Strengthening our Defenses: A Quick Review of Castles Card Game

Quick Look: Castles Card Game

Designers: Castles Card Game, LLC 
Artist: N/A
Publisher: Independent/Castles Card Game, LLC 
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 3-4 per deck (plays best with 6-8)
Ages: 9+
Playing Time: 5-50 min. (approx 5 min. per player)

From the creators:

Castles is a party card game of strategy and cunningness. You take the role of a king or queen, seeking to destroy your opposition and claim yourself as the rightful ruler of the throne. Start out with a singular castle and grow your kingdom until you and your puppets are the sole survivors. On your way to victory, you have the opportunity to make allies and enemies. So, choose your battles wisely and make your friends carefully because, in the end, there can only be one ruler to take the throne!

My stronghold received two copies of the first edition of Castles Card Game for the purposes of this review, but if you imply that this review is biased, I’ll load ye into the trebuchet!


Overview and Theme:

Castles Card Game is a player-vs.-player game of defending and attacking castles played with a slim 53-card deck for each set of 3-4 players in the game.

Components and Setup:

The cards for the first edition of Castles are glossy and attractive, with abstracted medieval art and explanatory text on the bottom. There is a subtle use of light red for attack and blue for defense, but each card also includes the word attack or defense for any friends who are colorblind.

The deck includes:

  • Castles
  • Castle Upgrades
  • Attack Cards
  • Defense Cards 
  • Special Cards

Game Play and Mechanics:

The flow and mechanics of Castles are familiar to anyone who has enjoyed combat or dueling card games in the past (Magic: The Gathering, for example), but on a lighter and streamlined scale.

Each player starts out with one castle and a hand of five cards, and players take turns playing cards from their hand: extra Castles, Castle Upgrades, and up to one Defense card per turn, as well as Attack cards to tear down another player’s defenses and Special cards to throw a few little twists into the game. Cards each have a point value giving their defense or attack value.

No attacks are allowed for the first two rounds to let players build up their defenses, but then it becomes a free-for-all! If your last castle is defeated, you are out!

Your goal is to either have 6 Castles in front of you for a full turn around the table (this is fiendishly difficult) or to knock out all the other players from the game.

One interesting mechanic comes from the special Puppet card, which allows a player to resurrect an eliminated player and use them as a puppet state for the rest of the game: with one starting castle, a smaller hand of just three cards, and all decisions directed by their master, Puppets get to continue to take part in the game even though they’re no longer able to win.

The Good:

I enjoyed the medieval theme and the streamlined game play of Castles Card Game. It’s quick and easy to teach and to play, and the sleek abstract cards give just enough flavor without being distracting. As a gameschooling mom, I would enjoy including this in a history program or unit study on medieval times and castle defenses!

Reading more about this game on the creators’ website, I was encouraged to see that not only do they have plans for several themed expansions, but they’re interested in creating a community of players and taking suggestions for new cards and abilities from their fans.

The Bad:

If you only have one deck, and play with just three or four players, Castles almost always comes down to luck and finishes too quickly, with players eliminating each other with basic attack cards before anyone has a chance to summon a Puppet or use any of the more powerful cards. Castles definitely shines as a larger group game with at least two decks and 6-8 players.

Players Who Like:

Players who like combat card games from Warriors to Magic: The Gathering may enjoy Castles, and folks who are fans of the medieval theme may like it as a light filler or a longer party-style game.

Final Thoughts:

I absolutely appreciate the creators’ efforts to take something that was fun for their group of friends and launch it into the world, with fun videos and an Instagram full of their game in unusual places. I like that they are already planning expansions and including the community in their plans. It was not a hit with our family, mainly because we don’t often get to game at tables full of eight players… and we found the game a little too short and luck-based at only three or four. Hopefully, this game will fall into the right hands and live on as a take-that frenzy of archers and trebuchets!

Check out Castles Card Game on:


Alexa Chaplin– Reviewer

My name is Alexa: I’m a life-long game player and homeschooling mom to two awesome kids. I’ve loved board games since my early days playing Scrabble and Gin Rummy with my grandmother, and life only got more interesting when I married a Battletech enthusiast and fellow game lover. We’ve played games with our kids since they were small, and I helped start a thriving homeschool co-op where we have weekly sessions of board games with kids.  In a family with kids raised on Catan and Pandemic, life is sure to be fun! You may run into me on Twitter, BoardGameGeek, and other social media as MamaGames. Be sure to say hi!

See Alexa’s reviews HERE.

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