GTM #209 - Castles of Caladale
Reviewed by Rebecca Kaufeld

Yesterday, the castles were beautiful.

Strong gates and all kinds of materials once laid the foundation for wizards, fairies, and gnomes to build to their hearts’ content. Some used magical stones to create castles that would make royalty weep. Others grew trees that put an entire forest to shame, and still others constructed mansions that will set the standard for an entire era.

This morning… they were gone.

Once Upon a Time...

In Renegade Game Studios’ Castles of Caladale, players help residents rebuild their mighty homes. A completed castle is a job well done; surely, the residents will tell wonderful stories of your kindness for years to come. Construct a half-completed home, though… and the details get a little fuzzy.

For this game, there are a couple ways to play (including two solo variations!). Basic gameplay is pretty much identical in each case: players begin with a grassy strip of land, a front door, and a wild token. From there, they take turns selecting castle tiles from nine face-up options, and try to complete the tallest, widest, and most impressive castle around. (It’s a lot more difficult than it sounds.)

Building Materials

54 of the tiles are straightforward: the wizards’ stones, the fairies’ trees, and the gnomes’ mansions are stately and neat. They use the whole tile for their own theme (stones, trees, or Tudor mansions), and don’t try to involve anyone else’s ideas of style.

18 of the tiles, however, don’t play well with others. Instead of being dedicated to one theme (stones vs. trees, etc.), they blend two themes at a time. The more players build, the more mixed-up their castles become: stones become mansion walls that turn into trees… and then, somehow, fade back into stones!

Through a mixture of skill and chance, players have the opportunity to select which tiles they want for their castle. The more combinations, the better – the crazier they seem, the more beautiful they become! And Caladale’s residents want only the best castles. Best not to disappoint them…

Other Variations

The beauty in this game is its simplicity. The basic game, as I said before, is easy: nine face-up tiles. Pick one, add it to your castle, rearrange if you wish, and the turn continues. There are two options for variation: to speed, or not to speed? (That is the question.)

For multiple players, once you’ve had a chance to learn the rules and some tricks for tile placement, the next step is to take away turns and introduce simultaneous play. Get ready for madness – this is usually when everyone decides to take the same tile at once!

There are also two solo variations available. The first is more traditional: choose your tiles carefully to build the biggest tower possible. However, the building magic is stronger with more players; in this rendition, you cannot change where a tile goes. Once it’s placed, it’s there for the rest of the game.

The second is a speedy alternative (with or without a timer). Instead of starting with just a door and a wild tile, the player has 25 tiles total to build a castle – no 72-tile supply as backup. Only nine other tiles stay on the table as alternatives to swap with. Be warned, though, that for every tile that gets swapped, that’s one less point at the end of the game…

Happily Ever After…

Castles of Caladale is the next generation of family-friendly games. At ages 8 and up, it can involve almost all members of the family, yet has enough strategy to keep even the adults interested. With two solo variations, it doesn’t even matter if there’s a friend to play with – anyone can build castles to their hearts’ content. The residents of Caladale will be glad for the help.

Fast Facts:

  • Ages: 8 and up
  • Plays: 1-4 Master Builders
  • Time: 30-minutes
When a whirlwind of whimsical words beckoned from worlds away, Rebecca knew she had to follow. She fell into a rabbit hole of metaphors and cliches, mixed with more similes than water drops in a storm. Somewhere along the way, she picked up a love of games that would use her words to create beautiful reviews, and that's where she is today.