Thursday, February 2, 2017

Castle Panic (Fireside Games)

Cooperative games are one of my favorite games to play with my family. For one, I am part of an overly competitive family, so it is a nice break from trying to crush each other and work together. And for two, it means I can let younger family members play, because even though they will need a little help, it's not like I am helping them to win at my detriment, I am helping them to win for the good of us all. With all that said, I would like to tell you about one of my favorite cooperative games - Castle PanicCastle Panic is a game for 1 to 6 players, ages 10+. It has three expansions for it - The Wizard's Tower, The Dark Titan, and Engines of War, which raises the age to 12+ but keeps the player count at 6. As opposed to telling you about the setup and game play, I want to tell you about what the base game contains and what each expansion adds to it.
Castle Panic Base Game
6 Towers
6 Walls
2 Fortify Tokens
1 Tar Token
49 Monster Tokens
49 Castle Cards
The Wizard's Tower
1 Wizard's Tower (Replaces one of the Walls from the Base game)
49 Monster Tokens (19 New Monsters, 18 Imps, and 6 Mega Bosses)
10 Castle Cards (Supplements the deck from the Base game)
22 Wizard Cards (Forms a new deck to draw cards from
12 Flame Tokens (Burn the monsters or have your Castle burned)
The Dark Titan
1 Agranok Token (Ultimate Boss)
5 Agranok Cards (Decide your difficulty level for the above boss)
3 Support Tokens (Deal damage, build walls, or draw cards)
1 Cavalier Token (Roaming piece who will fight monsters for you)
17 Monster Tokens (New monsters to kill)
5 Castle Cards (Supplements the deck even further)
Engines of War
1 Keep Token (New building placed in the center of your Towers)
1 Catapult Token (Weapon to mount on your Keep)
1 Ballista Token (Weapon to mount on your Keep)
2 Spring Trap Tokens
2 Pit Tokens
2 Barricade Tokens
1 Engineer Tile (Used to build all the goodies listed above)
16 Resource Cards (New deck to build the goodies above)
11 Monster Tokens

Game Review of the Base Game
Castle Panic by itself is a fun game for the whole family. The rules and mechanics are simple enough that kids and adults can easily pick up the game, even younger than age 10 (the recommended age). The board is also colorful and both boldly and clearly labeled, which adds to the easy learning curve. The castle and wall pieces are simple cardboard standees, but it adds an visually appealing 3-D element to the game and is devastating to watch them be destroyed and removed from the game board. What I really love about this game are the monster tokens. For starters, when you have to draw a new one, you hope you don't become overwhelmed by a powerful one or too many in one region. It is also just so much fun rotating the monster's health down to zero. Again, this is a simple mechanic, but so rewarding. I know I used the word simple a lot in my review, but I mean that as nothing but positive, because even though a game may have beautiful simplicity it can still present a challenge to defeat.

Review of the Expansions
The Wizard's Tower adds a very powerful ally to the game - Thalgar the Wizard. In exchange for one of your towers, you construct his tower instead and with it a formidable deck of spells (as long as his tower still stands). You will need all his tricks too, because in addition to a horde of low level Imps, (which can be summoned by other monsters), you have many new monsters to deal with...some of which cause fire damage. You also have six Mega Bosses added to the game (only playing with three per game), which have non-predictable movement and devastating abilities.

The Dark Titan adds the ultimate villain - Agranok. Agranok comes with several difficulty cards, so you can pick how difficult you want him to be or randomly choose and let the fates decide! There are also some support tokens and a Cavalier who will ride around to help you defeat monsters approaching your castle. As powerful as Agranok is, you also have to watch out for the Elite Monsters he brings with him. These monsters require you to roll a die before attacking them. If you roll a 1 or 2, you fail and waste the card you were going to play. Hope you have lucky dice rolls, because a one in three chance you'll fail is very high.

Lastly, Engines of War provides you with physical tools to defeat your enemies. Instead of having resources randomly mixed in your Castle Deck, you now have a very small Resource Deck and an engineer who can fortify a crumbling Castle, attach weaponry to a Keep, and lay out some strategics devices to slow and cripple your enemy. However, if you focus too heavily on the resources, you will find they quickly dwindle and you disappear, perhaps when you need them most. However, don't think that you have the upper hand now, the Monsters have their own barbaric weapons including battering rams, siege towers, and war wagons.

Final Review
The base game of Castle Panic is truly a family game. It is not winnable 100% of the time, but it is an easier game and a more forgiving game. I would describe it as the quintessential family cooperative game. Yes, there are variants - 1. Most monsters killed is ultimate winner, 2. One person plays as the monsters, and 3. Starting with fewer castles, but even with all these, it is still just a family game, and more serious gamers will bore of the game quickly. Thankfully, the expansions elevate this game to a real gamer's game. They add depth, replay value, and new difficulties. They also are great in that you can mix and match them. Want to just fight Agranok? Only add The Dark Titan. Want the full experience? Add them all and see if you can survive. Castle Panic has been around eight years, but in the past two years has added two expansions. I'm curious if this is the end of the line or if there will be more in the pipeline. Either way, it is a game that has a proud place on my shelf and one I still look forward to playing whenever someone suggests it.

The expansions were provided to me for free by Fireside Games in exchange for an honest review.