Boy, neighbors sure can be a nuisance! If you think that loud next-door parties, keeping up with the Jones’, and pesky neighborhood covenants are frustrating today, just be glad you didn’t live in the Middle Ages. I mean, you’d think the average nobleman would be happy with his intimidating parapets, piles of treasure, and a well-stocked moat of man-eating eels. But oh, no! Instead, every Lord in the subdivision has to go and send his hired thugs to take your gold. Can you defend hearth and home while sneaking over and swiping some extra coin for yourself? Your sanity will be pushed to the limits in this mad-cap, free-for all!
How it Works
So much for “Chivalry!” The goal of Castle Dash is to steal three treasures. In addition to earning victory, it also helps compensate for others taking your own gold; the prevention of which I suppose is an ancillary objective. Each round, you’ll battle on three sides of your castle – against the opponent to your right, your left, and straight across. But rather than thinking in terms of attacking or defending, it’s essentially all simultaneous. Succeed in a battle and you gain a nice advantage on that front or reap rewards. Fail and, well…
|In the box. Basic, sturdy, and functional components.|
Those rounds proceed in a smooth, three-part process. First, each player takes turns allocating one or more soldier(s) on either a card or to a battle. Only one soldier is required to claim a card, which can give you a nice benefit, but then that soldier is not available to fight that round. To place soldiers in a battle, you simply put any number from 1 and 6 in between you and the neighbor you wish to fight. The catch with battle plans is that once you’ve assigned soldiers to a particular battle, you cannot place anymore there later that same turn. So, if your neighbor has already allotted soldiers to that battle, you know what you’re up against. If not, he/she can try outmatching you.
|Set for a 4-player session.|
|Yellow wins 7-5 and so places two soldiers on White's wall.|
Once More unto the Breach?
To give you an idea of its madness (and perhaps showing my age), I would compare playing Castle Dash to the Monty Python scene of King Arthur yelling, “Run away, run away!” as his knights assault the castle of the French taunters under a harrowing barrage of poultry, fowl, and cattle, with Sir Lancelot hacking away at the stone walls with his broadsword in the background, while the French captain slaps his helmet and mouths raspberries after the fleeing kanigguts! In other words, “Tis silly.” But fun.
|Cards can be worth the price...or not!|
When allocating soldiers, there’s also an ironic dichotomy in planning on total victory or minimal defeat. At first, any sort of win may seem advantageous. However, if you only succeed at putting 1 or 2 men upon your enemy’s walls, those soldiers are out of action – and of no help at all in subsequent turns – until you’re able to press your victory further with the magic number 3. So it can be in your best interests to overwhelm the enemy in one bold strike, or not at all. Conversely, you may be able to tie up your opponent’s soldiers by actually conceding him/her a minor success in the same manner.
Despite these choices, a hefty dose of chance will decide the fate of numerous battles, much to your chagrin or delight. The die rolls for cannonballs and additional troops can really swing the initial dynamics of a battle. This lack of control can be countered by “bringing the house” in terms of soldiers and card modifiers, but will be of little consolation for those that like to strategically diversify their resources. Then again, diversification is a hit or miss strategy in this title. Roll high, and it can work. Roll low, and you’ll gain a whole lot of nothing.
For what it is, I think the randomness in Castle Dash is not only acceptable, but quite appropriate for the game’s mood. Now, there are a couple of quirky aspects. First, the hostage soldier seems irrelevant. For such a quick game, there’s really no benefit to passing up a treasure (one third of the way to victory) when you successfully breach a castle wall as opposed to rescuing your captive comrade. Second, while the center castle works mechanically to address the “no neighbor across the street” problem in 3 and 5 player games, it reduces a bit of the bluffing and tension. Also, battles with multiple cards involved can get fiddly in calculating strength. It could be a bit repetitive, so you probably won’t want to play several games in a row. And while I’ve not played a 6-player game, I’m not sure what more it’d offer over the 4-player format (my recommendation) other than added game length. You still only deal with your neighbors to the left, to the right, and straight across.
The components are quite nice for a small, independent publisher. The only bland aspect are the soldier pawns, which are very generic and lightweight. The treasure and cannonball tokens are basic and unassuming, but functional and durable. The stock quality for the boards and cards is sturdy and the artwork is pleasant. The rules are clear and concise. 5th Street thankfully provides little baggies for everything.
Castle Dash is a fast-paced and frantic showdown of brinksmanship, bluffing, and pushing your luck. It is quick, but not quite a filler. As such, it offers some light, strategic choices which are generously influenced by luck. Oftentimes, the winner is the best manager of chaos. Because of that, this will not be for everyone. But at half an hour, I’d find it difficult for even the most hardcore (or prudish) strategy gamers to quibble with it. In short, Castle Dash is a simple and funny romp that should prove a fun experience for families and gamers alike.
Quick, light, and family-friendly
Intriguing, hidden depth
Fun and often funny
If you're really averse to luck, you won't like this
Not the same “oomph” with odd number of players
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank 5th Street Games for providing a review copy of Castle Dash.