1 – 6 Players
Surrounded by a lush and dangerous forest lies your keep. A castle like no other (since it is yours) is the envy of all. Especially the besieging armies of Goblins, Trolls and Orcs! Can your Archers, Knights and Swordsmen defend your keep from these warmongering monsters before they destroy it or before you panic?
There was a time when I had all the time in the world to play tabletop roleplaying games. You know the type, the epic battles between orcs and elves, goblins and raging barbarians whilst sitting around the table drinking Mountain Dew. Since becoming a parent, those days have been shortened to momentary spurts normally filled with searching for the dice a wandering toddler absconded with.
Board games like AFF[Talisman] or AFF[Mage Knight] fit the bill, but can take hours to play, losing most kids in the process. Of course, you can also check out games like Hero Kids and AFF[Adventure Maximus] but that might be a bit much for a quick game, especially if you don’t feel like being the ever-dreaded Dungeon Master. This is where AFF[Castle Panic!]* slots in! All the adventure, none of the hassle!
AFF[Castle Panic!]sets up to 6 players in a realm where all sorts of fantasy creatures are attempting to breach their castle. Players then work together to defend the castle from being taken by an army of orcs and trolls and goblins and their leaders.
The board is composed of concentric circles split into three colors, red, green and blue, with 2 60 degree arcs per color, numbered 1-6. Each ring represents a different type of defender, Archers, Knights and Swordsmen, the outermost ring is the forest (the home of monsters) and the center-most is the castle towers and it’s defensive walls.
What makes AFF[Castle Panic!]a bit different than your normal dungeon crawler is that all of the players represent any and all of the defenders. Each player has a hand of cards (4-6 based on number of players) which represent the varied warriors set to fortify the castle’s defenses. Players can then attack monsters with the cards that match the space the monster occupies.
A turn begins with drawing up to your maximum hand size, optionally discarding a card to draw a new card, and optionally trading 1 or 2 cards (depending on how many players). After these hand manipulations, you can play as many cards as your hand allows. Which could result in many monster deaths or injuries, building or fortifying walls or staring frustratedly at a bunch of soldiers you wish you could put in a nice new color of uniform.
As with most co-op games, it’s more complicated than that. At the end of each turn the monsters move closer to the castle in the hopes of breaching the walls and overtaking it. And each turn the defenders must try to last the next onslaught of malicious beasts they draw without losing their castle. Add to this mix giant boulders that destroy everything in their path and vicious plagues that infect the castle’s last hopes, and you have some interesting randomizing mechanics that mess with the normally predictable strategy.
It’s easy to strategize in AFF[Castle Panic!] because the linear movement is steady and foreseeable.. that is until you draw a “Move all monsters counter-clockwise” token or have a “boss” urge his minions forward. The good news is, each monster token you draw brings you closer to exhausting the pile, which brings you closer to surviving the siege. The bad news is, you still have to survive until they are all gone to win.
The primary goal of the game is to outlast the onslaught, but subsequently, the main game calls for declaring a “Master Slayer”. This title is bestowed on the player with the most points for tokens collected through monster kills, however; playing without this designation allows for fully cooperative play. The rules feature several cool variations to change the difficulty of the game, which is always welcome in more straightforward games.
AFF[Castle Panic!] is a basic strategy game with some cool mechanics and twists that make it fun to play. Being cooperative, with very little reading (most of the major cards can be identified by pictures and colors, and there aren’t many “special” cards), makes it a very good game to add to a family library. Encouraging children to look turns ahead in order to predict what will happen is a great skill to build reasoning and to grasp logical progression.
Also, there is some simple math and calculation involved in the strategy, each hit does 1 damage, but the triangular shaped monster tokens can take up to 3 hits. Engaging a younger child to turn the token to reflect damage can help solidify subtraction and number recognition skills. Allowing children to count up all of the points for “Master Slayer” at the end can reinforce grouping, higher levels of addition, and multiplication, as each monster type represents a different value.
For older children, being allowed to make decisions based scarcity, can be an invaluable exercise in resource management. As well, the game being cooperative with a clear winner, allows for the ability to make more complex and weighted strategic plays, since kills only count if you manage to live to count them.
AFF[Castle Panic!] is a great game to play together as a family. While it might not be the adventures of yore that you long for, it will keep your eight year old busy long enough for you to get a goblin-slaying-dice-fix.
*Gazebos not included.