What is this game about?
Castellion is a game set in Shadi Torbey's Oniverse. It's a tile-laying game in which you are building a castle, but not just any castle—you're in a race against the clock to create different formations of tiles before your fortress is tested by the enemy. Over the course of three different stages, you must create groups of the same type of tile (pyros, jugglers, chameleons, seers), arranged in either rows, columns, or squares, all within a castle that has a 6x6 limit.
Although there is a simple, introductory version of the game, the regular and advanced games are where the excitement really starts. All games will involve three "tests," or sets of tile formations that you need to create within your castle. On each turn, you draw one tile and make a decision about it: either place it in your castle, or discard it and potentially use its power. All tiles will have a creature type (pyros, jugglers, chameleons, seers) and a shape (square, circle, or triangle). While you want to place matching creatures next to each other, there are further placement limitations based on shape. If a tile isn't working for you at the moment, you can discard it. Some tiles, when discarded, allow you to see into the future of your draw pile, others allow you to relocate tiles within our castle, and still others allow you to mine your discard pile for just the right piece. Many tile powers also allow you to disregard initial placement rules, which lets you manipulate your castle even more.
However, you don't have all the time in the world to build your castle exactly the way you want it. Every so often, you will draw a traitor tile and have to decide what to do. Traitor tiles look like melting clocks, and their main purpose is to advance the game's timer—once you have placed a certain number of traitor tiles on your current test card, it is time to see whether you passed—and if you have failed to create the correct formations within your castle, you lose the game. There are, however, a few ways to stave off the inevitable test. Some traitor tiles have a black border, which means you cannot avoid them. But the ones without can be discarded, for a price. To get rid of them, you'll need to also destroy some of the tiles within your own castle. This can be a good way to clear out obsolete structures between test cards, but it can also be devastating. To avoid the possibility of drawing a traitor altogether, you can draw from the "safe" pile, but there is only a limited number of tiles in it, and you'll want to save them for a key moment.
How does it play solo?
Castellion is technically for 1–2 players, but I really think of it as a solo game. Enjoy it, solo squad!
Castellion is a game that I generally like, but it's not my favorite in the Oniverse. (If you want to know where they all rank for me, you can check out this video I made with Jason Perez from Every Night is Game Night).
I really enjoy several aspects of Castellion's gameplay, especially the way you can break the game by learning how to make the most of tile manipulation powers. In the "normal" version of the game, you can use tile powers by discarding them. In the advanced version of the game, you can access bigger powers by completing tile formations within your castle. With a little creativity, even destructive events like cannibalizing your castle to discard a traitor tile can be helpful and even fun. Learning how to both complete the spatial puzzle of Castellion and to make the most of tile powers is the absolute best part of the game.
However, my delight in breaking the game is mirrored by my irritation with the placement rules in general. Once you learn the game, everything is fine, but Castellion comes with tile placement rules that don't always feel consistent. You can put pretty much anything in your foundation row of your castle, without regard for the shapes on the tiles, even though you can't normally place a tile adjacent to one with the same shape (circle, square, triangle). Once you leave that base level, however, the placement rules are in effect. While this makes sense intellectually, it gives me mixed messages visually, which sometimes breaks the "flow" of the game for me. Tile powers can also allow you to break the rules, and I often find myself wondering if I placed a tile illegally or if I used a tile power to get away with it.
Also, if you're bothered by back luck in general, you should know that sometimes you just get a lot of traitor tiles at a bad time and lose the game. Castellion plays so quickly that this doesn't bother me too much, but you should be aware!
Do I recommend it?
Yes. I generally recommend all Oniverse games, and this one offers an interesting puzzle that is usually rewarding.
Overall rating: 3.5 stars
5 stars - I love it!
4 stars - I really like it.
3 stars - I like it.
2 stars - It's okay.
1 star - Meh.