The White Castle Board Game Review

21 May 2024
The White Castle sees you become 18th-century Japanese clan leaders, but is it a game fit for an emperor? We certainly think so.

Written by Dan York

Nine turns? What do you mean we only get nine turns? The White Castle is a big game in a modestly sized box. In The White Castle players take on the role of 18th century Japanese clan leaders, currying favour with the emperor and set your families up in positions of power within his court. The game plays out over nine turns, each turn players will select one die from either end of a three-dimensional bridge and place it on the board.

How to play White Castle

Using dice to activate spaces, players take actions based on the colour used, while trying to make it more expensive for other players to take that same action. The central mechanic of the game is moving your worker meeples (farmers, warriors and courtiers) from your personal player board into the castle where they can be used to gather resources and set up to score big end-game points as your clan becomes more integrated with the emperor and his family.

Many of the spaces in the game allow you to take multiple additional actions, placing one farmer to pay a few extra resources in order to place a warrior, for example. The systems within the castle are built to reward players for finding ways to double or even triple-dip on each of their meagre nine de facto turns.

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Should you play White Castle?

There’s so much to love about The White Castle, the most obvious of which is the presentation. Despite the small box, it’s clear that effort has been taken to make every part of playing it look and feel beautiful. From the stylised authentic coins to the needlessly large dragon-shaped round marker, every inch of the design is a treat to behold. Even the large primary-coloured player meeples don’t stand out too much, fitting seamlessly into the gentle pastel shades of the castle board and the river section with the tactile bridge pieces atop it.

Beyond that, the systems are exciting. There is a vast amount of variability in both the initial setup and the results of the action dice. Every three turns when they are rolled again is a moment of tension as everyone scans the board, determining which locations are suddenly the highest value actions to take or which dice can just be cast into the well for a small burst of resources before a critical turn. It never feels stale, between games or even between rounds as there’s always a changing value proposition presented by the combination of setup and the dice results.

The most interesting part of the game for me is the “lantern” mechanic. Over the course of the game, players will be taking cards from the board, replacing which actions are available, but also socketing them beautifully onto their own player board upside down to form a line of resource and scoring symbols next to their lantern. Every time you activate the lantern symbol during your action, you claim that bonus you’ve been building, this gives the game a great sense of escalation and highly rewards planning.

This is a good one. For anyone with an interest in solving different puzzles and working out a game plan that changes from game to game, this is ideal. Its small size and relatively low price for a game of this depth is a major feature too, it could be a great starting game for people who want to take their first jump into more complex euro-style games without having to spend a fortune on something three times the size. It also makes for a wonderful show-piece, good-looking and tactile components supporting a solid game are a winner in my book.

Related article: Best Eurogames

White Castle Verdict

We think White Castle is a Must Play game. 

A perfect mix of style, substance and a tight but rewarding puzzle in a box that won’t take up a whole shelf. You should try this if you liked Iki, an equally gorgeous game with joyfully overlapping systems.

You can by The White Castle on Amazon

About White Castle

Designer: Isra C, Shei S

Publisher: Devir Games

Time: 80 mins

Players: 1-4

Age: 12+

Price: £35

What’s in the box:

  • 77 Cards
  • 82 Tiles
  • 5 Boards
  • 85 Wooden Pieces
  • 15 Dice

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