The Castles of Burgundy Buildings – A Closer Look
There is no doubt about it – Stefan Feld is a genius. The board game creator is best known for his 2011 hit – Castles of Burgundy – and what a game it is. Well known for being one of the highest rated games of all time, currently ranking as the 14th best game on Board Game Geek, Castles of Burgundy is widely loved and adored in the modern gaming age. It is a phenomenal achievement, and a testament to the mechanics that it has become so well known.
There are so many strategies and things to focus on in Castles of Burgundy that it is almost impossible to break it all down. It is a game where there are a hundred different ways of gaining points, of which each variation has a hundred different versions. It is this that makes Castles of Burgundy an exciting game to play, and one that has already gone down as a classic of this board game era.
Today, I thought we would break it down a little bit. Rather than looking at a full strategy, and rather than trying to work out each and every combo, we are going to specifically look at one aspect in closer detail – the buildings and what it is they do.
Buildings in Castles of Burgundy
Buildings are an interesting addition to Castles of Burgundy. Within the game there are 8 different types of building, and there are seven tiles of each one (including central tiles). Each one offers an immediate bonus (more or less), and how helpful that bonus is seems to be dependant on what your exact board layout is. Or is it?
Well, that was the thought when setting out to write this article, and to some degree it is, dear reader, yes; however, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to talk about. By understanding the buildings more we can understand how best to use them and thus when we should choose each one.
What Are The Buildings in Castles of Burgundy?
As mentioned before, there are eight types of building in Castles of Burgundy. These are, in alphabetical order:
- Boarding House
- Carpenter’s Workshop
- City Hall
Each gives their own benefit, and those benefits can be split into different categories. First, there are the pure resource generators. These are buildings that immediately give you things that are tangible in the rules of the game. Those buildings are –
- Bank – Gain 2 Silverlings
- Boarding House – Gain 4 workers
- Watchtower – Receive 4 victory points
These are all well and good, and they have their place; however, it is possible to argue the second type is more useful. The second type of buildings allow you, as a one off, to bend the rules.
We’ll come back to this idea later, but for now, let’s look at what those buildings are –
- Carpenter’s Workshop – Choose a building tile from any number depot and add it to your storage space.
- Church – Choose a mine, knowledge tile, or castle tile from any number depot and add it to your storage.
- City Hall – Build a second building from your storage and build it in your estate for free.
- Market – Take any market or ship tile of your choice from any number depot and add it to your storage.
- Warehouse – Sell a goods type of your choice.
As you can see, the second set of buildings are a bit more exciting. They open the door to a few more possibilities.
Bending the Rules with Buildings in Burgundy
So, there are actually several different ways to use buildings in Castles of Burgundy that are worth exploring. For each building, for instance, there is a face value that can deliver a single benefit straight away. These can, of course, be quantified to some degree. Two Silverlings (from the Bank) for instance, is two Silverlings. That is nice and easy to work out. The Bank is the primary way of earning Silverlings bar mines. Simple. The same simplicity can be applied to Watchtowers.
That, unfortunately, is where the simplicity ends. The Boarding House gains 4 workers, and 4 workers are incredibly useful. With 3 workers it is possible to change a single dice to any face, so four is overkill, but it essentially allows for a singular dice to become a wild card.
What this makes is that Boarding Houses can be a powerful first build of a turn, as well as a powerful early game move. In both occasions they open more doors for later on in the game.
The Market, Carpenter’s Workshop, and Church are all buildings that allow for additional tiles to be picked up. Each building allows for specific sets of tiles – from ships and farms to more buildings.
What this does is actually adds a value to each form of building. Churches, for instance, can allow the player to pick up knowledge tiles, mines, or castle tiles. Due to the scope of that selection, Churches can be seen as one of the most versatile building types, as well as one of the most valuable. Some of the knowledge tiles are second to none. The fact that there is a Castles of Burgundy building that allows for them to be picked up is exceptional.
It is possible to create a couple of chains with Carpenter’s Workshops. One can be built, another can be picked up, and that can then be built, picking up a third Building in one turn. It is a good way of picking up Buildings and filling in regions quickly.
The final type of tile pick up is the Market, which also has its place. It can be used with a wider goods strategy, with more ships being placed to allow for more goods to be picked up and later be sold. Farms, of course, also have their own benefit, and being able to draw any farm tile can seriously help build up sets of specific animals. Can’t quite reach that three sheep you wanted? Don’t worry – just play a Market instead.
No matter what building out of the “tile picker” selection is placed, it’s important to really think about how that extra tile can be used.
The Warehouse and Tile Placement
The Warehouse is fairly simple, and it is easy to see where it can be useful. Selling Goods is a strong strategy in Castles of Burgundy – so much so that a Warehouse heavy strategy can be worth considering. Goods are money and victory points.
The last point and Castles of Burgundy building to explore though, in a little bit more detail, is the City Hall.
The City Hall is a unique building in Castles of Burgundy and it comes with a really neat ability that makes it worth paying attention to. You see…the City Hall allows you to build a tile regardless of dice once you have built it.
Yep. That’s pretty powerful.
Okay, so there are a couple of things to note. Firstly, they only allow you to build from your storage and not pick a new tile from the board (nice try!). Secondly, with enough City Halls in your storage, this ability can also be chained.
Realistically, with one City Hall you can build three times in one turn. With two City Halls you can build four times. This is incredibly valuable because you don’t need to use dice to do it. The action is free.
So, what does that mean? That means the City Hall can be used to fill up whole areas on the player mat quickly, thus gaining the bonus available points for finishing an area of a specific colour first.
But which Castles of Burgundy Building is Best?
So, you may or may not have noticed that buildings are difficult to physically quantify and thus we don’t have any really hard metrics to determine if one building is better than another. Even if we could do that – the best building for you is so subjective that it’s not hugely worth it.
What we can do though is work with potential. Which buildings have the most potential and thus can be considered the best?
Again, this won’t be based on hard metrics, but instead a rough idea set around the potential gain of each building.
So, what are they?
Working Out Potential in Castles of Burgundy
In order to work out the potential of any given tile in the game we need to think about the maximum value it can achieve. The Bank and the Watch Tower are fairly simple, so we won’t explore those any more in this article.
To work out tiles like the Carpenter’s Workshop, Market, and Church we need to look at the individual tiles that can be picked up.
A Farm tile, or a Animal tile, allows for you gain up to four animals at any one time. You may complete a Farm area with a four tile, meaning the potential is the four points, plus completing the area. This means it could, in theory, be 11 points.
Selling Goods with a ship tile can, in theory, be 7 points for completing an area, plus the bonus of gaining goods/cargo and moving up the player track. These are more in-game effects, and hard to quantify.
Mines get you silverlings which can then be spent, with enough silverlings opening up the middle of the board. Then tiles can be bought from the centre and it opens up a whole different game. The the potential of those tiles can be worked out by simply treating those tiles like what they are. Okay, that was explained badly, but I am sure you get what I mean.
Castles are interesting in Castles of Burgundy (as you would expect them to be) as they allow you to take another turn – without needing dice. Yellow tiles, the Knowledge tiles, have variable effects, and this is where it gets really tricky.
Knowledge tiles essentially act as multipliers within the game, or they give benefits that you wouldn’t otherwise have. Some include trade benefits. Some include score multipliers. To work out the ROI of each will require their own article (*makes note of idea*).
That being said, from looking at the tile effects, it is possible to note the use of those three buildings in order:
- Carpenter’s Workshop allows for the most scope since you can use it to pick up the building you want, and thus get any other effect.
- Church then offers the most scope with the most tiles types, including knowledge tiles
- Market offers the least scope.
Warehouse allows for you to sell goods – something which isn’t hugely helpful but a nice bonus way of gaining resources/points.
We explored the benefit of the Boarding House earlier, with the additional workers. These are incredibly valuable, and, as mentioned before, can turn dice wild. Three workers allows for dice value to become anything you want it to be.
Finally, we have the City Hall. The City Hall allows for you to build anything that you already have in your storage. Useful, but only if you already have the tile you want to build.
“I wish for three more wishes!”
One of the most useful things that can be done in a game with a randomness aspect such as Castles of Burgundy is to control that randomness. This means there are a couple of buildings that stand out as ways of controlling that randomness, and they can actually help swing the game.
Those two buildings, it has to be said, are the Carpenter’s Workshop and the Boarding House.
You see, the Boarding House ability, that has been mentioned a few times throughout this article already, works as a way of changing any dice face to any side. Yes, there are knowledge tiles with effects that grant workers, making the Church useful, but you can never guarantee that tile on the board when you need it. Instead, the Boarding House gives you the ability to manipulate a dice entirely, and then some.
The final super useful building in Castles of Burgundy is the Carpenter’s Workshop. It is a way of building more and creates the ability to get the effect you want. If you want the Boarding House then, worry not, the Carpenter’s Workshop can help you get it. If you see the knowledge tile you need then, again, worry not. The Carpenter’s Workshop can get you a Church, which can lead to gaining that knowledge tile.
So, there we have it – a breakdown of all the buildings in Castle of Burgundy. I must admit, this article is already way longer than I anticipated for a small part of the game. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts though. What are your take on the tiles in Castles of Burgundy? Which do you find most useful? Let me know in the comments below.