Castles of Mad King Ludwig Collector’s Edition: An Interview with Designer Ted Alspach and Developer Dale Yu

Introduction:  Castles of Mad King Ludwig Collector’s Edition recently launched on Kickstarter, and has already been a big success, with the game being fully funded and having received pledges totaling almost a million dollars.  But there are still several days to go, with the campaign ending on February 18, 2021.    

This success is no surprise: the original game, designed by Ted Alspach and published by Bezier Games, has been a big hit in recent years.  The editor of this blog, Dale Yu, was the developer of the game.  

I’m pretty excited about the project, so I wanted to ask some fun questions of Ted and Dale, and they agreed to play along, offering some fun insights to the game and some funny responses.

Question:  What are the highlights of the Collector’s Edition?  And, in particular, what can you tell us about the two new expansions?

Ted Alspach:  The most noticeable thing is probably the artwork. It’s been totally redone in a rich, detailed style, with significant emphasis on making the rooms distinguishable from across the table, and not so busy that it’s hard to read critical iconography.

The next biggest item is the re-imagining of the scoreboard/contract board/room boards into an integrated, summer lake-themed long rectangular board. Bright plastic swans swim along gently curving score path in the water. There are recessed islands on the board that contain plastic trays which hold room tiles, favors, and cards. And if you flip the board over, it gets reconfigured to more of a squarish shape, and the theme alters to a winter lake, with the swan path now surrounded by ice.

Of course, those don’t affect gameplay. Nor does the welcome addition of a 5th player. The changes to the game are in the optional two expansions: Towers and Royal Decrees.

Towers introduces a new room size and shape, and a new ability: when a tower room is completed, the player gets the standard room type reward, as well as a tower reward. The tower reward allows the player to take 3 new favors, pick one, and put it face down on top of the room, for scoring at the end of the game. Finally, a 3D mini tower is placed on top of the favor. There are 8 different tower rooms and minis, each of them based on a castle that Ludwig built or lived in.

Royal Decrees gives unique starting abilities to each player, such as enhancing room completion rewards, providing extra VPs at game end, or giving that player something extra at the beginning of the game. There are dozens of these abilities, and a small set of them are drafted between players at the start of the game; it will take you a lot of games before you’ve had a chance to even see all the different decrees, let alone actually try them out.

Question:  You took suggestions from gamers on what to put in the game.  What was the funniest response you received?  

Ted Alspach:  We gave gamers a list of items to rank, and we also let them write in requests in case we had missed something. The interesting thing was that the ones that everyone ranked high up in the list they also wrote down, with many of them emphasizing how important that particular feature was to them. But there were a number of fun, very earnest responses to these questions, such as:

“Make it more like Diablo 2 than Diablo 3 in the setting/colors”

“Small wheels on the bottom of the storage trays.  I’m only partially joking about that one… because surely I can’t be serious, but I won’t be disappointed if you did it anyway.”

“Stop plastic! A game is not a lunch box“

“Absolutely no pointless huge 3D plastic trash like Suburbia towers with LEDs”

“Can the downstairs rooms actually be lower (closer to the table)?”

“More rooms! More madness!”

“Rules you may have thought of and tested at least slightly”

Question:  For each of you, what is your favorite new feature in the Collector’s Edition?  And, if you have one, what is your favorite room?  

Ted Alspach:  So many fun things!!! My favorite is probably the Colossal set of tiles (which you can get in addition to the regular size tiles). There’s something incredibly satisfying of create a huge castle from those thick, ginormous room tiles.

I’ve always been partial to the Bottomless Pit. Sure, it’s a little dangerous if you have kids and pets running around, but it’s SO practical! No need for garbage service or a septic tank, and its the perfect solution to the age-old problem of where to stash the body.

Dale Yu:  I really really like the lifesize bust of myself that serves as the new start player marker.  but, for those who don’t order that, the new scoring swan boats are boss.  My favorite room has always been the Buttery.  I just like saying “Buttery”.

Author’s Note: I feel like I should get a free copy of the lifesize bust of Dale in light of the fact that I’ve long had a “Dale Yu Fan” microbadge on BGG.

Question:  What was the biggest challenge in making the Collector’s Edition?  

Ted Alspach:  Besides where to stash the body, it was determining where to draw the line for components. Trying to make a collector’s edition that’s amazing yet affordable had us looking at every piece in the game to determine what about it could be better, and how much value did that add to the overall game.

Dale Yu:  Keeping Ted’s enthusiasm and desire in check.  If it were up to him, we’d make solid gold pieces with platinum plating, and the thing would cost $5000.

Question:  One of my favorite parts of the Suburbia Collector’s Edition are the little jokes and references on the tiles.  Does that continue in the CoMKL Collector’s Edition?  Can you show us or allude to any of them?  

Ted Alspach:  There are Easter eggs in addition to special items hidden in rooms/components. That’s all I’m saying without a substantial bribe.

Question:  Will the app be getting an update? 

Ted Alspach:  We are hard at work updating the app with the new graphics, but it’s slow going, as the app is pretty old (in app years, it’s about 104).

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