Your uncle Geekly has talked about Castles of Mad King Ludwig before, so if you want to see our review of it and Suburbia, check it out here, but this week we’ll talk about the one game mechanism I like the most from Castles of Mad King Ludwig: I cut, you choose.
I’ll try not to repeat my review of Castles, but I can’t promise to cover some familiar ground. Most games that use an I cut, you choose mechanism play out like the pizza game New York Slice. The starting player groups things together (depending on the game type) and then the player to the starting player’s left picks which group they want first and play continues to their left, meaning that the player who decided which stack of things went together gets whatever’s left over. It’s a nice little game of cat and mouse. Do I want to group things I know another player would want together, giving them points, or risk something I’m playing for? Most often, players will split the difference and hope for the best. This system gives players more agency in games. To be honest, not enough games use I cut, you choose.
But Castles of Mad King Ludwig takes a different approach to this mechanism. Each turn there’s a different master builder and the master builder determines how expensive tiles (with which to construct player castles) cost each turn. When a player selects a tile from the supply, they pay the cost to acquire a tile to the turn’s master builder. That’s coconuts.
Not only does a master builder set the market price each turn, there’s an added level to I cut, you choose in that the master builder places an item for sale at the highest price they think another player would be willing to pay for the tile to get the most money they can get during their turn as the master builder. Flushed with master builder cash allows for more purchases and builds at the end of a turn (master builders still take their build turns at the end of the round like most other I cut, you choose games), and to date, I haven’t seen a tabletop game empower players at this level. This adds so many new strategies and questions.
Do I price the tile I want that turn as the most expensive? If I do, will other players buy enough of the cheaper tiles for me to buy the one I really want? Would another player pay top dollar for the tile I want most? Are other players even interested in the tile I want most? Can I price it lower or will someone buy it just to spite me? Even though the titular Mad King Ludwig wasn’t mad, this game can drive players mad with its number of choices.
Each game changes how players score, so a tile that mattered in a previous game might not matter as much in a future one. That gives Castles of Mad King Ludwig a lot of replay value.
I like Suburbia a lot too. It’s a similar game about building suburbs of a city by the same design team and publisher, but Castles of Mad King Ludwig’s take on the I cut, you choose mechanism makes it a much better game.
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