Revisiting Trajan and Castles of Burgundy

As a general rule, I don’t change grades once they’re posted. Reviews are supposed to reflect my opinion once I’ve first gotten familiar with something. If things that I’d known for years were graded alongside new items, it wouldn’t be fair. But on the other hand, if something that turns out to be a real classic after I’ve gotten to know it better, I don’t want to ignore that. So, half a year after initially discussing Castles of Burgundy and Trajan, I’m revisiting the reviews.

Trajan box

Trajan

My B+ grade for Trajan holds firm. It’s a clever, fascinating system with a lot of well-balanced aspects. As I said initially, its action selection system requires you to plan several moves in advance, while the amount of activity means you’ll often have to look for ways to change mid-plan. This is best with the full four players, since that makes it a lot more interesting to try to stay on top of the chaos. Depending on how you count, there are five or six ways to earn lots of points in the game. You’ll need to focus on a few of them each time. But they all take focus, and it’s really common for half of them to be impossible for you by mid-game. With poor planning, you can end up with no real opportunities for a long stretch of time.

In short, I’ve gotten used to it now. The initial overwhelming feeling is gone, with no new depths to replace it. However, it remains innovative and well-balanced after a lot of plays, and it continues to be fun.

Castles of BurgundyCastles of Burgundy really surprised me with further plays, though. In some senses, it does feel generic – You play a bunch of tiles that score in different ways, like a parody of Euro games circa 2012. It’s a perfect implementation of that “generic Euro”, though, with everything still feeling balanced after a couple dozen games. I’ve seen every major strategy succeed and fail, always for fair reasons. While Trajan has a limited number of ways to score big points, Burgundy always provides multiple opportunities. The trick is to recognize which ones will pay off the best, as well as figuring out how many different directions you can afford to go in at one time.

In contrast to Trajan, I find Burgundy most interesting as a two-player game. You can pay close attention to each other’s boards, and it’s a zero-sum fight to earn the most points.

Even after all this time, Burgundy is more interesting than it was when I wrote the initial review. One initial complaint still holds, in that there can be a lot of downtime simply while waiting for opponents to figure out how to allocate their two dice. It is well worth playing, though, and I now consider this to be one of the classics of the past few years. I’m raising its official Cult of the New grade to an A.

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