Monday, May 20, 2024

Board Game Top 100 (2024) Part 24 (50-49)

This week we enter the bottom half of the list as I share my numbers 50-41 of my Top 100 board games of all time.  

#50 The White Castle

The White Castle is one of those games that I've only played a few times, and so it should probably be even lower on this list. I don't remember its mechanisms well enough to talk about game play in much detail, but I really remember enjoying the game. It gave such good vibes the few times that I played it, that it had to be this high on my list.

In The White Castle players are drafting dice from these bridges to perform actions. Actions grant points in different areas and the player with the most points after nine turns wins the game. Thematically, players are competing to gain the favor of the Emperor? (I think?) But, it really just about getting the points.

One area lets you train warriors, another improves farmlands, and another allows you to work your way up inside the White Castle itself. The farther you go, the higher your social status and therefore the more notice you draw from the Emperor. I don't remember everything exactly, but I really like the game, and I need to play it some more.

The coolest part of the puzzle is the dice drafting. Dice are rolled and placed onto these bridges. The highest dice are placed on one side of a bridge and the lowest on the other. Higher dice grant stronger actions on the board, and this is one part of the puzzle. Lower dice mean weaker actions, but they grant a bonus action related to the bridge where they were drafted and this bonus action is good enough to create some tough choices.

In fact, The White Castle seems to be all about leveraging different bonus actions to make the most of your turns. This kind of puzzly tension is always fun, and The White Castle has this in abundance. I need to get this one back to the table. I remember really liking it, even though I will have to learn to play it all over again when we get it back to the table. I think the White Castle will climb higher in my list when I play it more, for now it is my 50th favorite game of all time.


#49 Sagrada

Sagrada is a numbers and colors puzzle game. Players take turns drafting dice and then placing those dice into a grid. The grid is one of several individual player boards. These boards range in difficulty based on predefined patterns on each board. Player boards will require you to place dice of a particular color in a specific place, while simultaneously requiring a specific number in a different place. The more complex boards have a greater number of requirements, limiting your choices and creating a greater challenge.

At the start of the game you choose which board to play on. You can choose a complex board or a simple one. During the game, players have the ability to cash in these clear glass beads to perform a special action. The special actions let you "cheat" placing dice somewhere that you normally couldn't or moving a die that you have already placed. The number of these glass beads that you have to spend is determined by the player board that you chose. If you chose a simple board then you may only get one or two beads. A more complex board might give you three or four.

Your player board is only one piece of the puzzle. There are also global objectives that give all players points. These are things like: score for each row that has no repeated colors in it, or no repeated numbers. Things like that. Players do their best to achieve the global objectives to score points while dealing with the challenge of the obstacles present on their personal player boards. It's a very abstract game, but it actually has a theme that's really fun.

In Sagrada players are supposed to be creating stained glass windows. To this end, all the dice are brightly colored and transparent. When you place dice you can't put the same colors or the same numbers next to each other. This is the basic rule above and beyond all those other restrictions that were mentioned. It might seem like a lot, but it's really pretty intuitive. It's a game that is easy to teach and learn, but quite challenging in execution.

Also, the dice drafting method is interesting. It's something that I believe is called a snake draft. The first person drafts a die of their choice, then the next. The last person to draft a die chooses not one, but two dice, then the drafting order is reversed so that the first person who drafted the first die, is the last person to draft the second. This works really well, even at two players. In fact Julie and I love playing Sagrada at two players. It's quick, puzzly, interesting, challenging, and beautiful. All of these factors combine to make Sagrada is my 49th favorite game of all time.


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