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Focused on Feld: The Castles of Burgundy: Special Edition Review

Now That's a Refurbishment

Is the The Castles of Burgundy: Special Edition worth the cost? Is this a must-have for any collection?

Disclosure: Meeple Mountain received a free copy of this product in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. This review is not intended to be an endorsement.

Hello and welcome to ‘Focused on Feld’. In my Focused on Feld series of reviews, I am working my way through Stefan Feld’s entire catalogue. Over the years, I have hunted down and collected every title he has ever put out. Needless to say, I’m a fan of his work. I’m such a fan, in fact, that when I noticed there were no active Stefan Feld fan groups on Facebook, I created one of my own.

Today’s a departure from the norm. Today, I’m not reviewing a game so much as I am reviewing an experience. And, I’m not doing it alone. Recently, Awaken Realms ran a campaign for a The Castles of Burgundy: Special Edition (referred to as Special Edition from here on out) reprint, and that’s caused some chatter in the Meeple Mountain Slack channel.

The full set up, set out on the table. The 3D printed castles stand tall above the boards, and the game box looms in the background.

It turns out, I’m not the only one currently in possession of this magnificent version of this magnificent game. Meeple Mountain’s own (and dare I say ‘magnificent’) Andrew Lynch has also got a copy… and we have some thoughts which we’re excited to share with you today.

In this review, we’re not going to talk about how to play the game. If you want a refresher, you can check out my review of The Castles of Burgundy and then come back. However, we will be talking about the two new expansions (created specifically for this edition) in some detail, but we’ll try not to get too granular when we do.

So, let’s dive right into it, shall we?

What’s In the Box?

The simple answer to that question is A LOT. The Special Edition box is stuffed to the gills with content. Nary an atom of space has been wasted in this overly large container. There are 30 different player boards per player, all the tokens from the base game, all the material from the original nine expansions, even more material from the game’s two brand new expansions, a hefty rule book, the large player aids, 3D miniatures for the player pieces and castles, and custom designed GameTrayz to hold it all in place.

David: This Special Edition reeks of opulence. When the campaign first launched on Gamefound, I held out for the longest time. I just couldn’t justify such an exorbitant expense when I had already acquired the 2019 alea edition not too long before. But, gazing at the gorgeous images day after day eventually wore me down. I gave in. And, having given in, I gave in even further and sprung for the acrylic tile add-ons.

However, I didn’t go for the 3D terrain. There’s “a lot”, and there’s “too much”. I feel like the 3D terrain veers way off into that “too much” territory. The Special Edition without the 3D terrain looks fabulous. But when the 3D terrain gets tossed in, it just looks silly.

That’s just one man’s opinion, though.

A close up photograph of one of the dual-layer player boards, with standard tiles and a 3D castle.

Andrew: No, it’s two men’s opinions. I think all of this is a bit…much. Throwing in the terrain would push it over the line into the out-and-out opulent. The box for the “base game”—absurd though it feels to use that description here—is so heavy that the lid of my copy arrived split along one of the corner seams. The game is so heavy that the box cannot quite contain it. Feels like a metaphor.

Everything about the production looks great, but I’m afraid I have to be tedious and wonder whether or not any of this is strictly necessary. The 2019 Alea edition you mentioned is more than enough Castles for me, even aesthetically, but that’s a reflection of my usual preferences. Give me painted wooden cubes and a clean board and I’m yours.

Setting aside those reservations, it certainly is gorgeous! The castles look great, the double-layered boards are a wonderful addition that I would welcome in a more straightforward printing, and, as I believe you mentioned to me the other day, you just about find this edition worth the cost of entry for those new expansions alone?

There are large, well-made bags for each tile type.

David: This Special Edition includes all the expansions you may have encountered in past versions of the game, but it ups the ante with two, brand new, never-before-seen expansions in the form of the Shields and Vineyard expansions. In Shields, there are 18 Shield tiles included which, when added to a player’s duchy, impart some special advantage to that player for the remainder of the game.

During setup, a number of shields will be dispersed among the depots on the main board. Whenever a player rolls doubles (or manipulates the dice so that they wind up with doubles), they may collect a shield from the matching depot instead of performing their two actions. So, rolling two 5s would allow you to take a Shield tile from depot number five, for instance.

The special advantages these shields impart are beefy. With such a low management overhead, there’s really no reason NOT to add this expansion to all of your games.

Well, I’ll take that back. There is one reason, and I’ll get to it momentarily after I tell you about the Vineyard because they both suffer from the same issue.

The Vineyard expansion is a slightly more complicated addition to the game with a pretty hefty rules overhead when compared to the Shields. It’s also a lot more involved components-wise. With the Vineyards, there is a tile rack that sits alongside the main game board and a sideboard that connects to each player’s duchy board. There are also a large number of double-hex sized tiles featuring images of grapes on them in various color combinations.

Instead of using your dice to take one of the game’s other actions, you can opt, instead, to take a tile from the rack and place it into your storage. Later on, you can use your dice to place that tile on your Vineyard sideboard where it will cover up various icons that will provide you some nifty bonuses.

There are a few niggling placement criteria that I’m not going to get into here except to say: you’re going to want to try to create as many large groupings of same-color grapes as possible. At the end of the game, you’ll earn points based on the size of these groups. The larger the group, the more points you’ll earn.

Now, I’d like to say there’s a handy size to points ratio reference on your player aid, but that would be lying. There isn’t, and that really bums me out. The same goes for the Shields. If you want to know what any of them do, or if you want to know how much your large cluster of six gold grapes is worth, you’re going to have to go digging for those answers in the rule book.

While both of these expansions are pure awesomeness, the lack of any kind of player aid might put you off incorporating them entirely. This game is a massive, sprawling, table hog and that stupid rulebook really has a way of just being in the way all the time. But, if you can get past having to delve into a book to find your answers, they are well worth the effort. Out of all the expansions that exist for The Castles of Burgundy, in my opinion, these two are the very best.

The Special Edition includes metal coins.

Is This Edition a ‘Must Have’?

Andrew: As a casual Castles of Burgundy player, I don’t think this is the place to start, but it seems like this edition is worth the purchase if someone is as enamored with the game as you, a Feld-head, are. Do you regret the purchase, or do you feel good about it? Where is David, lo these months later?

David: To say that I am satisfied with my purchase would be an understatement. Apart from Frosthaven, this game is the most expensive game in my collection. I feel like it was worth every penny. When Awaken Realms priced this beauty, for me, they found the sweet spot between affordable and obscene. It was slightly more expensive than I’d normally feel good about spending on a game—especially one that I already owned in two other formats—but not so pricey that I needed to sell off a kidney to pay for it.

I agree with you that, unless you are already in love with The Castles of Burgundy or Stefan Feld’s other designs, this is a hefty investment in a game that you know nothing about. That being said, people invest hundreds of dollars into entirely new games on Kickstarter all the time, and I’d wager that’s even more of a risk because some of those games turn out to be hot garbage. At least with The Castles of Burgundy: Special Edition, you know that you’re investing in a game that is tried and true and has withstood the test of time.

In short, you’ll have a hard time getting me to dissuade you from purchasing it. It’s not going to happen. This is a gorgeous edition of a fantastic game and I think everyone should own a copy of it. And, I heartily recommend you spend a little extra for the acrylic tiles and tokens. While not entirely necessary, they really elevate the experience.

Andrew: A strong endorsement! We’re sitting anywhere between “It’s gorgeous and great but maybe you don’t need it” and “It’s gorgeous and great and the game is essential, so why not if you can,” and that’s just about exactly what I imagine this edition was aiming for.

  • Perfect - Will play every chance I get.

The Castles of Burgundy: Special Edition details

About the author

David McMillan

IT support specialist by day, Minecrafter by night; I always find time for board gaming. When it comes to games, I prefer the heavier euro-game fare. Uwe Rosenberg is my personal hero with Stefan Feld coming in as a close second.

About the author

Andrew Lynch

Andrew Lynch was a very poor loser as a child. He’s working on it.

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