Between Two Castles: Secrets & Soirees Expansion Review


Designed by Ben Rosset & Matthew O’Malley | Art by by Agnieszka Dabrowiecka, Laura Bevon, & Bartlomiej Kordowski

This is an expansion to the competitive, partnership-driven tile-drafting, castle-building game.

2-8 Players (with 1-player variant) | 45-60 Minutes | Publisher Stonemaier Games


I have a secret for you.

When my kid was in middle school, he stumbled upon the Neuschwanstein Castle online and was intrigued by it. He even wrote a paper on it- not required; he just did it and presented it to class. Fast Forward to the kid in University and Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig; he was so pleased with one of the castles after a game he turned it into a Dungeon and Dragon one-shot campaign. Both events were triumphant.

Secrets & Soirees Expansion

Expanding on the stern whims of King Ludwig (he must still have inheritance) Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Secrets & Soiree Expansion broadens upon the dexterous base game of savvy combined construction tactics by adding more layers and puzzles.

Base Game

The King has tasked you to build an outlandish castle- with a partner- while building another castle to gain his favor. Will your planning and partnership skills be enough to design the most impressive castles? Shrewd choices will need to be made because the scoring is as distinctive as building a castle with the person on your left and the other Castle with the person on your right. Your lowest scoring castle will be your personal score at the end of the game. This is tricky because their objective is to have a lesser castle, but not the weakest. The action is swift, leaving the endpoints unpredictable. Steeped in strategy and synergy, wrapped in elaborate tiles, works of art that lend to every Castle to be impressive!



Expansion

Twenty-one new regular whimsical, highly detailed room tiles. Now that I wear glasses, I appreciate the distinctive rooms. We cannot resist narrating our placed tiles and how they absolutely make sense next to the tiles, they are placed. There is a bit of drama when we play. A new throne room and a new Castle -we always need more castles.

The new Activity rooms score points for per tile orthogonally placed adjacent; however, they have a severe reaction to rooms it does not want to surround it. Severe meaning, only worth one point if there is any unwanted rooms adjacent. A bonus for having a third Activity room (making up for some rooms' dislike) is to draw three Ballroom tiles. Choose one and place it in the Castle. Discard the other two. Finally, a Ballroom! What we love about the Ballroom tiles is that they accrue points from the neighboring castles. Each Ballroom has a particular room that it wants in the adjacent Castles. I can hear the King shouting the orders. Here is the cool part, you are giving tiles to the neighboring castles, so there is a good bit of strategy there, and there is no limit to the points the Ballroom scores. And you can get more Ballrooms! These tiles were categorically a house favorite. AND, whenever you place five tiles of the same regular room in your Castle, you gain a specialty room, and you can choose a Ballroom. I know!



The Secret rooms contain arrows that, when placed, mimic the tile the arrow is pointing at. It duplicates the room and scoring. A room token matching the replicated room is placed on the Secret room to track its new identity. All the expansion tiles mix into the base game, and it took me a few games to draw a Secret room, but the timing was perfect. Secret rooms cannot duplicate specialty rooms, but they can be placed anywhere in the Castle- including underground.



Eight new Bonus cards that can be acquired when three Utility rooms are placed. They have bonuses pertaining to the new expansion as well as the base game. It is nifty to have new cards because we tend to lean towards that bonus when we play.

The new player variant is to build your Castle as a head-to-head competition! Players still give a tile to the player and keep one for their Castle. The player with the highest scoring Castle wins. This is something we had discussed many times when we played the base game. We were very intrigued to play the variant – we are very competitive. Now that we have played it a few times, we did not find it as satisfying as building the Castles together. Probably due to being used to working together, it felt like a solo game. Weird, I know. We are so competitive, but the notable layers of strategy in the game fill that challenge. There is a Solo variant, though we rarely do Solo plays here.

All the new components fit into one Game Trayz tray that magically fits in the original game box!


There is an App to streamline the process of end game scoring that my son loves. I still prefer the method of pen, scorepad, and manually calculating the castle scores.

https://apps.apple.com/mt/app/mad-kings-steward/id1461873703




Mechanics

Because you are building two castles throughout the play that are shared, the trick is not to focus just on one of the castles because both of your Castles determine the scoring at the end. We did enjoy the communication between you and the other player who shares the Castle. Take the time to place a tile. Depending on where the tiles are placed, the score can vary. We love Bonus cards and tend to snatch up the Utility Rooms. Getting them early and focused on completing the requirements add the usually needed few points.

Gather the Activity rooms!!! The Ballrooms can boost points!


Bits and Bobs

1 box

1 custom Game Trayz tray with lid (designed to fit in the original game box with the other inserts)

1 wooden castle token (Castle Wartburg)

24 activity room tiles

16 ballroom tiles

16 secret room tiles

2 promo tiles

48 regular room type tokens

8 bonus cards

1 throne room

21 regular room tiles

8 reference cards

50-page scorepad (double-sided)

1 core rulebook

1 Automa (solo) rulebook

24 Automa cards

4 Automa room type cards

1 double-sided Automa turn-order card

3 double-sided Automa player aid cards


Last Word

It is fair to say that we are rarely disappointed with a Stonemaier game, and

Secrets and Soirees Expansion ticks all the engaging boxes.

It is wonderfully produced and perfectly boxed by the provided Game Trayz that quickens the setup process.

The rulebook is very straightforward.

The complexity arises in the big choices each turn, and with the number of tiles, the Castles are distinctive. High replayability.

We are huge fans of Castles of Mad King Ludwig, and this is a streamlined, very thought out, and well-produced adaption.

Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Secrets and Soirees Expansion is all about strategic planning and spatial reasoning.


Nerdz Garage recommends Secrets and Soirees Expansion for new and veteran gamers.





Secrets and Soirees Expansion

Players: 1-8

Designer: Ben Rosset, Matthew O’Malley

Artist: Agnieszka Dabrowiecka, Laurą Bevon, Bartłomiej Kordowski

Publisher: Stonemaier Games


https://store.stonemaiergames.com/

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/336872/between-two-castles-mad-king-ludwig-secrets-soiree


 

Let’s be honest; there is still a bit of drama when we play. Sit Down -Grab a Drink – Join the Game Suzzan



 

https://metallicdicegames.com/

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