I’m a big fan of the Mandoo Games titles that I’ve had the pleasure to play so far. Both Kushi Express and Queenz are fantastic games in their own genres. With how much fun I had with those titles, I couldn’t wait to get into Castello Methoni.
Castello Methoni is an economic, territory building game for three to five players. The game is a reimagining of the 2006 game Masons and utilizes most of the mechanics that were present in that game. While Castello Methoni looks identical to Masons at a glance, there are many tweaks that make this game a much more enjoyable experience.
Like the other Mandoo games, Castello Methoni looks more complicated than it actually is. Players are given a hand to use, which each card representing terrains that they can build on. On every turn, players can use two cards, with each card allowing them to build a wall on the border of a specific terrain. The turn player will then build one of their own houses on one side of the wall, and an opponent’s house on the other. If the construction of the wall leads to a closed area, that space will become a territory, with the houses inside potentially upgrading to a villa if they belong to the same player. The turn player will also get to place a tower inside, indicating that they now own the territory. That player will receive points accordingly if they still have that territory at the end of the game.
Of course, it’s not quite that simple. Building territories costs currency in Castello Methoni, and if players can’t pay, they can’t have the territory. Players will also need to account for the actions of everyone else. If a territory is made adjacent to an existing one, that player can pay a cost to buy the territory from the owner. The owner has no choice, and if others can pay they will lose their territory. This mechanic makes players play defensively and decide where they build carefully. Having currency at the end of the game translates to points, so not all is lost. Buying territories from other players can potentially cost a fortune, so there is a bit of strategy in knowing where to build and when to annex other territories.
There aren’t that many rules in Castello Methoni, but a lot of thought is still required to succeed. Careful planning is necessary and players will need to play around the actions of the other players. Competition for similar areas isn’t uncommon, and the constant need to adapt makes Castello Methoni engaging throughout. The game is also highly interactive. It’s fun getting to grab other players’ pieces and placing them where you want them. The constant shuffling of territories is exciting, and the game tends to have big swings.
The game isn’t flawless, but nothing really holds it back from being great. Sometimes a game feels a bit too short, as the game ends when there are no more walls available. This can lead to surprisingly short games if the pieces fall right. The moves that a player can make is dictated by what’s in their hand might leave them at the mercy of luck, which will frustrate some. Still, this is a fine mechanic as it prevents abuse of certain plays while letting less experienced players have a shot at victory.
Castello Methoni also fully embraces the theme which adds to the experience. There is a lot of text in the rulebook establishing the history and stakes for the players. The board and the cards are gorgeous. Bright colors, high-quality components, and theme-related mechanics make this a complete experience.
Fans of the classics like Catan will love Castello Methoni. It’s simple but engaging gameplay can be enjoyed by just about everyone. This is another hit by Mandoo games and deserves the attention of all gamers. Don’t let it fly under your radar.
This is another hit by Mandoo games and deserves the attention of all gamers. Don't let it fly under your radar.