Castle Up – Card Game Preview First Impressions – Wolley Games

Castle Up Card Game Front Cover

“A Solid Title” is a phrase that I am guilty of using alongside some of my peers. To me, it is where something is very dependable in what it is offering. There are no welcome or unwelcome surprises. You get exactly what you expect and therefore don’t walk away disappointed. You are maybe less likely to feel wowed. As I play more games and look at those that introduce mechanics to be ‘different’ or ‘an escape’ from the normal ‘expected’, it is sometimes marvellous just to have something that lands on your table as a solid title. Solid doesn’t necessarily mean dull, but it means to me that don’t feel cheated or oversold. When it comes to game funded through crowdfunding where the hyperbole is an effing sickness that seems to have no cure, it’s a relief to play something that is akin to a decent bowl of chicken soup.

I have a confession to make about Castle Up from new creator Wolley Games, in that due to a communication oversight, I never managed to see the proper final rulebook until after I had started to learn the game. I was left floundering , trying to figure out what I thought was the proper way forward, and when I did get manage to find the final rules, there wasn’t much difference from how I thought it should play to how it actually did. To me that is always a good start to a smaller game, when given the set up picture you already have a good idea of how the game is going to play.

Trade Row Set up from Castle Up

Castle Up is about building up your own little empire of up to seven buildings and attacking fellow players to reduce their chances of scoring their final cities, while defending against those who would do you harm in turn. The game works like a little resource engine, where you’ll start by resetting all of the building cards so they can be used again, and then move to purchase another building from the trade row, or take control of a special action card for that round. Buildings can be traded in to purchase more expensive stock or you can upgrade some of the buildings you possess to the next level. After that you can then attack another player in the hope they can’t defend and therefore damage one of their buildings and remove it temporarily from scoring.

Finally, resource gathering commences and you can exhaust any buildings you have left in order to create resources that can be used in the following rounds. Cards that haven’t been purchased from the trade row will then move to the discard pile and a new set of building will then be available to purchase. At certain points in the game new buildings will move the game into the second and even third era of the game before it reaches the end when the draw cards are exhausted. In total you’re looking at around thirteen rounds before the game comes to a conclusion.

Selection of building cards from Castle Up

Castle Up reminds me very much of a multiplayer TCG in how resources are gathered, battles are fought against opponents and buildings are repaired and upgraded. It again beings me back to the adjective of ‘solid’. There’s a familiarity in how you play the game and how you are going to interact with the trade row and other players for that matter.

The main difference here is you are deck building as you go, and often you are trying to figure out your strategy on the fly instead of walking in to a game with a predetermined route to victory. It means that learning a game of Castle Up is a relatively straight forward process and the vast majority of mechanics won’t require the game to grind to a halt while someone pores over the rulebook to check edge cases. You’ll be able to take this to the local games club and put it down in front of a set of new players and not spend half the gaming session explaining the rules before you can dive in.

Castle Up brings a whole lot of ‘solid’ to the table. The card artwork is informative without being busy. The rulebook does a good job of teaching the game without over complicating things. The main mechanics actually make a lot of sense logically as you play. Its not going to keep you playing for hours before the game ends and you lose the will to live. In this world of tabletop where everything is presented as the next best huge exciting wonderful experience big wonder fun thing ever, sometimes you want something that plays well and doesn’t claim to be anything more than what it is. Castle Up is one of those games. For some of us, that is a wonderful thing in a world of cardboard hype. Solid, but very welcome.

This preview is based on the prototype version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid monetary compensation for this Preview. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned. Quotations from this preview may possibly appear in relation to any marketing associated with this game.

The majority of the games that we are play are going to take a reasonable number of sessions and playthroughs to fully understand every possibility that they offer. We hope this write up gives you an idea of whether or not this game is something that you will consider playing or even add to your collection.

Even if we don’t like something, hopefully it helps you to decide if it is something that you should find out more about. We always suggest you check out a gameplay video to give you a better understanding of the game as it is played.

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