Inka & Markus Brand


No. of Players:
2 - 4



Building and construction games always have been quite popular, and especially with the release of Pillars of Earth in 2006 which later was awarded the Deutscher Spiele Preis this category of games has received another surge. Being quite fond of this category of games I was getting generally interested when I heard that a new game about building a castle was announced, and my interest rose when I heard that the game would be done by the German publisher EGGERTSPIELE which was quite successful with the economic management game Cuba in 2007. Thus, I visited EGGERTSPIELE at the SPIEL 08 convention to have a closer look at Im Schutze der Burg, the newest game by Inka and Markus Brand.

The players take up the roles of Builders who participate in the construction of a castle, and the double-sided gameboard features a huge castle in which 23 Construction plans for houses and fortifications are placed at their according spaces. During the course of the game a part of the aim of the players will be to compete to finish the most valuable buildings. The front and back of the gameboard are not used within one game, but instead the players can chose either the "Summer"-side of the gameboard to play the normal game or the "Winter"-side which will mean that some event cards will be added. Let's first have a look at the normal game, and for this each player will receive an identical hand of 8 Personality cards, 7 wooden apprentice figures, three coins, 1 sandheap and 1 wooden beam as starting resources. On the gameboard, all the four kinds of building resources (sand heaps, wooden beams, clay bricks and stone slabs) are placed at four different carts outside the building site, and an additional stockpile of silver bars likewise is placed on a mounted courier.

The game is played in a fixed number of rounds, and each round begins with the players simultaneously choosing and revealing one of the Personality cards from their hand. These personalities will be dealt with in a fixed order, and if two players should have chosen the same Personality it depends on the normal player order who will be allowed to act first. The eight available different Personalities are the Messenger, the Trader, the Brick Layer, the Stone Mason, three Workers and the Master Builder, but before any Personality is allowed to act all played Workers will receive a stock of three building resources which are allocated according to the played Worker cards. Afterwards, the players will follow a specific order to act upon their Personality cards:

  • The Messenger brings Money from the Bank, and a player who has played the Messenger will receive 8 coins.
  • The Trader allows a player to position one of his apprentice figures next to one of the four carts with building resources outside the castle (or next to the mounted courier if all carts already have received an apprentice). Whenever at least one Trader's apprentice is placed during a round, all players who have an apprentice next to a cart (or the courier) will receive a fixed amount of the corresponding resource. One of the resources received must be placed at a tower within the castle, whereas all other collected resources go into the personal stockpiles of the players. If all positions have been filled with apprentices, the next Trader's apprentice which is placed with replace an apprentice of the player's choice.
  • The Brick Layer entitles his player to take all resources of one kind from the castle tower with the resources, and after the player has chosen which resources he wants to take he may build up to two buildings. For this, he checks the building costs of the Construction plans which are still available, and then the player hands in resources of at least three different kinds which exactly match the building costs of the chosen building. Thus, the buildings in Im Schutze der Burg do not have a fixed composition of resources which is needed to build them, but instead the players have to calculate with the different values of the resources available. The silvers bars serve as a joker, allowing their owner to trade them for a resource of his choice. A used silver bar then is placed at the blacksmith's shop within the castle. The player will then receive one coin for each resource he has used, but NO victory points are allocated.
  • The Stone Mason works in a different way, allowing his player(s) to build up to two buildings. However, instead turning resources into coins, a player who constructs a building with a Stone Mason will receive Victory Points according to the building's value. In addition, the Stone Mason will not receive resources from the tower, but instead he is allowed to purchase one resource at the cost of one coin from each Worker which has been played this round.
  • When the turn comes to the Workers, their player(s) will receive all resources left on the Worker cards and may add them to their personal stockpile, and then up to two buildings may be constructed. The players who construct a building with a Worker will receive half of the building's victory point value.
  • Finally, the Master Builder only can be played when a player does not have a full hand of Personality cards. The usage of the Master Builder entitles its player to take all Personality cards back to the player's hand, and in addition the player will receive five victory points for each building finished by the other players in the same round. (Here the sense of the building option of the Workers becomes more clear, since it may be sensible to build and receive less victory points if no other player has played a Master Builder which would entitle him to profit as well.)

Both the Brick Layer and the Stone Mason have an important action in common: if their player has finished at least one building in the current round he will be entitled to place up to two of his apprentices within free spaces of finished buildings. If a required fee is paid, the apprentices will be taken in for schooling, and usually they will stay at the assigned building till the end of the game and they cannot be removed for any reason. The apprentices will bring their players victory points at the end of the game, but the amount of points scored depends on which building an apprentice was placed in. Here are some examples:

  • An apprentice which has been placed at a Gatehouse will provide its player with victory points for every tower which was built during the game.
  • The position in the stables on the other hand will bring victory points for normal finished buildings.
  • A placement in the servant's house means that victory points are awarded for unfinished buildings.
  • An apprentice in the blacksmith's shop will turn all silver bars there into victory points.
  • The market allows a player to turn his remaining money into victory points.
This are just a few examples of the different kinds of scorings which can be made at the end of the game, and due to the number of apprentices available many of the buildings actually offer the possibility to place more than one apprentice there. However, as a rule the second and third apprentice placed at a building will convey a weaker bonus, and so the first positions in a building are really sought after.

This also shows that Im Schutze der Burg contains an high element of speculation which is at least unusual for a building game. During the course of the game the players will have to make guesses how the game might end, and they will have to adjust their strategy according to the placement of their apprentices. In a way, the placement of the first apprentices in a few buildings determines a certain course for the rest of the game, since other players naturally will try to place their first apprentices in other buildings so that a competition and conflicts arises to build the most profitable buildings before the game is over.

However, real conflicts are prevented by the fact that no destructive rules exist, and so each player will focus in honing his strategy of constructing fitting buildings and placing his apprentices at the right time. Early placements will fix a player to a certain strategy and reduce the number of apprentices which can be sent to gather new resources, whereas later placements keep the danger of other players occupying the desired buildings. This keeps the outcome of the game refreshingly unpredictable, since most players certainly do not want to keep calculating all the time. To my mind this also makes the game a good family game, precisely because the outcome is open and competition remains high till the end.

With the Winter-side of the gameboard a variant game has been included which differs because of the event cards which will be drawn in some rounds. These event cards offer interesting variants to the existing gameplay, like the tavern in which an apprentice can be placed to force all players who use the Trader to give one coin to the player with the apprentice in the tavern. Another example is the Damsel of the Castle which can be courted by the players, with each player who wants to stay in the competition for the Lady's hand to place one coin or resource at her card in each turn. If all but one player have dropped out of this contest the final player will win the Lady's hand (and 8 victory points), whereas all other players are allowed to share the Damsel's dowry between them. However, if more than one suitor remains at the end of the game, nobody will get the additional victory points.

Being more fond of adventures than calculations, I really liked this variant game which spiced up the gameplay with a some unexpected turns (my marks are given for this variant game!). While it is true that there is a certain factor of luck associated with these cards, I think that the whole playing atmosphere greatly profits from their use. Overall, Im Schutze der Burg is not as complex a game as last year's Cuba, but to my mind the somewhat unusual gameplay and the good playing atmosphere make the game quite recommendable.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2008 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany