What is this game about?
Like the original The Castles of Burgundy—which I still haven't played--The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game is focused on building up an estate. The game is mostly spent acquiring building cards, then adding them to your tableau. Your ultimate goal is to earn the most victory points. You can earn points in a number of ways, but your primary goal will be to create "triplets" (three building cards of the same type) in your estate. You can also produce goods, or, in a pinch, you can trade in worker and silver cards for some sweet, sweet VPs.
Your card purchasing power is based not on actual dice, but on the die values printed at the top of each card. Each round, estate cards are laid out in rows that have certain die values. You can make purchases from those rows based on the die numbers printed on cards in your hand. To help you modify those numbers in your favor, you can use worker cards to adjust die values up or down. To get access to more cards, you can acquire and then spend silver to take extra actions and draw extra cards.
How does it play solo?
The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game has built-in solo rules that give you an AI opponent—not a beat-your-own-score mode. Your opponent is called "Aaron," which stands for "An Almost Real OppoNent." Your goal is to stay ahead of Aaron for each of the game's five rounds. If you finish a round and find that Aaron has more victory points than you do, you automatically lose the game. Aaron will acquire a set number of cards every round. Sometimes those cards don't hurt you at all. Other times, he'll pick up some killer combos and beat you early in the game. The heart of scoring in The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game is acquiring triplets, and then getting the bonuses that come with being the first to build a triplet of a particular building type. If you don't act fast, Aaron might beat you to those triplets, depending on what cards he gets.
Trying to tell someone about The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game makes the game sound dull. I just read over my first paragraph and thought, "This game sounds so freaking boring." But it really isn't. The game has a weirdly meditative quality that makes me want to play it several times in a row every time I get it out. I love wringing as many advantages as I can from the cards I've been dealt, and The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game gives me plenty of opportunities to do that. Trying to stay a step ahead of Aaron can be surprisingly challenging, and it adds a lot of drama to each round.
Playing against Aaron can also, however, make the game very swingy. I like to plan ahead and follow a set strategy across multiple turns. The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game forces me to play against type and make a lot of short-term decisions. The goal of the game is to defeat Aaron round to round, so you sometimes have to go for immediate victory points at the expense of your long-term plan. Also, as you might have guessed from the description above, Aaron is an unpredictable opponent: Depending on the cards he gets, he sometimes starts slowly and earns very few points during the first few rounds. Other times, he will get multiple early triplets and run away with the game. You have to be okay with that to have fun playing The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game.
Do I recommend it?
It depends. The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game has no theme to speak of, and you will only enjoy it if you like pure card manipulation with the goal of getting more victory points. If you're that kind of gamer, then you're going to have fun. If you want something that feels less mechanical, run away now. I personally do enjoy CoB: TCG, and I am glad that I spent the $10-–12 I spent on it back in the day. I still pull it out for a game from time to time because it's a relaxing way to spend an evening.
Overall Rating: 3 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.