Get on your architecture hats because I am going to teach you how to play Palace of Mad King Ludwig. Like most tile placement games it is one that is simple in concept but has a beautiful depth of strategy. While everyone is working together to build the palace, secret objectives add a little mystery to the moves everyone makes. I am going to show you some of the different types of tiles in the game so you can go ahead and start playing Palace of Mad King Ludwig!

how to play palace of mad king ludwig board

If this is your first time checking out my First Turn column, how I like to teach board games is to show you some good moves on your first few turns that you can follow along with and just start playing a board game without having to deeply dive into the rules. A lot of board game rulebooks seem to not do a fantastic job of this so, hopefully, this guide will help you learn a lot about how to play Palace of Mad King Ludwig.

That being said, this particular manual does do a great job of showing you how to set up the board. So go ahead and set up the board how it recommends to and if you want to follow along you can set up the Room Row like I have in the image below. You do not necessarily need the exact same tiles to follow along but at least similar types of tiles.

how to play palace of mad king ludwig room row

There are only four different actions you can do every turn and you only do one every turn. Those actions are:

  • Place a Room Tile in the Palace
  • Place a Hallway or Stair tile in the Palace
  • Place a Room tile on your Blueprints board
  • Place a Favor tile on your Blueprints board

I’m mostly just going to cover the first two. The other two actions are mostly for later in the game but I just want to get the first few turns going so you can start playing. To start we’re going to have the blue player Place a Room Tile in the Palace to show you how to do that as well as cover completing rooms. For the first few turns, we are only selecting room tiles from the far right of the Room Row as they do not cost swans to acquire. More on how we acquire swans shortly.

Utility Rooms

I think Utility Rooms are a great start. They give you a clear goal to work for so you can focus your strategy. So I have the blue player taking that tile and placing it on the board. This utility room gives you three points for every favor you have on your blueprint board (more on what that even means later). So you can place the tile with one of the open doorways lining up with an already placed hallway.

Normally, when you place a tile you put one of your markers on the white-side to signify it is yours, however, in this case the room is instantly complete so you would put it on the dark side. Rooms are completed when all entrances are connected to another entrance. Utility rooms only have one entrance, so when you place them, they are instantly completed! Other rooms give you an immediate bonus upon completing, however, utility rooms will just impact end game scoring.

The next thing you do is go to your blueprint board and place your marker on the tracker to show you built that room. This is very important and I found that this step often gets forgotten. This mainly has endgame impact and backtracking to figure out which rooms you missed putting on your blueprint board is a pain so try not to forget this step!

So now it’s time to talk about what the swan symbols mean. If a tile is placed where swan colours match – the players who own the tiles each receive a swan of that colour. Grey swans are a wild colour so they can be paired with any other colour or if they are paired with another grey swan, you can pick any colour you want! In this case, the blue player now owns the utility room and they will get a red swan. No one currently owns the hallway it is attached to so no one else gets a swan. If the blue player happened to own the hallway, they still would only have received one red swan as you do not get to double dip on getting swans.

End of Turn

What? That’s your whole turn? Yup, pretty much and this is the basic action you will do for most of the game. Now you just slide room tiles to the right and then fill any empty spaces on the left side of the Room Row with tiles from the leftmost room stack.

Living Rooms

Next we will have the green player select a room tile as well but show you what happens when the room is not completed right away. Here we have the green player selecting a living room and placing it on the other side of the hallway.

So the green player places their marker white-side up to indicate the room is not complete (since there are still open entrances). Place another marker on the appropriate blueprint space and then the green swans line up so the green player will get a swan. That’s it! Turn done and you just reset the room row like we did before.

Sleeping Rooms

Time to complete another room for the blue player. This tile places nicely and gives us an opportunity to show off – you do not have to match colours when placing rooms. The blue and the purple swans do not match so it just means no one will get a swan. The blue swan colours on the other side do match so the blue player will get a blue swan and the green player will get a blue swan because sharing is caring! Again, if the blue player owned the other room they still would only get one swan.

This room is instantly completed again so the blue player will put their marker on the darkside and then get the bonus for completing this room instantly. Sleeping Rooms let you place a room tile from Room Row onto your blueprint board.

The icons on the side show different bonuses you get for placing a room tile on to them. This one makes it cheaper for purchasing rooms from the Room Row. So place the room tile diagonally like it is shown in the image above. This is a good early play because now for the rest of the game the blue player will be able to get rooms that normally cost 1 swan for zero or rooms that normally cost 2 swans for one!

Stairs

So far we have only placed rooms for the upstairs but in Palace of Mad King Ludwig you can build rooms in the basement! Let’s have the green player grab a stair tile for free and place it right away.

The light side of the stairs must line up with a light tile (the upstairs tiles) and the dark side is where you can place dark tiles (downstairs tiles). Place the player marker on the white-side on the stair tile and the green player is done! Since a room was not taken from the Room Row, you do not have to move the room row like we did on previous turns.

Downstairs

The blue player now can start building downstairs tiles. Normally, because this tile was in the third row with one swan under it – it would cost one swan to grab this tile, however, since the blue player already has the swan discount they can grab this tile for free! So put back that blue swan you were about to pay with hand of Jonny!

Normal rules here! Nothing completed so it’s white-side up on the player market and no swans go to anyone since it does not line up with any other swans.

Hallways

There’s only one other type of action left and that’s placing hallways. It’s really no different than anything else. You grab a hallway from the top of the hallway stack and place it. These can be completed like any other room but for now we have the green player placing their marker white side up and getting a blue swan.

Completing a Basement tile

Last turn I want to show you is completing a basement tile. Using another stair tile it matches up dark sides together and then you get one of the secret swans. Grab one at random and then you can look at it at any time without showing other players. If you ever use this swan for payment, you just shuffle it into the rest of the secret swans so players do not know what you’re trying to keep. This is relevant for end game scoring.

So now you know enough to keep playing. From here you can either continue with how this game was going or shuffle up the tiles and start anew!

Other Important Stuff

I have not covered everything about the game and that’s never the goal of First Turn, it’s just to get you started so you can play. I’ll quickly cover some other things but you can refer to the rulebook for more information.

Favor Tiles

I did not cover favor tiles at all on purpose because it does not really impact your early, early plays. At about this point, it’s a really good time to start considering them. These are the goals in the game that end up getting you victory points! There are public ones on the board and you can also earn secret favor tiles so that opposing players do not know what you are working for.

Swan Colours

So far Swan colours have not meant much, you can pay any swan colour for room tiles. However, they matter quite a bit for late game. You get more victory points for having complete sets of swans at the end of the game so it’s important to diversify. Also, favor tiles might make you want to have the least or the most amount of a certain colour of swan.

Moat

I won’t go through the whole rules of the moat so you really should refer to the manual for this one but basically, at a certain point in the game you will start adding a moat around the palace. Once the moat reaches completely around, the game will end! Again, this is one of the things that have no impact in the early game so I did not go over it but it’s very important later for blocking other players moves and either trying to accelerate or slow down the game.

How to Win The Game

This is simple for this game – most victory points wins! Lots of ways to collect victory points and you will discover them while playing. I suggest just trying to focus on a couple of things for your first game (like the blue player in our tutorial game could just focus on that utility room and get favor tiles).

And that’s it, you should now know how to play Palace of Mad King Ludwig. It’s a great tile placement game that plays well at two players and up to four players.

Jonny Esports (more like Jonny Bsports for this blog) is an avid gamer of both the electronic and board game varieties. When he’s not doing a Ted Mosby immpresssion, he can be heard shoutcasting various local & international tournaments or found streaming Magic Arena at Twitch.tv/jonnyesports.