To The End – Castle Panic guest review

James Rowlinson is back to offer his thoughts on another game! This time he’s looking at Castle Panic from Fireside Games, a co-op with a twist.

Castle Panic is a team based tower defence game that is, in my opinion, a great way to get non-gamers into the fold with its quick to learn rules and a shared open style of game play.  It was designed by Justin De Witt published by Fireside Games and has won a number of awards since its original release in 2009.

The game sees all players working together to protect the castle walls that have been placed in the centre of the board. All manner of nasty goblins, orcs and trolls advance from the outer edges with the sole aim of pulling down your castle, and if all the inner castle walls fall everyone loses. However, if you defeat all the attacking monsters you all win but there’s always the chance that you’ll win more than your team mates…

The board is made up of rings working from the centre out: Castle ring first, then swordsmen, knights, archers and finally the forest ring. The board is also defined by three colours; red, green and blue. It is this simple colour and ring system combined with the cards that makes the game really easy to pick up even for younger players. For example, if you hold a blue knight card you can hit a monster in the blue knight section.

Primed and ready for some three-player castle defending!

At the start of the game each player is given a hand of cards, which is dependent on number of players involved. The castle walls are all in place as well as a surrounding wall to help fend of the attack, and located towards the edge of the board are the first wave of monsters, all waiting to make advance.

Each players turn is quick and easy and keeps all players in the game involved. You begin by drawing up to your hand limit, possibly do some trading, then play cards from your hand. After that it’s time to move monsters, then finally draw two new ones.

It is the limited trade card element that really brings out the planning and strategy element of this seemingly simple game. Each player knows where the Monsters that are already on the board will be for the next turn (or at least that’s the theory), for when you draw two new Monster tokens things can get a little messy. That well planned set of three upcoming turns ends up flying out the window pretty quickly…

Fending off the attacking horde is handled by playing the aforementioned cards in your hand that get replenished each turn. Along with the basic swordsmen, knights and archers in red, green, blue, some cards will let you rebuild the outer walls or fortify them. Other cards allow you to unleash a Barbarian who can slay any monster. When attacking a Monster most cards deal one point of damage; if this slays the Monster you keep the token, but  if it only wounds them you spin the token around so everyone knows how many damage points they have remaining.

Moving Monsters is easy enough; they simply all move closer to the castle, and if they’re at the walls already they try to break the wall down whilst taking one hit of damage to themselves in the process. If you have a monster in the castle ring it will start to move around the castle tearing it down wall by wall, which is particularly bad news as there’s a limited number of cards that can deal with monsters in the castle ring and those inner walls cannot be rebuilt.

When everything is done, new monsters appear, done by taking two tokens from the pile and resolving which area of the forest ring they enter by rolling a dice. All tokens need to all be dealt with to win the game; there are forty-nine in total but they’re not all monsters… and that’s when plans can go wrong. For example, you could draw a token that moves the Monsters on the board clockwise making that blue swordsman you desperately traded for to slay the troll useless, and that’s far from the worst token you could draw in the game.

That’s quite the arty close-up.

Play continues in this quick format until you have no castle left in which case you’ve all lost, so then you get to set it all up again – you don’t want to put it away having lost, right? You actually win when there are no more Monster tokens left on the board or in the draw pile – in that case whoever was the most successful player (ie: had the most Victory Points) takes home the title of Master Slayer. As you’d expect, some monsters are worth more points than others, so will you help the team or keep that card and go for glory?

In summary this is a great game with really nice components. It even has alternate rulesets that are easy to implement that will make things a little easier or a lot harder (if you need it). Should you want even more, there’s also the Wizards Tower expansion that will add even more panic to the game.

You can pick up Castle Panic right now from Gameslore for £22.99! Between one and six can play with games normally taking around an hour. Thanks to James for his write-up, and remember that you can follow him on Twitter where he’s @jrowlinson – cheers James!

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