There's a whole genre of modern board games that rejoice under the ignominious genre name of "point salads". They offer the players many different ways to score, many of which join up via actions and resources.

This makes a fine puzzle, where you not only have to work out how to score best, but how to optimise the steps that lead to scoring. Unfortunately there's a downside: all those options makes them really tough on new players.

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Castles of Burgundy is such a game, but it took a novel approach to make it easier on first-timers. It casts players as minor nobles, vying to build the most profitable estate. Each turn you roll two dice, and their values limit what you can do.

Some actions, like taking "workers" you can then spend to adjust your dice, are always available. If you want to take a building to add to your estate, though, you'll need to take one from a group that matches what you rolled. Likewise if you want to add it to your player board, it'll have to be in a space of a matching dice value.

Added Value

In this way the dice both restrict your choice but add depth to the strategy. You might want to take a livestock tile for the points, for example. But if doing so costs you the dice result that also matches the hex where you want to build it, you'll need to re-think your priorities. It's an approach that's won the board game lots of acclaim and a legion of fans.

Castles of Burgundy iOS Screenshot Board Overview

Those hexagonal player boards with dice numbers might remind you of the famous Catan. But Castles of Burgundy is a very different beast: deeper and richer but also more complex and less interactive. Depending on what you add to your board, and where you put it, it'll score you points. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Different things you can build on your estate have different effects. Ships, for instance, give you trade goods, which you can collect and sell for both income and another source of points. You can, in turn, spend income to gain tiles outside the dictate of dice values. Most confusing are yellow "knowledge" tiles, each of which gains you another small edge or advantage.

Extra Depth

The interplay between your limited actions, the dice results and the various sources of tiles and points is the meat of the game. You can also get one over on your fellow players by snatching a tile you think they might be planning to buy. It doesn't happen often, but it's tremendously satisfying when it does.

As you might imagine, despite the dice all these different factors give the game a lot of depth but also make it quite confusing. And if you're new to it, playing through the four step tutorial in this app won't leave you much wiser. It works more as an explanation of the interface than the game itself. Luckily there are plenty of video tutorials online if you want to learn.

The interface itself is an odd thing. It's very pretty to look at, and pleasing to see your little kingdom come together in glorious 3D. You can even watch animated animals cavorting in your fields. But this lovely thing, central to the gameplay, doesn't get enough screen space. It's hard to glean the essential information as you play, and the flow of the game is hard to follow.

Higher Towers

It's a baffling design choice, especially given that there's plenty of decorated dead space on the screen. It's also quite power and processor hungry for a board game app which can cause slow downs and crashes on older hardware.

Castles of Burgundy iOS Screenshot Ships Description

So it's a shame that this adaptation of what is held up as an accessible entry in an awkward genre isn't that accessible at all. That said, if you can overcome these initial hurdles, the actual core of the game runs very well. It should please existing fans if they can get used to the animated artwork.

Most play options get catered for. There's no single-player campaign, which is a shame. But if you want to play solo there's a choice of AI bots, the hardest of which should provide ample challenge. And if you want to play against others gamers online there's a wealth of options to get set up. As well as asynchronous play, it also includes a ranked ladder.

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Castles of Burgundy is a solid implementation of the deservedly popular board game. With luck, that attractive interface might attract a few more new players to the hobby, if they can last the tutorial. And for old timers who might prefer things plain, at least you'll finally get to build an actual pixel castle in all its digital glory.