The castle is in danger. All sorts of evil creatures gather around. It does not matter, why this is happening, even though they say a story about a dark magician, who went out for magical sword Mortimer. This shiny weapon is in possession of a local king and is told to have mystical powers to cut through any rock. That myth might be true and it might me a legend. It depends not only on facts, but also on the outcome of the battle. And if it were true and Mortimer exists, its owner would be unstoppable conqueror and one castle after another would bow before him. He would be worshiped, because all castles are made of stone.
But hordes of orcs, trolls and goblins do not know, that inside the castle, there is a crew determined to stop their attack by any means necessary. The king offered the hand of his daughter to the man, who will command the defense lines to victory. Fortifications are built, the men are determined. The first stone catapult has hit the wall. All sides of the fort are swarmed by monsters. It’s time to fight.
The story tells of the castle defense such as is also boardgame Castle Panic. Its author is Justin De Witt and you will see the same name also, when it comes to graphics. Nevertheless, the designer needed also help from Anne-Marie De Witt with its development. This woman is an author of a nice family game Bears! (review), which we have already had the opportunity to review. And similarly with Castle Panic, its distributed by Fireside Games publishing house and focuses with gameplay on families.
Castle Panic has a fairytale theme and is prepared so, that it could be played by players of all ages. The box lid will welcome you with picture of grim monster (the troll with helmet). Its bloodthirsty eyes will draw your attention. The whole game is presented in a simple animated graphics. But now it’s time to delve into the contents of the box, because you are certainly burning with curiosity.
You will find a game board in the box. It is built from four circles divided into six slices grouped by two into three colors – grass green, water blue and red arid lands. They are directly connected to six walls of the castle, which lies in the middle.
But in addition to the board, you will need also other parts. The first is a package of 49 cards, which represent defenders of the castle. In fact, the crew of fighters is even a little smaller, because this deck contains also workers for erecting fortifications. Luckily, there is still enough swordsmen, knights and archers left to stand up to green monsters.
There is also 49 triangular chips with numbers in their corners. But you have to liberate all monsters from the captivity of their prison – cardboard sheets. We recommend putting them into a canvas bag, which is not included. It better this way, than to turn them face down each game. This way you can easily draw random tokens.
Another six cards can players distribute among themselves, because they resemble the course of turn. But there are a bit useless, because the list of events is displayed also on the board. Fortunately, this does not detract from the clarity and contrast of the board, which mades everything visible at first sight. This list does not take up too many space on the board. You’ll still need a few other chips to play – pieces for wall fortification, tar and die. Final tiles in the game is building of the castle itself – walls and towers, which you should defend. Packaging includes also plastic holders, in which you plant the pieces.
Preparation of the game is really simple, just as a family game should be. The center of the table is taken by a board. In its centre, you build your castle walls and towers inside. On each of the six edges of the castle hexagon, you build a wall and put one tower beneath it. Altogether your six-sided castle has six towers, where are children and women hidden inside. Until at least one still stands, you have a chance to win and to save your citizens.
Players get few cards into their hands from shuffled defensive deck. This number depends on number of players – with two number is six for each, in more is lowers to five or four. You must now place the first invaders near the castle. These form the vanguard of the enemy army. Before you shuffle the monster tokens (or put them in a bag), you should find three goblins, two orcs and one troll. These sixs monsters are now scattered randomly around the board – each of six sectors gets one of them. You should lie them in a way, that the maximum number (lives) on their token points towards the castle. Each monster in the game begins its journey in the outermost circle, which is called forest.
All other creatures tokens are shuffled and you lay them on the table with the picture down and black side with eyes up. Or you should use our recommended bag. In addition there will remain also the other tokens next to the board, that will come into play later, for example tar token.
Castle Panic, however, can be played in several ways, depending on what experience you want from this game. All variants have the same preparation, but a different course. You can play a purely cooperative game, or you can work together and find the best fighter along the way. Or one of players can assume the role of Overlord and lead the attacking army. He will have the opportunity to command all the monsters and send them against the castle walls.
But we will describe only the basic variant of the game here, where players cooperate, but in the end, one still becomes a “bigger winner” and a hero. He gains most trophies in form of a slain enemy tokens. During the game turns, players can make so many actions, as they are allowed by their cards. All cards are visible during the game – remember, this is a cooperative game! But you will not be always able to play nearly all cards at once, as you will see in a moment.
But first, at the beginning of each turn, player draws up to the starting number of cards. Then one card can be changed with the deck depending on luck of the draw. Then one other card may be exchanged with teammates. This is a very important phase of turn, because as monsters move, they change your ability to hurt them. Therefore, it is really essential to exchange cards well, because each circle can be reached only by certain warriors from your army. Most of the time you can change only one card per turn, so you have to think well, which one is the best choice.
Now it’s time to finally play some cards and attack the monsters around the castle. You can be glad, that you have a first strike, but do not worry, they will answer to your attack in a moment. If you look at the game board properly, you will find, that each monster has its own position coordinate – colored slice triangle (green, blue, red) and the circle, in which monster stands with text on it. These two pieces of information designate together a coordinate, which you need to play, to hit the monster – for example, if the attacker is in the outermost circle labeled “archer”, you can attack him only with archer of the color on corresponding triangle. The card of a defending fighter has the color illustrated with colorful polka dots on sides of its name.
You can play more cards from your hand, as long as you have correct coordinates, where some attackers are located. For each played cards you injure one enemy at that position for one point of life. The goblins will be removed from the game with just one hit. But other creatures have more lives – orcs have two and trolls three. Therefore whenever you injure one of them, you turn the chip 120 degrees round so the next lower number point towards the castle. It shows the current health of monster.
With playing cards, your turn basically ends and now is time for monsters to react. All creatures, which survived your attack, will be moved one circle closer to the castle. In addition to the movement, the game will come with two new monsters, which are randomly drawn from available tokens in a bag. Place to put the monster is simply specified by a six-sided dice, which will determine one of the six positions in forest, where the monster will wait and prepare itself for the attack in the next rounds. You can prepare for it, because scouts have reported movement in this area of forest.
But soon there will come a situation, when some of the monsters arrive next to your castle walls, and you will not succeed in repelling them with swordsmen. In their next move, they will move forward again and use all their strength to break down your wall and get into your castle! But this effort costs them one life, and if it was their last, the monster is removed from the game. But either way, he left your castle vulnerable to further attacks! If there are more enemies in this place, they may run into the castle in the next round and begin dismantling you towers! Again, demolition of one tower means sacrificing one life of a monster.
Monsters numbers gradually increase with each draw (but most of the time you draw two monsters at each end of turn) and you are again lowering their strength, as you succeed in killing them in advance. In the course of the tokens, you can also draw some enemy events, like a rolling stone, which breaks down a wall or discard all cards of one type from players hand.
Battle for castle ends in two ways. Players lose, when last tower falls down and therefore their citizens have no refuge to hide from the monsters. Or players win, if they manage to resist the whole raid. Once the castle is left with not a single enemy on plain, and also no monster is left in supply, players have successfully defended their stronghold. The best fighter is the one, whose value of killed creatures is the highest.
Castle Panic is excellent family entertainment, offering a simple cooperative fun for all. Castle defense is a topic close to everyone (you can only look at popularity of Android applications). With the added touch of fantasy, which is further developed in expansion, the game adds to the fairy tale theme. And that’s good, because you probably play this game often with children.
Difficulty is adjusted very well and you will often sweat under the onslaught of monsters. Sometimes you experience close games, where you are only a single strike from losing. But fortunately you can always rebuild the demolished walls and try to defend the last remaining tower. And sometimes you will get help from special cards like hero (he can attack at any position in the arc of its color) or a barbarian, who kills one monster instantly.
But most of Castle Panic playing time is spent on planning and communication between players. Because it is a cooperative game, players have all their cards face up and are together trying to figure out a way, how to succeed best. Yes, it can be often used by more dominant players and the others would only look and could be bored. But that is same with most of cooperative games. But here players also have to think for themselves and their trophies to be the best fighter to win the game. This is how the game manages to lower the influence of one player telling the other what to do.
But the successful end is far at that moment. A time, when monsters are in hordes running towards your castle, you will not think only for yourself. The good tactic is to use as many cards every move, as possible. And the player should use lot of card exchanges. Of course you need also a little luck, so that monsters are well spread over the board. If you have troops attacking on one side, you will have hard times to resist them. You do not have so many cards of one color available.
Castle Panic is excellent in all numbers of players, because they differ in the number of cards in players hands. Thus the chances are equal. Players also have limited possibility of exchanging cards with each other, so even with more defenders, the game is not simple.
Great news is that every option to play the game is good. Whether you are totally focused on the common victory, where players do not collect trophies, or when you are playing a little on for yourself and the master slayer title. The variant without winner in the end is better for playing with children, because you do not have to deal with who has won in the end. Victory and defeat are shared together as a team. The more difficult is, when players are conspiring against one Overlord and his monsters. Bad guy has a choice available of the three monsters, that he can send to you.
Castle Panic provides great family fun. On top of it, you do not have to play a single winner variant, but all together can win or lose as a team. Nice fairytale illustration and theme, simple rules and quick playtime will guarantee amusement for a long time.
+ fairytale art
+ suitable for the whole family
+ cooperative family game
+ three options to play
+ lots of communication
+ balanced difficulty
+ tense, with the right amount of luck
- it is still possible, for one dominant player to ruin the whole match, telling others, what to do