The Castles of Tuscany by Ravensburger Games
Players: 2 to 4
Playtime: 45 to 60 minutes
Perfect for: Families and groups who enjoy fast-paced competitive strategic action and optimization games.
The Castles of Tuscany is a game of town-building and expansion! Players race and compete to collect resources efficiently and construct plots of land on their personal map, leveraging special abilities and obtaining rewards along the way.
To begin The Castles of Tuscany, two to four players assemble their play area: three color-coded adjoining hexagonal grids and a resource tracker. A central market gets filled with resources, most notably eight random tiles of various colors. On a turn, a player has three basic options: 1) collect cards; 2) acquire a map tile from the market (and then refilling the market with a random tile from their supply); or 3) trade in cards to place an acquired tile on their personal map.
To trade and place, players discard cards of tile’s matching color (usually) and then position the tile on the map in a space that is adjacent to an existing tile, and also matching the tile’s color. After placing a tile, the player a) might score victory points for completing a region; and b) collects a reward based upon the color of the tile. For example, adding a dark green tile allows the player to retrieve and place an additional map tile from the market for free; orange tiles give players workers which can be traded in like a wild card. Players score points over three rounds; the game ends when someone runs out of map tiles; and the person with the most points wins.
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What works in The Castles of Tuscany is the very quick and engaging gameplay which combines just the right level of strategic planning with a dash of randomness. Building mini engines is the secret to success in The Castles of Tuscany by determining the optimal way to collect and place tiles through resource efficiency. But players must also keep a watchful eye on their opponents and make some assumptions about they will or will not do. For example, a player may really want a red tile, but there are three of them in the market. Would it make more sense to take a blue tile now since those are rarer and someone might grab it before the next turn? These calculations keep The Castles of Tuscany fresh and moving along—it’s a great blend of simple actions that are fast to take but require just the right amount of planning.
Players who prefer games with more complexity, and slightly less randomness, may not enjoy The Castles of Tuscany as much as others. Indeed, The Castles of Tuscany could be seen as a “gateway game” to territory expansion games (but this almost certainly intentional). And while the randomness component is low, there is some degree of luck in play regarding which colors of tiles enter the market and when. Finally, there is some debate about how much of advantage the first player has since rounds end immediately when someone runs out of a stack of map tile, as opposed to everyone getting an equal number of turns.
The Castles of Tuscany is an absolutely delightful game. The rules are easy to pick up, the pacing is brisk, and complexity level is perfect with there being just enough strategy that it won’t be overwhelming nor too simple to be boring. Highly recommended for gamers of all ages and experience levels.
Recommended if you like: The Castles of Burgundy, Terra Mystica, Catan