Medieval Strategy and Siege

I'm not sure when I acquired this game, but it must be after 2006 as my copy is dated then and comes in a rectangular box. I read that the original 2005 edition came in a square box.

Castle Keep Game box and components

The game consists of a set of thick cardboard tiles. My copy, at least, is not especially well printed with the backs often being off centre to the extent that part of a second shield can be seen, above, below or to left or right.

The aim of the game is to complete the building of a castle or remove the last part of that of another player. A completed Castle is composed of a 3x3 square. In the centre is a keep, at the corners a tower and walls that join the towers. The walls can be straight, wavy or zig-zag. The towers are of three complimentary types, respectively, square, round and diamond shaped. Each of these tile types come in three colours, red, yellow and blue, according to the rules, although some players I have encountered say they're red, green and purple, and I see where they're coming from.

Each player starts with four tiles, and on their turn draws two more. They then may either build, attack another catle, or pass. When building you have to match adjacent tiles by colour or type. At the end of their turn they must have no more than four tiles in their hand. There are a couple more rules, but that's sufficient for a general understanding of the game.

The box lid claims the game is for players eight years and older and that, for many, puts it in the "family game" category, a game that adults only play to explain the rules, to keep the peace or to teach youngsters how to behave in social groups. My quibble with the reviews that I have read is that once the reviewer has a "family game" mindset they can't imagine the game being played by adults alone.

I find it a perfect game to follow an evening meal with those who don't consider themselves games players. It takes but a moment to learn the rules, and because there is a lot of drawing of tiles the casual player assumes the game is largely determined by the luck of the draw. You try telling a Bridge player that their game is not determined by skill! As games players we know that where a very large number of cards are drawn, or dice rolled, then luck is virtually eliminated and other factors become dominant.

As already explained, on each turn, you have the option to build, attack or pass. but which is better at any point? Which tiles should you hold? Which tiles discard? Are you watching what others are discarding? How about pointing out that another player is likely to win unless their castle is attacked? Will they respond by not building themselves but by attacking someone else - and could that put you in a more powerful position? This is no game of chance there is much game-play to be explored by a more serious gamer.

You've guessed it! I have only played this game with adults and I find the game worthy of more serious study than might be suggested by those who may have been misled by the rather pre-school style of artwork on the box and tiles and so assume it is only suitable for play with children. For me it is a game that is always on my shortlist to play with any group, especially when time is short and longer games are not an option.