Artist: Monica Pierazzi Mitri
Release date: 2021
Favouritefoefunlearning score 9/10
*Action Selection * Worker Placement * Resource Management * Push Your Luck * 3D Castle * Tile Slider Mechanism * Hidden Information * Lovely Artwork * Decision Making * Easy to Learn 8 #learningthroughplay * #gameschooling * Strategy
3D Castle. Cool tile -pushy-outy-slidey-mechanism. I’m just going to leave those details there……..
Yep. HABA had me at that too!
It’s a Kinda HABA Magic!
Okay so a game cannot be just about its gizmos, but they are really cool! Moonlight Castle is a new game from HABA that has just been nominated for Best Children’s Game of 2021 at the UKGE Awards taking place in Birmingham, UK, on 3- 5 June 2022. And for good measure I would say!
It certainly packs a lot of quite big mechanisms into an easy to learn and play format (and did I mention it has a 3D Castle tile holder and super cool slidey mechanism???) ?
So, in Moonlight Castle, we are playing enchanted heroes trying to recover jewels being stolen by a rather mischievous looking magical owl, Zirroz the Evil Magician! Our plan is to replace them with pebbles of the same colour which we find in the fountains feeding the river running through the castle. The player who has recovered the most jewels by the end of the game is the winner!
Once you have assembled the (COOL!) 3D castle and tile slider (placing the bejewelled river tiles inside with the magic path tile on top), each player receives a hero token, matching screen and 4 pebbles from the bag.
Each turn there are only 2 actions from which to choose;
(1) Hide; move to an empty fountain along the river path, paying the matching colour 1 pebble cost to take the indicated number of random pebbles from the bag; and/or
(2) Recover jewels; place the same amount of matching coloured pebbles as shown in jewels on the tile in front of you and pick up the tile. If there is a magic spell on the reverse (i.e. symbols indicating that the river tiles need sliding along 1-3 spaces or that you get to take another turn), resolve that before finishing your turn.
You can do both if you are in the right place at the right time with the right stuff! But if you don’t have enough pebbles to do either action this turn, you can move back from the river to a wild (white) fountain to stock up. It does mean that next turn you’ll have to move back to a river space first (if you can), before recovering any jewels. But pebbles are vital for jewel recovery, so it might have to be a sacrifice that makes strategic sense later in the game.
Having said that though, every turn between your own could potentially change the river tile order. As such, the pebbles you are collecting to hide (and then subsequently recover) may no longer be the ones you need for the juiciest of jewels!
And that is the magic in Moonlight Castle – bigger than expected mechs, bigger than expected think (just don’t tell the little ones!), and all wrapped up in gorgeous, gizmo filled HABA gaming goodness!
Balancing pebble collection and payment. Working out where you might be (or want to be situated) in relation to the jewels. Deciding if moving back to a wild fountain to stock up on pebbles is going to play out better for you. Even working out which colours to collect knowing that others could move the river along and change the play-scape just before your turn…these are all exciting and frustrating and very clever at the same time. There is a lot of developmental skills being packed into a simple game. Oh and did I mention the COOL 3D castle and tile slider??? Oh I did? Just checking! ?
Little gamers won’t know all of this of course. They won’t be thinking in terms of “strategy” or “tactics” or “forward thinking”. But that is exactly what they will be doing by playing. Each decision they make will push them closer (or further away) from winning. And how they come back from a move that doesn’t quite work as they had hoped is a marker of just how fast their skills are indeed developing.
First game for us and Mini-meeple had his sights on a green jewel tile in the river. But when ShadowMeepleMedia’s action of recovering (what he thought was a safe!) a pink jewel moved the river thanks to a spell, Mini-meeple’s plan was scuppered. Cue 10 seconds of sighing and sadness. But then, with a little nudge, he realised he would be able to set his sights on even better jewels coming out of the castle and do exactly the same to daddy (and mummy!) in future turns! Frown turned upside down! Some tiny tabetoppers might not recover so quickly, so house rules for the very youngest could be a good idea if there is a variety of ages and experience around the table.
Moonlight Castle is a great family game. The 3D CASTLE AND COOL TILE SLIDER are indeed very cool, and the tiles generally slide in and out well. The bag to hold the pebbles could benefit from a drawstring, and I do worry slightly that the edges of the thick cardboard could get fluffy over time and repeat plays. Luckily the castle doesn’t have to be completely dismantled each time the game is packed away (which will help with longevity).
As Mini-meeple grows, we will add in the extra fountain powers to up the ante. We also played first game without the screens. But after that, he likes the sneaky nature of nobody knowing what he is collecting….although that doesn’t stop him from taking a peek behind mine! But Moonlight Castle is a wonderfully adaptable and replayable game, and definitely one that will be staying in the #favouritefoefunlearning library for sure!
Please note that a copy of this game was kindly provided by the publishers for review. I am not paid for my comments, however, and all opinions are my own]. I am also not affiliated to or sponsored by any retail store.