What is Castle Panic?
Castle Panic is a cooperative game which sees players defend a tower and its surrounding, protective walls from a hoard of monsters who emerge from forests ringing the play area.
I love cooperative games. They give games a new dimension and a whole new way of playing, and Castle Panic is among the best I’ve played. True to form with the games I pick, it looks great, and while everything is fairly basic cardboard and plastic, a lot of thought has gone into the theme.
For a long time it was on my wish list, but despite reading great reviews I held off on it. I think the problem was I once read it described as a great game for kids, and that put me off. But eventually on a trip to The Travelling Man in Manchester (a shop I’ll review in the future) I bought it on impulse.
Castle Panic can be played as a one-player game. It felt very strange doing this, but when you’re dad to a busy 18-month-old you have to fit your fun into whatever gaps you can and it meant I was in a great position to teach my wife afterwards.
It took a few minutes to learn the rules – in a great touch these are also printed round the edge of the board.
Each player starts with a hand of cards. Most of these represent a defender of the castle – archers, knights and swordsmen.
The board is divided into six numbered zones, with rings like a dart board representing the archers, knights and swordsman areas – so archers can attack monsters in the outermost ring, knights the middle ring, and swordsmen closest to the walls. There are also three colours, green blue and red.
So if you have a red archer in your hand, and there is a monster in the red archer ring, you can hit him for one hit point.
Meanwhile, each turn you draw two monster tiles, which are placed on the board’s numbered areas, in an outer forest ring. So you roll a dice, and pop the monster into the forest in the numbered zones I mentioned earlier.
All monsters on the board move forward a ring each turn, making their way closer to your castle. This is where the strategy comes in. Once the monsters reach your castle, they hit your walls, then if they survive (each monster receives a hit point when destroying a wall), they make it to your inner castle towers which they can also destroy.
The aim of the game is to defeat all the monsters, while still having at least one tower standing. Walls can be rebuilt by a playing a combination of two brick and mortar cards, but the inner towers cannot. Once gone, they’re gone.
This is harder than it sounds. The first time I played through the game as a one player, I won. I haven’t won since.
But I have enjoyed playing. My wife and I really like cooperative games, and with Castle Panic you really have to plan ahead together. You know the monsters will move forward into a ring closer to the castle each move, and each turn players are allowed to trade one card. So you can make sure your fellow players have the necessary archer or knight card, for instance, to hit a monster on their go.
The game genuinely gets tense towards the end, when you maybe have two or three towers left standing, and just a handful of monsters left to defeat. Will they make it to your castle walls, will they get past these walls to the inner castle – once inside only a few cards will allow you to hurt monsters, such as the barbarian card.
The monsters also have a few tricks up their sleeves. Some of the monster tokens you draw are plagues which remove cards from your hand. Some are boulders which ‘roll’ across the board destroying everything in their path – monsters and walls. Some are boss monsters which present problems of their own, moving all monsters in a coloured zone one step closer to your castle, for instance.
The artwork for this game is nice, the tiles and pieces are sturdy enough, and it’s the first time I’ve come across a game that can be played as a one-player.
I like it a lot, and look forward to adding the Wizards Tower expansion which is now available.
But is it good for two players?
This game has probably been taken down off our shelf more times in the last month than any other. It’s quick to set up, gets started very fast and can be over in around 30 minutes.
It’s perfect for two players really and presents a challenge while not seeming to be impossible. I’ll be playing it with more players soon, and it will be interesting to see how it holds up.
The theme is a good one, the board presents it very simply while remaining original and seeming fresh and different from other cooperative games that are out there.
And yes, it probably is suitable for children, but so what? We enjoy it! I recommend this one.
Watch the guys at Tabletop play through a game here.
See the game’s official website here.