The Kingdom of Caladale is destroyed by a powerful spell gone wrong! You and up to three friends will need to rebuild your castles using whatever materials are to hand. Castles of Caladale is a drafting and tile placement game. The winner is the person who scores the most points, so let’s get building.
How To play
Castles of Caladale is a quick and simple game both to play and to set up:
1. Place 9 tiles face up on the central board
2. Put the rest into a face-down stack
3. Each player takes a grass strip, a wild tile, a gate tile and its matching score marker.
Like magic, the game is fully set up and ready to play. In Castles of Caladale, there are three different building materials (or themes as they are called), Wizard’s Stone Castle, Fairies’ Tree Castle and Gnomes’ Tudor Manor. When constructing your castle, tile edges must match e.g., stone must touch stone. Unlike in most other games, nothing is final. You can freely rearrange, rotate and remove tiles from your castle. On your turn, you must take 1 tile from either the nine face up in the centre or from the top of the stack. You can then either add it to your castle or turn it facedown for an extra point at the end of the game.
Everyone Loves Flags!
Once every tile has been taken and everyone has finished tinkering with their castle. Flip the game board to the point track and it is time to count up the scores, which like everything in Castles of Caladale is very simple. First, everyone gets two points for every tile in their castle (excluding the wild). Then if you have a complete castle (which means there is sky all the way around) you score an extra 2 points. Players score an extra point for every tower top tile that is in their castle (identified with a flag) and gain one point for each flipped tile. Then subtract two points for every exposed castle edge and subtract 1 point if you have used your wild tile. The player who has scored the most points is the winner.
There are only a few issues I have discovered. First, if you suffer from analysis paralysis, you will probably find it very hard to say “done!” and declare your castle complete. This can cause the game to drag a little especially at the end. Secondly, some of the construction rules are a little bit fiddly, such as Tower Top tiles have to be placed upright and all tiles must be supported along their bottom edge with 3 exceptions. 1 and 2 sided tiles can hang off the edge and if a tile is supported on the left and right it can form a ‘bridge’ across a gap (see what I mean?)
However, included in the box is a second mode, which fixes the first of my two issues with Castles of Caladale. It uses a 30-second sand timer and a different set of rules. Instead of stacking the tiles into a draw pile, you place 9 onto the central board, and then evenly distribute the rest between the players. In this mode, it’s a race to be the first to finish. At any time you can swap one of your tiles with one in the central display. If you’re the first person to complete your castle you flip the sand timer and everyone else has got 30 seconds to finish. Scoring is the same as in the standard mode, except the person who flipped the timer gets an extra point.
This variant only has small differences but it completely changes the way you play the game. The sand timer is so powerful and everyone wants to flip it, not because of the bonus point, but because it ruins the other players. Maybe it’s just my evil streak, but I love hearing everyone curse at me as I reach for the timer!
Castles of Caladale is a fun family weight drafting game that is very easy to teach and play. The components are brilliant, somehow straddling the line between being extra and superfluous. Some of the ‘extra’ components are custom wooden meeples (score markers), 4 grass strips (to construct the castles on) and a double-sided board (the tile board on one side, the score track on the other). Despite these 'extra' components the box size is brilliant, small and compact but still enough room inside to easily fit everything in.
The artwork is great, suitably fantastical and with lots of little details to spot like fireworks, dragons and gnomes. When the castles are complete, they look brilliant as each tile connects nicely to one another.
It seems like the design team thought of everything. If you haven’t got 4 players then use the single-theme side of the start tiles and if there’s only 2 of you then remove the 24 brown-plus tiles. Castles of Caladale even includes two different solo modes, which is unheard of in lightweight family games.
Overall, this is a fun tile placement game with a simple ruleset, packaged in a small box with a small price tag. It is a great choice if you’re looking for a first foray into drafting.