Game: Castle Panic
When we first had the opportunity to play Castle Panic I think we’d only just played our first co-operative games – probably Pandemic and Forbidden Desert at the time. Castle Panic just seemed too easy for us and there was not enough depth so we didn’t give it a second thought. However, we recently bought a huge bundle of games locally and Castle Panic was one of the titles, so we decided to give it another chance – did it deserve it?
Castle Panic is a co-operative game for 2-6 players in which you are trying to defend your castle from a hoard of fantasy creatures (goblins, orcs and trolls) who are advancing upon the castle from the forest. The board is a series of concentric circles representing the zones around your castle – the outside ring is the forest where you cannot attack the monsters, then in the outer ring Archers can attack, in the next ring Knights can attack and in the next ring Swordsmen can attack. Your castle occupies the centre and has an outer ring of defensive walls and the inner walls are your castle tower, parts of which must remain standing at the end of the game for you to be victorious.
The board is split into 6 segments (1-6 for the 6 sides of the dice) in 3 colours. At the start of the game 6 monster tokens are drawn and placed on the board based on the roll of the dice. Players are given a number of cards as their starting hand which typically are a colour and type of defender eg. Blue Knight or Red Swordsmen. On your turn, if a monster occupies a zone for which you have a matching card you can use the card to attack if for 1HP. Goblins only have one HP, but Orcs and Trolls have two or 3 HP so must be attacked multiple times to be killed. When you’ve achieved all you can on your turn, including being given the opportunity to trade one card with another player, you advance all of the monsters forward one ring and draw and resolve two new monster tokens.
|Mid-game with elements of the castle and its walls demolished, as well as the use of fortifications to give the wall and extra hit point and tar used to slow down one monster.|
The key co-operative element of this game is the trading of cards. Trades can put you in a better position on your turn, but if you trade with the right player and plan ahead you can give another player a card which will be useful on their turn when the monsters have advanced forward. However, since some of the monster tokens can manipulate the position of the board, for example advancing forward all of the monsters or making them all move clockwise, your well thought out plans may be for nothing.
When monsters advance forward as far as your castle walls without you killing them, they first demolish the wall and are hit for 1HP. If they’re still alive they advance into the castle and demolish a tower element, also losing 1HP. It’s a very bad idea to have a monster alive at this stage as they proceed to move around the tower demolishing another wall before they die (if they ad 3 HP to begin with). There are ways to add additional defences to walls and indeed to rebuild walls using Brick and Mortar cards, but as your castle’s defences fall it makes the tower move vulnerable to attack if you don’t control the monster population. If all monsters have been killed and you still have some tower standing then you win.
|The selection of monster tokens. As well as the standard Orcs, Gobilns and Trolls there are a number of 'boss' monsters and modification tiles shown on the left.|
We’ve now played Castle Panic 4 or 5 times and won every time. Even when things have gone really badly eg. there are loads on monsters on the board and a boulder has demolished part of the castle after the first turn, we’ve still managed to win. I am aware that there are expansions which up the difficulty, which I think are a definite must if we were to keep the game, but do we want to keep it? I can honestly say that I find this game really fun and everyone who plays it always seems to be a table of people having a good time, but for me it’s just not got enough game in it. Most turns seem very obvious and you just do the best you can with the cards available to you. Especially given that we often play with two players, where the turns become even more obvious because there’s not a choice of who is best to trade with, there are just too many deeper co-operative games with the puzzly elements I enjoy.
The Yellow Meeple gives Castle Panic a 5.5/10.