Much like the Unseen University Library in Ankh-Morpork, the sunken city of Ryleh, where Cthulhu lies dreaming (ia ia), and the gap down the back of the sofa where ball-point pens, small change and hair-bobbles go when you need them, the realm of the Lead Mountain Widow exists in many places, at many different times, with many curiosities of architecture and layout beyond the ken of mortal minds. Oft times, this sojourning acrylic-prodder will turn a corner, travel inside a right angle, through the outside of an obtuse angle, and find himself in some nether realm or dungeon dimension. Through a distorted haze of caffeine-induced miasma, he might witness such abstract concepts as ‘Fun’, ‘Comradeship’ or perhaps ‘Light-hearted Entertainment’, matters that might cause great censure if discovered by the Widow Herself. Sometimes, rarely, something might leak back in. Know then, that this is one such incursion: A review of a brightly-coloured fun thing that has so far evaded the dread gaze of HER, provided by Rachel ‘DobbleShark‘ Savage & James ‘GameBoss‘ Whitehouse of that august establishment, Bake, Battle & Roll.
Design: Justin De Vitt
Game Length: Not Specified (usually takes us 45minutes)
Castle Panic is a cooperative tower defence game based around a central castle which you have built in a forest. You are surrounded by lots of monsters including the Goblins, Orcs and Trolls who live there and have been watching you as you build. Now you have trained your soldiers they have gathered an army of their own to attack.
The objective of the game is to work together to defeat the monsters and protect the castle.
After setting up the board and starting monsters, players take turns using their cards to attack and hopefully defeat the constantly advancing horde.
On a players turn they start with 6 cards, one of these can be discarded for a new card and another traded with another player (as long as they are holding a card to trade). This allows players to think several moves in advance and hopefully prepare and work together to mount an effective defence. After trading, the active player uses cards from their hand to wound monsters, rebuild or fortify walls, or use some other effects written on the cards. After this all monsters on the board advance on the castle and then it’s time for the next wave. The active player draws 2 monster tokens, rolls a d6 for each one and places it on the corresponding space. Of course not all monster tokens are the same, some have effects like killing one type of soldier, making you draw yet more tokens or frustratingly moving all of the monsters one extra step closer to the castle. After this play continues to the next player and so on.
At the beginning of each players turn they draw cards to refill their hand to 6. This is important because if you have played all of your cards you will have nothing to trade with others players. The game continues until either your castle is completely destroyed or you are able to defeat every monster on the board.
Thematic Ties: This game has strong if somewhat generic thematic ties to a fantasy kingdom. That said part of it’s charm is that it doesn’t try too hard. Castle Panic utilises this theme well through it’s gameplay and design.
Score: Rachel 9/10 James 7/10
The Box: The Castle Panic box gives a clear picture of the theme of the game, and it is eye catching, often being one of the first games customers in our games cafe look at. The box shows it has won several awards without crowding the overall design.
Components: the main board for the game is well made and lays flat when unfolded. The 6 monster zones (or arcs) are clearly visible over the simple but colourful background design. There are player crib sheets on the board which cover all of the useful information you might need during a game. This made the turn order cards somewhat redundant. The games cards are full sized and feature the castle panic logo on the back. The information on the front is clear and simple to follow.
The Cardboard: The 49 monster tokens are made from thick tough card stock with nicely rendered monsters. It would be nice to see some variety in the images however as all the monsters are identical. Keeping track of the monsters health points is a simple matter of rotating the token clockwise. The walls and castle pieces are made of the same thick card stock as the tokens and are printed with a simple brick design. Additional fortifications tokens fit nicely over the wall pieces. The only slight complaint James has is the plastic stands are flimsy and become loose quickly.
Score: Rachel 8/10 James 7/10
We have played this game several times and find that because we are randomly drawing tiles the game plays differently each time. Castle panic plays well with 2 players but we have found it gets progressively more difficult with more players although more trading is allowed in a 6 player game which mitigates this a little. We haven’t played this game with 1 player but imagine it would be a challenge (the rule book confirms this). The rulebook also contains several variations on the main rules which we will definitely be trying out soon.
Score: Rachel 9/10 James 9/10
Our average game lengths have been about 30-45 minutes which has always felt like about the right amount of time for this game. Although we haven’t always defeated the monsters the end of the game has never felt too soon and win or lose it usually comes down to the last few tokens.
Score: Rachel 9/10 James 8/10
Ease of Play:
Castle Panic is a quick to learn game with a simple, accessible mechanic. Having the turn order visible help new players run through their actions without needing to constantly refer to the rulebook. Due to the simplicity of the gameplay this is a game we find quick and simple to teach to customers, even those new to gaming. The majority of people who have played it have enjoyed it.
Score: Rachel 8/10 James 9/10
Tactics and Strategy:
This game relies heavily on luck as you will be drawing random cards and tokens which have a big impact on the game board. This is mitigated to some extent by the ability to plan ahead and trade cards with other players. That said random tokens can always show up and instantly ruin those plans.
Score: Rachel 5/10 James 3/10
If its grand strategy you are looking for, this isn’t it. But if you are looking for a simple, fun but challenging game and don’t mind the luck element. This is definitely one we would recommend.
If you would like to have a crack at the Castle yourself, or challenge the DobbleShark and Gameboss to any of a broad swathe of games the details and opening times for Bake, Battle and Roll are here. Be warned, you might encounter the Widow, the Scribe or their Spiderlings within. Other games that fall broadly within the purview of this site will no doubt be reviewed in future. (So things with Orcs, or Castles and so on. You know what we like.)
Harken. we hear even now the shrieks of rage from some high pinnacle-chamber of the Mountain, the demands to attend her needs forthwith. The time for ‘jollity’ and ‘coffee’ is at an end, and this scribe must scuttle back to more familiar and grim pathways, clutching this morsel of technicolour tight to his chest, keeping it secret and safe from her roving eyes. Mayhaps in future, our wanderings might yet lead us to discover more such ‘reviews’….
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