and they all rest at your fingertips. Rooms you’ve never seen before, hidden swans of all colors, and even more await you here. Are you ready to take these Secrets on? … Unlikely.
What Is It?
Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Secrets is an expansion for Castles of Mad King Ludwig (surprise), so if you do not like or have or have any interest in that base game, please turn back now. This expansion comes with 4 different parts and 4 new favor tokens. The parts are:
- Barbicans and Moats, which replace foyer tiles and constrain the size of your castle, should you choose to take that path,
- Secret Passages, which connect rooms and provide double connection bonuses,
- New Rooms, which add variety to the game and have swans printed on them, and
- Swans (bet you saw that one coming), which can be traded in in sets for cash during the game or points at the end (I promise, no swans were harmed in the making of this game – Ludwig does love them after all).
Who Is It For?
I would say that this is for players who like base Castles, obviously, and maybe those who just feel like they need a little bit more variety or choices available to them in the base game. Additionally, anyone who wants to challenge themselves with more restrictions (the moats, which lock you into a square area for building) may like this as well. The expansion doesn’t add much difficulty, so I would stick with the recommended age range for base Castles as well, which I would personally put at 12+.
Quality of Components
No complaints here! The expansion adds in some room and favor tiles, moat tiles, starting barbicans, secret passages, reference cards, and swan tokens, all of which are high quality cardboard, perfectly comparable to the base game. *Gives thumbs up*!
- Everything fits in the base game box – always a fan of saving shelf space!
- Swans are a super cool opportunity for more money or more points, depending on when you use them, and add a level of strategy when collecting
- Secret passages are simple and easy to throw into any future game!
- The rules are clear and include helpful examples of the different parts of the expansion
- Speaking of the 4 parts – the expansion has a lot of options! You can combine the parts in a number of ways which is pretty cool!
- Moats limit your castle size, which is a con for me because it stresses me out, but if you like that challenge, it is a cool add-on.
- Moats also seem a little overpowered because they give you a bunch of bonus points for every tile you place, and not everyone can have all their moats built. This could be circumstantial (because you still need to be able to fit rooms in and they do come out randomly) but in my plays it definitely seemed to be that if you built 3 moats, you’d score much higher than the other player(s).
- Some feedback from my group was that moats kill some of the strategy of base Castles. You just have to buy whatever fits and rely on that +3 points (with all 3 moats built) more than connection and other end game bonuses.
- The swans add to set up time because you need a certain number of them and base tiles, but not the end of the world with that one.
- The swans are also hard to see on the tiles, so you can miss or forget them if you aren’t paying close attention your first run, but it is easy enough to rectify.
I would rank the base game at a solid 3/5 difficulty – middle of the road, not too hard but also not too light – and I’d give the expansion the same rating. Secrets doesn’t add anything really difficult to the game – no crazy hard concepts, no big new rules, nothing that really turns the game upside down by any means. The expansion mostly just adds some new restrictions and a little more variety.
Overall I thought this was a pretty good expansion, as I liked most parts of it. I like that there are new tiles to add to the variety of the original game, that’s always a plus for me. I really enjoyed collecting swans and thought they were a fun addition, even though they added a bit to the set up and tear down time. Secret passages were easy to forget about, especially if they were the only thing you added in, but having them available to you didn’t subtract anything from the game itself, so it is a worthy addition. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of the moats. I don’t like being restricted in my building, and it always seemed that when they were in play if you were the player that didn’t get to build all 3, you fell behind in points. I’ll also mention that all of the parts put together is a bit much, because there’s a lot of new stuff going on, so if you’re going to use the expansion, I’d recommend picking out 1 or 2 at a time.
So in summary, the expansion doesn’t reinvent the original or improve it by some astronomical amount, but it does have some cool features. If you like Castles of Mad King Ludwig, and you’re interested in trying some new things with it, Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Secrets is definitely worth checking out!
Designer – Ted Alspach
Artist – Keith Curtis, Ollin Timm
Publisher – Bézier Games
*I was provided a copy of this expansion to do this review*
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