Monday, January 28, 2013

Castle Panic Written Review


Fireside Games/1-6 Players/Ages 10 and up/Play Time: 60 minutes

Have fun defending the castle.

Castle Panic is a family game where players work cooperatively to defend the castle walls from a horde of oncoming monsters.  Through careful planning, smart trading, and some sheer luck you just might succeed!

The Board

Inside the box you will find a nice, durable board.  The layout is simple, and once you are familiar with the rules it will just “click” and make sense.  I also like how the developers have included some necessary information (order of play and special rules for the “boss” monsters) at the corners of the board.  It is easy to read these rules, but they are out of the way enough so as not to detract from the visual appeal.

Besides the board, you will find two types of cards: the player aid card (always nice for newbies) and the action cards.  All cards are of average quality, with a slightly cartoony but fitting art style.

Finally, you have the cardboard playing pieces.  There are the castle pieces themselves, six towers and six outer walls, which have plastic bases you attach to help them stand upright.  Then there are the monster tokens and a few other “special” pieces such as tar and wall fortifiers.

The Game

The board is set up with six sections spread out in a hexagon.  Each of these sections are color coordinated (green, blue, and red).  There are two parts of the hexagon in each color.  To set up the board, players must place their six castle towers in the center of the board to form a hexagon.  Next, you set up the castle’s outer walls around said tower.  This is the castle that everyone will work together to protect.

After doing this, a monster is placed at the outer edge of the playing field in each section.  You start with three goblins, two orcs, and one troll.  However, as the game goes on, more and more monsters will be introduced, and they will march upon the castle, trying to destroy it.

The monsters start out in the forest.  After each turn the monsters move one space closer to the castle beginning with the “Archer” ring, followed by the “Knight” ring, and then, finally, the “Swordsman” ring.  After that they will be right up against your castle wall, which they will destroy.  Once that happens, they will be inside your castle and will begin destroying your tower.  If they manage to make it all the way to the center of the board, through your defensive outer wall, and then wreck all six towers, you lose the game.
Luckily you have some defenses!  Each player has cards in his or her hand that can be used to attack the beasts.  You might, for instance, have a “Blue Archer.”  This card can be played to hit (or kill, depending on the monster’s strength) a monster in the blue “Archer” ring.  A “Green Knight?”  Play him to hit a monster in the green “Knight” ring.  You get the idea.
Your turn goes something like this:

            1.         Draw Cards until you have a full hand (this varies depending on the number of players);
            2.         Discard a card and draw one (in case you have nothing good to play);
            3.         Trade cards with another player;
            4.         Play as many cards as you can;
            5.         Move all monsters up one ring closer to the castle; and
            6.         Draw and place two new monsters on the board.

As you can see, unless you kill several monsters EVERY turn (not likely), you will soon have a board full of beasts.  This is why it is very important to play together as a team.  If all of the monsters are in the “Archer” ring and I have no archers then I need to trade for one.  And maybe, if I’m lucky, I can make sure that whatever I give in return will play when it is THAT player’s turn.  You really need to plan ahead and play cards carefully.

On top of all of this, there are special ability cards and stronger boss monsters that add to the strategy and challenge.

The Verdict

I really enjoy this game.  It is a game that plays well with all ages.  The strategy is somewhat light, but it is there.  I also like the fact that it plays up to six people, since I usually have five in my gaming group.  Both my children and friends enjoy it.

The components are nice.  It consists of lots of cardboard, but the artwork is fitting.  I personally would have preferred plastic towers or monster figurines.

As far as cons?  I suppose children might get frustrated if they lose too often (which can happen).  At the same time, “hardcore” gamers might find it a bit too easy.  If you enjoy cooperative games then you should definitely check it out.

Final Score:  7 out of 10


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