Board Game Review! Castle Panic By Fireside Games

Posted: June 1, 2018 in Board Games, Review
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Greetings Fellow Board Gamers!

 

Our next featured game for the weeks of May 24 and May 31 is a great family co-op game from Fireside Games, Castle Panic.

Castle Panic on Board Game Geek – here.

* Note – This is not a ‘How to Play’ or tutorial type article. This is a review of the game components and brief review of game play.

Castle Panic Box Art

Castle Panic is a cooperative tower defense board game for 1 to 6 players. The co-op element makes Castle Panic a great family game, and the perfect kick-off for your weekly game night.

You must work together to defend your Castle, in the center of the board, from Monsters that attack out of the forest, at the edges of the board. Trade cards, hit and slay Monsters, and plan strategies together to keep your Castle towers intact.

Win or lose as a team, but only the player with the most victory points is declared the Master Slayer. Players must balance the survival of the group with their own desire to win.

This game is all about cooperation in order to protect the towers of the castle. While you can rebuild walls and fortify them, you aren’t going to be so lucky with the towers. Once a tower is gone, it’s gone for good, and you have to defeat all the monsters before your last tower is destroyed.

Rules

I found the rulebook easy to read and follow. It’s easy to find what you need to know while playing and just about everything you could think of is covered in the rules. There are great player aid cards included in the game as well as reminder text on the board for Boss Monster abilities.

Components

The board is well made and sturdy with bright colors and easy to see markings and text. As many times as this game has been played, it’s in excellent shape. I use my copy for conventions and various events at my FLGS, so it’s seen its fair share of play. I don’t have any major damage anywhere on the board.

Board

I absolutely love the reminders on the board. They’re in opposite corners of the board and each reminder box explains the special tokens and the boss tokens. This is invaluable while playing – we never need to pull the rulebook out! There are Order of Play reminders in the other two corners, but with the player aid cards, these aren’t needed. They do add a visual balance to the board though.

Player Aid on Board

The castle towers and walls are standard punch board material and they each fit into a small plastic stand. The stands are not too tight so they don’t cause pealing and don’t leave any dents on the castle pieces, but the pieces don’t fall out of the stands either. This prolongs the life of the pieces.

Towers and Walls

The monster tokens have taken a beating over the years, but they’re holding strong! They’re made of standard punch board material with thematic art on the front and back. The special tokens are easy to understand and the boss monster tokens are easy to pick out from the basic monster tokens while on the board.

Monster Tokens

I haven’t looked into sleeves for Castle Panic, but as soon as I do, I’ll update this article with the information. The cards are easy to read and have great thematic art with bright colors. While the cards say what color and what ring you can target, I wish they had made the colored gems different shapes. Color blind players don’t have the benefit of glancing across the table at your cards’ colors. They usually have to ask because the text is too small to read from across the table.

The player aid card has the turn order listed on it, which is such a great tool to have. Even though I’ve played this game a bazillion times, I still need a reminder for the turn order until we get a few turns in. I can’t express enough gratitude to Fireside for this detail.

Deck and Player Aid

The die isn’t anything fancy or special – just a white, plastic D6 with black numbers. I’m glad it has numbers and not pips, since the board displays numbers for the pie sections. The tar token and Fortify tokens are standard punch board and have held up better than expected over time. The Fortify tokens look great and fit perfectly on the wall sections.

Dice and Tokens

Setup & Clean Up

Castle Panic is easy to set up, and it only takes a few minutes. Clean up doesn’t take long because it’s just gathering cards and monster tokens from other players and putting all the pieces in their bags. It’s easier to set up and clean up if the other players help.

Game Play

Game play is very simple. Hand size and trading capabilities depend on the number of players. That’s the one thing I would have asked that they added to the board in place of the turn order – the player chart. Checking that is literally the only reason I pull out the rulebook.

The turn order is very strict and once you proceed beyond an optional step, you can’t back up! Each player takes their turn individually in a clockwise order, following the turn order.

1. Draw Up – Each player begins their turn by drawing cards until they have reached their hand size. Again, the hand size depends on the number of players you have. The more players, the smaller the hand size.

2. Discard and Draw 1 Card (Optional) – Once the turn player has drawn up to their hand size, they then have the option to discard one card in order to draw a new card. This is a once per your turn type of thing. It’s handy if you have a blue card and there aren’t any monsters in either blue arc. You can discard it to draw a new card in hopes of something more useful.

3. Trade Cards (Optional) – Once the turn player has used or passed their option to Discard and Draw, they now have an opportunity to trade one card with another player. This is also a once per your turn thing, but you can make a second trade in a six player game. The other players don’t have to trade with the turn player if they don’t want to. You also can’t give cards to other players – you literally have to trade.

4. Play Cards – Once the turn player has completed their trade(s), they get to play those cards in their hand! Each card tells you which color and ring they can be used it. There are plenty of special cards, like Tar and Missing, and they’re card text is pretty easy to understand. You can reference the back of rulebook for any specifics you might need to know.

5. Move Monsters – Once the turn player is done playing cards, all the monsters that are currently on board will advance one space forward, or one space clockwise in the castle ring. If a monster hits a wall, they take one damage and remain in the Swordsman ring if they didn’t die. If a monster moves into the castle and takes out a tower doing so, it moves into that space where the tower was – after taking a point of damage.

6. Draw 2 New Monsters – After the monsters on the board move, the turn player gets to add more chaos and panic to the game by drawing two new tokens from what we call, “The Bag ‘O’ Death”. The turn player draws the first token and if it’s a monster or boulder, they roll the die and place the monster in the forest ring or advance the boulder through the arc (killing all monsters and the first wall, tower, or fortify it hits). Boulders are nasty in arcs that don’t have a wall or tower because they advance into the arc directly across from the one it started in. All the other tokens trigger effects like plagues or forced movement for monsters on the board. There are even tokens that increase the number of tokens you draw for the turn! This is why the token bag is called “The Bag ‘O’ Death” by me and my locals.

After the new monsters are drawn and resolved, the next player begins their turn. This continues until either the players win or the game wins. Players win when all the monster tokens are removed from the board AND the bag is empty. The game wins when the last tower has fallen to the monsters… or a boulder.

Summary

This has been a favorite alongside King of Tokyo during both years of the Dyersburg Comic and Pop Culture Convention. I’ve taught several groups of new and experienced players how to play Castle Panic and I’ve never heard a player say they didn’t like the game. I’ve heard more family groups have gotten the greatest benefit from the game because it’s a co-op game, meaning those siblings that like to compete with each other have to work together now! It cultivates a different gaming atmosphere when you play a co-op vs competitive game. Castle Panic still has its ‘competitive’ side with each player collecting their slain monsters, but it also creates a dilemma of sorts. “Do I trade this card and let them kill the Troll that gives them three points, or keep the card and hope we don’t lose.”

This is a great game with a small learning curve. Younger players can play this game, even if they aren’t reading age yet. They only need to remember the pictures and what those pictures mean the card does. I’ve seen kids as young as seven play this game with no trouble, but the age limit is 10, so please inspect the game to be sure you’re okay with your younglings playing it.

There is one glaring problem, or at least with older copies – can’t speak for newer prints, and that’s the lack of a bag for the tokens. I had to purchase a dice bag for us to use for the monster tokens. I’m not sure why they didn’t include this in the base game. Check the box contents and see if it includes a bag before you purchase it. At least then you’ll know if you need to pick one up before heading home.

What the Players Said

Wednesday – 90% panic, 5% castle, and 5% “Why’d you draw all the wrong tokens?!” – but 100% family fun game. I love the co-op mechanic to this game.

John H. – I like everything about this game.

Sean – I like that it’s simple to play and that it has player aid cards and reminders on the board too for the monster token abilities. A game is always great when you don’t have to pull the rulebook out while playing. I also like how everything can go wrong or seem to be going bad, but you still have a chance to turn the game around and win.

Olivia – I like that there is panic and how a real struggle can ensue but in the end, regardless of whether you lose or win, everyone is still friends.

Buy or Bye?
Buy!

This game is probably the second most played game in my collection. It’s easy to learn and easy to play, making it a favorite among my fellow board gamers and also a favorite for gaming tables at conventions.

Have strategies or tips for this game? Leave them in a comment!
Have cool accessories or custom pieces? Show them off!
Thanks for reading and be sure to like, follow, and subscribe for more Dice Masters, HeroClix, and Board Game related content!

Board out and game on!

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Comments
  1. Rachel says:

    This is one of my favorite family games. It’s a great game for when kids are ready for a bit of a challenge. For the first few plays, we remove the “heavier” bosses in the tile deck and add them in as the kids get used to the mechanics so the challenge level gets a little harder each time!

    Liked by 1 person

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