As my prize for winning the FeldCon meta-game, I received The Towers of Burgundy from Meeple Realty. It’s a laser-cut wooden insert designed to store a copy of The Castles of Burgundy plus assorted expansions within the original game box, while also cutting down set-up time when getting the game to the table.
First of all let me point out that there is bolded text on Meeple Realty’s product page for this insert that states “Please note that this insert is difficult to assemble will require extra effort and time” and that their Etsy page states “This is a challenging insert to assemble, but not too difficult!” These warnings should not be ignored. What I would ignore is the hopeful 45-minute assembly time that both pages provide.
I’m no stranger to the laser-cut insert: this was the 4th insert in my collection from Meeple Realty & I also have a number of the Broken Token ones. I have happily given Meeple Realty my money in the past, & likely will again as they continue to release new inserts for favoured games. That being said, I spent the entire time I was working on this particular one cursing the damn thing, and even now, I’m not sure it was actually worth it. So let’s break it down:
- Once put together, the insert is solid as a rock. The box lid slides into place easily over the tiles and tokens to keep them in place for vertical storage. I’m certainly not worried about this one falling apart, despite the fact that I didn’t use a single drop of glue while putting it together.
- It comes with four adorable dice towers, one for each player to use during a game, that also double as storage for the player pieces. They certainly add some table presence to a very beige game, and I enjoyed using them during a recent play, even if they did have a tendency to fire the dice out fast enough to risk messing up my board. I also coloured part of the laser-etched logo on each tower to designate which player colour was inside without having to open them, and it makes them even more adorable in my opinion.
- The tile box can easily be set next to the main board to hold the silverlings & workers at hand and make it easy to restock the hexagonal tiles round to round. It’s too tightly packed to have more than one person reach into the box at the same time while setting up a new round, but that shouldn’t really be a huge issue.
- There’s plenty of space for expansion tiles and boards in the box. I have the monastery boards, the 2nd expansion, and the Pleasure Gardens expansion stored in with my game & there’s still plenty of space. That being said, note my further comment on how this is accomplished in “The Bad” section.
- It’s an absolute pain to put together. The design is fiddly as all get out & the directions aren’t the clearest, as evidence by the number of comments on its product page from people who clearly installed some pieces at an incorrect angle, rendering their insert unable to close. You’ll definitely want to have a sharp blade and sandpaper at hand to modify tabs and slots so they’ll actually go together. Of particular note, there are 14 super narrow strips to install on an angle in the bottom of the tile tray. These are super annoying as they don’t want to fit and threaten to either snap or push out pieces you’ve already put together. I eventually got mine in after hammering the bejeezus out of it, but there are still some obvious gaps where things didn’t want to cooperate.
- Sure it holds expansion tiles, but since there are only enough dividers for the base game, your only real option is to mix them in with all of the other tiles. I like to keep mine separate so I have the option of adding just what I want to play with on a particular day; Meeple Realty clearly feels differently. I ended up combining the ship and mine tiles into one row so that I could at least have a tiny expansion section, but it still bugs me that tiles from two different expansions are mixed together.
- You can’t easily shuffle tiles within the insert. My previous storage solution had the same issue so it’s not a deal-breaker for me. But I can see why some people prefer to use custom drawbags to ensure a good randomization of tiles. I just assume mine get shuffled around when being sorted back into the box to be honest.
- On that note, while the insert does make set-up pretty quick, it definitely took longer to put away due to the hexagonal tiles having to be aligned correctly in order to fit down into their slots.
- This last point is something of a quibble, but it’s really bugged me about Meeple Realty’s instructions. The final page was completely blank, and I would have loved for that page to have had a diagram showing a suggested storage layout. I hate referring to the company’s website to see how they designed the insert to hold my components, and have loved when an insert has told me, either with etching on the pieces or a handy diagram included in the instructions.
- I’ve noticed one consistent issue with Meeple Realty inserts – they get damaged as you remove parts from the sprues to the inconsistent cutting. The newer products seem to have less issues, but they still seem to splinter way more than their competitors products. This one was particularly awful. I had more than one piece that wasn’t cut through at all in areas and so snapped or broke when I was removing it from the sprues. If you do decide to take on the Towers of Burgundy, make sure you have a good blade handy and check every single edge of a piece before you start to pop it out!
- I also had pieces that appeared to fit together okay, suddenly decide that they didn’t once I moved to another stage of construction. In one case, some tabs shifted & suddenly I ended up with the damage shown below. I can live with it, but it’s aggravating everytime I see it.
So what do I think now that it’s all over. I really like how the insert looks and the towers are adorable, that goes without question. But I’m also glad that I won the insert and so, didn’t pay for it. My previous solution was a $3 GMT token tray that looked good and worked beautifully, and I find it hard to say if this is any better. It comes down to the same thing I’ve said about most, if not all, of my Meeple Realty purchases: the design work is amazing and they look way more interesting than other inserts out there, but they don’t quite live up to the quality of the competition.
If you’re willing to pay the $25 & put in the fiddly, frustrating work to assemble it, then go for it – it’s a solid insert once constructed, the individual dice towers are neat, & everything is held beautifully in place. Just watch out for splinters!
The Towers of Burgundy insert can be purchased here for $24.99 plus shipping.