21st Mar 2024 - The White Castle

by RobinSun, 24 Mar (Updated at Sun, 24 Mar)

I've not been able to come to the club very much lately, due to having to get home early on Thursdays, so I've been missing out on my fix of 4-hour heavy Eurogames. But when I mentioned that I could join a game for a couple of hours this week, Paul's group willingly waived their chance of a 4-hour one in favour of something quicker. It's that kind of club - everyone welcome and they'll do what they can to make it work for you.

I'd not played The White Castle before. It's got a Japanese theme, but it's by European designers and definitely has the feel of a "pocket Eurogame". A set of synergic strategies, tech tracks, various resources; but all in a very small number of turns. So while I looked around at the tournament games of Barrage at the other tables, mourning my lost gaming, I got a good fun-size dose of tactical wrangling at our table to compensate.

The White Castle was very well-presented with its many elaborate wooden pieces - maybe a bit over-engineered, even before you add all the 3D-printed bits that Ian had provided... I liked the way the boards were completely text-free, though that did cause the theme to get a bit lost in translation. The rulebook had nice Japanese names and themes for everything: apparently we were vying for position in the court of the White Heron; but basically we had 3 large black fish (rounds), in which to collect satsumas and sea shells (resources), get our meeples (tech tracks) onto bridges (end-game scoring), and get fans (the cooling device, not the fan club), and the one with the most fans won the game.

Of the four of us, only Paul had played the game before. The rest of us stuck mostly with one strategy apiece: maybe just coincidence, but Dave was sitting near the Garden bit of the board and went with gardeners, Anthony was sitting near the Barracks bit and went the soldiers, and I was sitting near the Castle bit and went with the courtiers. It's always nice to see a game where gardening can be a winning strategy, and so it proved in this game, though it was very close between all of us.

I thought this game was very good: the best 90-minute Eurogame I can remember playing (though that's not many) - an excellent way to get most of the fun of a heavy Euro in a much shorter time. I still prefer the heavy ones given the choice, but beggars can't be choosers, and I was a lucky beggar to get a go at this one.

On other tables this week we had the usual spectrum of somewhat heavier games. It would have been a good week whichever table you were on. I've not played Scholars Of The South Tigris, but that looks like a good new one to try. Then there was Orleans - an old favourite - and the aforementioned last two tournament games of Barrage. The next round is Age Of Steam - hopefully I'll be able to carve out a 4-hour window by the time that one comes around.