Review: Burgen Land

Posted by James (admin) on December 11th, 2009

During Spiel 08, I noticed Schmidt publishing a range of games for 2 players, ‘Easyplay for 2’.  As you may have read in my previous articles, I’m always looking out for good two-player games, so this range was definitely of interest.  Burgen Land is one of these games in this range.

During the game you will develop a red, a blue and a yellow castle by adding castle sections which each display the number of points they are worth.  One the board is a circular track called a rondel (if you’re familiar with games like Imperial, Hamburgum, or Finca, you’ll recognise this game mechanic).  The rondel is split into 24 segments – 8 blue, 8 yellow and 8 red – and each segment displays an icon – wall, large tower, small tower, house or crown.  On your turn, you roll your dice and move a crown piece that many segments clockwise around the rondel.  At the end of your move, you can either:

  1. Take a castle section that matches the segment’s icon/colour and add it to either end of your corresponding castle towers and houses must be separated by a wall), or
  2. Take a number of red dice equal to the icon’s castle section value, or
  3. Trigger scoring if you land on a crown icon (you must score if you land on a segment with a crown icon only).

After moving the crown, you can end your turn or roll again.  If you roll again and land on a segment that is not the same colour as the colour you landed on using your first dice roll this turn, you lose the most valuable end card of the castle matching the original colour and your turn ends.  So, if you first land on a blue segment then roll again and land on a yellow segment, you lose your most valuable blue castle section.

If you have any red dice, you can include any number of these with your roll – you then pick which single result you want to use.  Any red dice that were rolled go back in the middle, so red dice are one-shot use even if their result isn’t used.  However, these are extremely useful as they give you a better chance of landing on the icon you want, plus can help you not stray into the next colour on the rondel.  As there are only 5 red dice, if a player needs more dice than are in the middle, they take the rest from their opponent.  This taking from your opponent also happens if you need a castle section and the supply has run out; in this case, you take it from your opponent’s castle which will cause a hole. 

If scoring is triggered, players add up the values of their castles in that colour.  If there are any holes in the castle, only the most valuable portion of the castle counts.  The player with the highest total scores points equal to the difference in the castle values.  The game ends when a player reaches 30 points.

Overall, Burgen Land sounds like it may be very simplistic, as the rules are short, and it may not offer many tactics.  Our first game was very short – we didn’t use the red dice much but we started to see there were various tactics.  We played again and that’s when we really started to find the tactical depth waiting to be discovered and it was much more hard-fought.

The push-your-luck element in taking multiple turns is a really neat feature and is central to the gameplay.  We already knew that placing 1-point wall sections on either end of your castle made it easier to risk squeezing in an extra turn.  However, we started to see you could potentially dictate which colour the opponent would have to play if you left the crown at the start of a coloured section (because even rolling a 6 wouldn’t take them into the next colour).  This is very useful if you want to ensure your opponent doesn’t have a chance to score a particular colour in which they have a big advantage.  Aiming to take a wall section from an opponent to cut his castle into lower-total-value pieces is another tactic.  The red dice are really important in giving you options on where you will land.  Losing the dice to another player before you’ve even used them really stings and encourages players to use-’em-or-lose-’em.  In fact, using a turn just to take the red dice from another player was sometimes the best tactical play.

After the second game it was clear that there is a lot more tactical depth to Burgen Land than it may appear. Cunning players can control game to some extent and there are some nice ways to annoy the other player.  It’s still light and simple but Burgen Land offers some really fun, tactical gameplay and is quick too.  Definitely recommended.


[Played with 2 players]

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