Thursday, June 8, 2017

Castle Panic and Expansions Review


Quick Look:

Info:
Designer: Justin De-Witt
Artist: Justin De-Witt
Publisher: Fireside Games
Year Published: 2009
No. of Players: 1-6
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 60 minutes
Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com
The goblins are coming, the goblins are coming, and they are wearing red coats...? Wait a minute, I think I am mixing up my stories.

Well there are goblins coming, in fact the forest seems to be spitting out goblins, orcs, and trolls at an alarming rate and they are headed straight for the castle! Can you summon your knights, swordsmen, and archers in time to defend the walls and towers of this great castle? I guess we will find out in Castle Panic.

Castle Panic is a cooperative/simi-cooperative game for one to six players who are trying to defend their castle from the onslaught of creatures pouring out of the forest surrounding them. The tools at their disposal include swordsmen, knights, bowman, and heroes ready to lend a hand and lay waste to the vial scum invading their lands. I mentioned simi-cooperative above because players, although working together, are also still vying to become the Master Slayer by personally defeating as many creatures as they can.

Let's find out a little more...

Game Play Overview:

For the purpose of this overview I will mostly describe the base game and general play with some details from the expansions here and a little more later.

Set up can take a little time in Castle Panic, but it is well worth it. We aren't talking Twilight Imperium III or anything, but it is certainly more time than a game of UNO and it gets longer with each added expansion. A good storage solution can help speed this process up quite a bit.

Players will take the game board and place it in the middle of the table with the castle walls arranged in the center (see image below). The monster tokens are shuffled and either placed face down near by or put inside a draw bag which is the method I prefer. Six starting monsters are then placed around the outside of the board in the "Archer" ring (not the forest ring as shown below). The Castle cards are shuffled and each player is dealt a certain number depending on the amount of players with the remaining cards placed face down next to the board to form a draw pile. Lastly place the tar and fortify tokens (and many others included in the expansions) along with the dice close by and you are ready to go.


Each expansion changes the set up a little for example the Wizard's Tower expansion you add some monsters (and take some away), add a deck of  Wizard cards, add some extra tokens, and switch out one of the towers with the Wizard's Tower. As I mentioned above this is where the time for set up starts getting longer.

Once the game is set up and ready to go players will take turns doing the following six basic actions:

1) Draw up. Players will draw cards from the castle deck (or other decks with the expansions) into their hand until they reach the hand limit which is based on the number of players.
2) Discard and Draw 1 Card. The player may now discard one of his cards and draw a new one from the castle deck (or other decks with the expansions).
3) Trade Cards. At this phase the player can trade one or more cards (depending on the number of players) with another player. It is a great way to get the right cards into your hand.
4) Play Cards. The player may now play any number of cards in order to attack monsters, repair walls, cast spells (Wizards Tower expansion), etc... To do so they must play the matching unit and color for the location the monster they are attacking is in. For example if a goblin is in the red archer ring the player must play a red archer or red hero to attack. There are other special cards that will let the player do this as well, but this is the basic concept. Each time a monster is hit it gets rotated until it's health is at zero at which time the player who dealt the final blow will take the token into her stash for end of game scoring.
5) Move Monsters. Now the monsters get to move one step closer (or more with certain monster types) towards the castle. Monsters are moved from the outer rings to the inner ones ever closer to the castle walls. If a monster hits a wall that wall is destroyed and the monster takes a hit. If there is no wall the monster enters the castle ring where on the next turn it will move clockwise and take out any towers in it's way.
6) Draw New Monsters. Players will now draw two new monsters from the monster draw pile. The players then rolls the dice to determine what section of forest the monster will appear in and place the token there.

Once a player has done all six steps play goes to the player on the left. This continues until one of two things happen:
1) The monsters have destroyed all the towers (players loose). Boo!
OR
2) The players have gone through ALL the monsters in the draw pile (players win). Yay!

At the end of the game a final count of monsters tokens is done to determine who is the Master Slayer and the winner of the game.

There are many alternative play modes including a cool, one verses all, Overlord mode!

Review:

There is a lot going on in Castle Panic, however I have tried to simplify the rules in the description above to give you a feel for the general flow of the game. There are exceptions to the rules and the expansions multiply that by a lot which is why the reference cards and rules come in handy during play. Let's look at those expansions a little closer now.

Wizard's Tower:
What's new? The Wizard's Tower itself which allows players to draw and use cards from the Wizard's deck. These are new powerful spells used to annihilate the advancing hordes, however if the tower gets knocked out so does the players ability to draw from the Wizard's deck. Now, as with everything in this world, every action has is an equal and opposite reaction. In Castle Panic Wizard's Tower it comes in the form of new diabolical monsters including six new Mega Boss Monsters with a lot of hit points and abilities! We also get introduced to fire in this expansion which can be harmful not only to the monsters but the players as well.

The Dark Titan:
The Dark Titan was the second expansion in the series and introduced the hardest challenge to date - Agranok! Agranok (I am assuming to be the Dark Titan) is a powerful creature that gets summoned onto the board through the Heralds and then proceeds to lay waste to your castle. Not only is he powerful the Heralds that summon him cause effects each time one is drawn making life even more difficult. Now as I mentioned above there are equal reactions, and so it is for this expansion. Let me introduce to you the Cavalier, an ally that can move freely around the board to eliminate threats. Use him wisely and he can help turn the tide of the war. We also see the introduction of other support tiles like the Reserve Squad, Stonemason's Cart, and Supply Wagon. These are are useful in rebuilding walls, and adding cards to your hand.

Engines of War:
The last expansion for Castle Panic is Engines of War, although I am hoping to see more. Keep em coming Fireside!!! In Engines of War we get another new deck of cards - Resources. These replace the brick and mortar cads in the main castle deck as you will now use them along with the Engineer to build equipment, traps, walls, barricades etc...  As usual if something good is added it must mean something bad is coming. Yep, this time it is the monsters turn to get siege equipment (battering rams, war wagons, siege towers, and encampments) all of which give the monsters killer advantages. Oh and we might as well throw in some new monsters to keep you on your toes.

Like I said once you add  in all the expansions there is a lot going on. The cool thing is that you can add one, two, or all three at once, or if you like you can mix and match. There are infinite possibilities and replayability with Castle Panic and the three expansions.

So what do I think?

Castle Panic on it's own is a very fun light cooperative tower defense game. Castle Panic with the expansions is a MEGA AWESOME cooperative tower defense experience!!! I say experience because like most co-op games players are sent on a roller coaster of emotions throughout the course of the game. Things can get pretty tense when you are down to a few monster tokens in the bag and only one tower in play.

As with many co-op games don't expect to win every time it won't happen. Due to the randomness of the game you could draw a whole lot of monsters on a single turn that can't be dealt with no matter what you do. But hey loosing is part of the charm and challenge of Castle Panic. If you are like me you will want to play again right after you loose.

As you can see from above the actions players take on there turn are very simple. Most the time the hard part is remembering to do them all. Although simple there are some decent choices to be made; do you discard a card and hope a better one comes up, does someone have something to trade that will help everyone out, do you take out that little monster to get the points at the end of the game or work on the bigger monster who is about to knock down your walls?

Luckily the decisions are not so difficult that younger players won't be able to enjoy the game, my boys love it! Although I will say my 7 year-old does get a little bored if the game takes too long (but that is the case with most games we play). I have also found that people who don't necessarily like fantasy themed games enjoy this one as well as the game play makes it very accessible to all.

As you can tell from the photos Castle Panic oozes with a rich fantasy theme. Sometimes this isn't a good thing because mechanics can suffer, but that isn't the case here. The well thought out mechanics are a perfect marriage with the theme and it is easy to become immersed in this world.

The artwork ties the mechanics and theme together very nicely and the components are top notch. Everything is so well done and looks so fun when it's out on the table, a head turner for sure. There are also upgrade pieces for the walls and towers you can can get on ETSY and other websites that makes the game look even better.








So is Castle Panic perfect? No. Like most cooperative games Castle Panic can suffer from Alpha player syndrome (where on player takes over the game and directs everyone else). But like the others this can be mitigated by not allowing players to communicate as much or not sharing all the information.

I also mentioned above that some games can go longer than the 60 minutes (outlined on the box) which might be a turn off to some. Honestly for me it is only a problem for my 7 year-old, I don't mind longer games.

Final Thoughts:
Castle Panic on it's own can be a good gateway cooperative game for anyone who has not experienced one before. With the expansions Castle Panic becomes this amazing fun experience that can be enjoyed by novices and experienced players alike. I love this game as it is just plain fun, a great experience from start to finish. Mentally it isn't Chess but it does have some good choices that can keep players on their toes, and can often be a nail bitter coming down to the wire!

Castle Panic has been on my self for years and will continue to stay there for many more to come.

Players Who Like:
Players who like cooperative games like Pandemic and Flash Point Fire Rescue and tower defense games in general will love love love Castle Panic and all the fun expansions.


Check out Castle Panic and Expansions on:

                 

Get your copy of Castle Panic and the expansions at your FLGS or online.

About the Author:


My name is Dane Trimble I am the Advertising Manager for a national magazine by day and a husband, father of four, and board gamer by night (and mornings). I have a passion for board games as I believe board games help bring families closer together while providing kids a unique way to learn many diverse skills. And they are down right fun!!!

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