Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game Analysis (Starting Positions)
Castles of Burgundy is something of a classic in the board game world. Set in medieval France, Castles (as it is commonly shortened to), sees you take control of your own duchy, looking to make it the largest and strongest you can. You do this through building cities, castles, monasteries, mines, docks (or rivers), and farms, aiming to create the best possible estate amongst the players.
A lesser known fact is that there is a dice game version of Castles of Burgundy, and it follows the same premise. Mentioned on our list of our favourite roll-and-write games, Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game is a really neat game that is highly enjoyable to play. We now break it out more regularly than the classic board game because it has the same feel, whilst being much quicker to set up and play.
In Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game, the players have three phases to make the most out of the duchy in front of them. First a player chooses which of four castles they want to start at. Then, players roll a set of dice each turn, which gives them numbers and colours to play with, determining what they can build each turn. Special tools allow for players to manipulate results, whilst how fast the phases play out is also determined by the roll of a die. It is possible for the game to last 30 turns; however, in an incredibly improbable game it could last merely 15. You never know as it is all down to how the dice fall.
In Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game, you score points based on two factors. Firstly, as you complete all the hexes in a section of the duchy in front of you, you get points for it. The amount of points you get varies per phase, so a four hex city in the first phase is worth 13 points, a 2 hex river is worth 4 points, but a 2 hex farm is worth 8 points. In the second phase that city would go down to 10 points. The river would be worth 3 and the farm would be worth 6. These are illustrated in a table below. Secondly, the first and second person to fill all hexes of a given colour on their map gets bonus points.
Now, being someone who analyses games for fun, this led me to write up a couple of questions. Firstly, if we assume you have the maximum number of turns, what is the maximum number of points you could score in the first round if the dice fall in your favour? By the second or third rounds you can reach most of the board, so we won’t work out maximum points beyond that, but if we worked out the maximum for round one, then could we actually work out the best castle to start at for one of the maps?
The answer is, dear reader, yes. Of course we can! Let’s look at some numbers.
Working Out The Best Place To Start in Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game
Right, before we begin this, there is one fact that needs to be stated. Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game comes with a variety of different maps (or duchies) to begin with. We are going to be looking at the first map. Here is a quick image to show what that looks like, all filled in from playing the game:
As you can see, each map has four castles on it, each one granting an in-game reward. The rewards help you make the most out of each map, and since they are circumstantial (namely you can use depending on the dice) we will treat all starting rewards equal for the sake of this analysis. That is with two exceptions, that we will come onto when the time is right (ominous, I know).
For simplicity’s sake, this is what the map looks like if we transfer it to block colours. The green hexes are the castles, orange are the towns, grey are the mines, blue are the rivers, yellow are the farms, and purple are the monasteries.
Now, using that we can name the castles for further ease. Post that, we are going to need to have references for each segment of the duchy. For those references we are going to use letters.
Okay, so this is where it is going to get a little bit mathy. By using the references it is possible to work out the value of each region of the map across the different phases. These can be put into a table.
The table below shows the points value per hex collective/group/section/segment across the three phases of the game. For the rest of this article we will only focus on the first phase, but it is interesting to note the difference. For example, we can see 1 hex groups remain as 1 point throughout the course of the game (bar the farm, which remains as 2 points). The 4 hex city however reduces more dramatically. In the second phase it is worth 3 points less than the first phase, and in the third phase it is worth 3 points less than the second. This shows that, if you can, it is valuable to go for that 4 hex city during the first phase to maximise on points.
This gives us the value of each section, helping refine our analysis to help develop a strategy for the game.
A Note on the Strategy of Choosing a Direction and Types of Spaces to Complete
When looking at the value of spaces within the Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game first map, there are a few things to note. Firstly, there is only one 4 hex group on the board, and that is a city, worth 13 points. That is the most any section of spaces is worth. Secondly, there is only one 3 hex group, worth 8 points – and they are on opposite sides of the board.
Thirdly, there are several farm spaces (7 hexes in total) and farm spaces are worth double points. The reason double points are good is because, in the first phase, we’re only looking at filling 10-12 hexes in total. Double points means double the value for a single hex.
So, what are the routes? How can you theoretically get the most points, and which Castle do you need to start at?
Well, let’s say the dice fall in your favour, or you can manipulate the dice to be what you want through the use of tools. If you start off in castles Alpha or Gamma then the best route to take is actually pretty similar. For instance, you could go for the below:
Now, this is a fairly good route. There are 13 points in the city, a further 16 points in farms, and 4 points in river – this is for a grand total of 33 points, and this was using my first initial idea. For this strategy, you can start at Alpha, Beta, or Gamma and get a good number of points – however, it is actually possible to do better.
You see, if we shifted our focus to look at taking a Mine then we could spend the silver to fill in an additional hex each turn by allowing you to use more dice combos. Now this is a pretty unlikely situation, but if you take over the mine at N, from Alpha or Gamma, then you can actually use the additional silver to take over Beta, gaining an additional silver. This will allow you to get E or F on board, looking a little bit like the below –
The above is worth 35 points. If, however, you start at Beta, then you can use the two silver to progress further, taking control of an additional two hex territory like I or H.
The above would be worth the original 33, plus the additional 4 from the river, for 37 points. Not bad.
So far, we have explored starting at Alpha, Beta, and Gamma. What about Delta?
For Delta it is slightly different. Where it is still possible to get a silver, through taking over Beta, and the 13 point city, the pattern is slight different. Unfortunately, using this route, there is no silver and no route to get to it that is worthwhile. To get the silver you need to give up J, and that is a 2 point for 2 point trade. This means that, starting from Delta, there are only 10 hexes available during the first phase if you want to optimise for points.
That route is worth 31 points. That breaks down to 13 for A, 8 for C, 8 for G, and 2 for J.
Where is the Best Starting Location in the Castles of Burgundy Dice Game?
Okay, so this has been an analysis of the first map so far. Now we should be able to answer the question as to which castle is the best one to start off at if you feel that luck favours the bold.
Based on the above analysis, we know it is possible to get:
- 33 points from Alpha
- 37 points from Beta
- 33 points from Gamma
- 31 points from Delta
It turns out that additional silver can make all the difference.
Now, of course this is all theoretical. It makes the assumption that you don’t just set up for an amazing second round with a few of the placements. It also makes the assumption all the dice come out how you want them to. As a disclaimer, I’ve run several variations; however, it is possible that there are routes out there that I missed. If you see a better route, please let me know in the comments below.
There we have it though. If you want to have a chance at running the odds and seeing if you can have a 37 point first round the Beta is the best castle to give it a go. It won’t be easy, and it really does rely on the dice rolls, but you never know – you might just pull it off.
So, what are your thoughts? Do you enjoy Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game? Can you see any better routes that would result in more points? Let me know in the comments below.