Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 2 February 2016

Don't Panic Mr Mannering!:- Castle Panic

We were foolish in our hubris. We built a castle in monster lands, but thought we could fight them off. We were attacked by small forces, but we knew they could never organize an army. We shunned the barbarian tribes, knowing that we would never need such unsophisticated people. Now the monsters march in a grand army to retake their home, they are angry and we are hopeless. There isn't much time left for us, but should you find this letter then know this: You need weapons, you need allies, you need strong walls. They aren't just savage monsters, they are organized, they have leaders and they are coming!

Castle Panic is a cooperative tower defence game for 1-6 players in which you have to fight off hordes of monsters to defend your besieged castle. Every turn more monsters appear and you’ll have to use your best knights, archers and swordsmen to fight them off. You have 6 castle towers and should the monsters destroy them all then you will lose, but fight well, rebuild walls and get just a little lucky and you can fight off the last of the monsters and triumph!

You start Castle Panic with 6 towers, 6 walls just in front of them and a handful of cards that represent soldiers, bricks/mortar and special abilities you can use to fight the horde. There are three core monster types, Goblins, Orcs and Trolls, at the start of the game you will be facing 3 goblins, 2 orcs and 1 troll spaced evenly around the board. The three types have different health points, goblins at 1, orcs at 2 and trolls at 3. Monster health is recorded in a beautifully simple way, monster tokens are triangles, when the monster comes into play the highest number is pointing towards your tower. Every time you hit a monster then you rotate down so that a lower number is aiming towards your castle, this is their new health.

The game board at the start of the game, your castle sits in the center while monsters start in the archer lane of each of the 6 areas.
During each turn you draw up to your hand limit (which varies on player count) then get to trash 1 card by discarding it and drawing 1 replacement. After this you can trade 1 cards between you and another player, then you play as many cards as you want to fight off the monsters/rebuild walls. Once you’ve played your cards all monsters on the board move 1 step closer to the castle, should a monster hit into a wall/castle tower it takes 1 damage and destroys the building. Finally you draw 2 new monster tokens and roll dice to see where the monsters appear. Monsters appear in the forest where they are untouchable, so you’ll always have a turn knowing what’s coming up before you have to fight it.

Of course it’s not that simple (it never is), not every monster token is a standard monster, a handful of tokens are nasty surprises such as making more monsters appear or rolling a giant boulder towards the castle. Then there are the 4 boss monsters, an orc, a troll, a goblin and finally the healer. Each of these have special abilities when they come out varying from calling more monsters out, making monsters advance and healing all the monsters on the board! So you’ll need some good troops to fight off these bosses, but things still aren’t that simple! You see the board has 3 terrain types, each colour coded, and your troops can only fight in the terrain type trained them for, red swordsmen can’t fight goblins in the green part of the board etc. There are a few multi-coloured troops you can get which ignore such limitations, but generally you’ll need the right soldier for the job. You do have some other abilities, like combining bricks and mortar to make walls (SCIENCE!) or recruiting a barbarian to instantly kill any 1 monster on the board.

The variety of cards that you can use to fight off the monstrous hordes.
Ultimately Castle Panic is a solid game, but one that’s never quite grown on me. The game relies on a bit too much randomness for my liking and some games you’ll never have monsters arriving on, say, the red terrain meaning that you’ll find a third of your cards are useless simply due to luck off a dice roll. Similarly there isn’t really much you decide to do yourself, you have your hand but it’s rare that the best move isn’t to play every card you possibly can. I think I now know what the issue is, Castle Panic is a gateway game. It’s not meant to be played by an experienced gamer like me, but it’s a great game to play with that 12-14 year old who you want to get into gaming, the art style, the simplistic theme and the game play all lend themselves to this. Not to say that adults can’t find it fun, just expect it to be a light game and you’ll get on with it fine.


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