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Subject: Castle Panic - The Perfect Next Step Cooperative rss

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G. Gambill
United States
Shawnee on Delaware
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A friend of mine bought this game for my daughter for her birthday, and I must say, it's a big hit. I won't spend too much time on the rules of the game here, the other excellent review posted by PBatt gives a wonderful clear description of the rules of the game. Instead, I want to focus this review on what I consider to be the strength of this fun little game. This game is the perfect next step cooperative IMHO.


Image courtesy of game designer

The game play is very simple. Monsters come out of the forest and try to destroy your pretty little castle. The castle is made of walls and towers. Walls can be destroyed and rebuilt, towers cannot, and serve as the end game timer. If the monsters manage to destroy all the towers, your team loses. If you defeat all the monsters before they destroy all of your towers, you win. The monsters come at you in waves, from unknown directions, and sometime (due to some monster tiles) more quickly than usual, or in greater numbers then expected. They can even shift on you (due to another tile that moves ALL monsters to the left or to the right in a sort of bizarre "maccarena" move that can seriously mess up your team's plans!

The game requires planning and collaboration between all players, and involves some predictions about how the monsters will move, and what cards you can trade with another player so that YOU get help on your turn, but your fellow players are seeded with cards you don't need but they will on THEIR turn. My kids and I (8, 7, and 5) all played together and had a blast. My five year old could understand the basics (red cards for monsters in the red zone, and the three zones of archers which he could identify and match by the "A", Knights by the "K" and swordsmen by the "S"), but the special cards required some translation and help. The girls were fine with all aspects of the game. So why do I like this game so much?

My kids and I played our first cooperative game, Maxwhen my son was just two. The kids loved it, and enjoyed playing and winning or losing together instead of having just one winner. They liked planning and debating together. They enjoyed everything about it. Sadly, they outgrew this little classic, and I have been unable to find another co-op for them since. Pandemic is a little too hard, Max is too simple, Galactica and Shadows over Camelot etc. are all years away for them. This game, IMO, fills this slot to perfection! It's the best "next step" cooperative for kids and adults to play together until they are ready for more complicated games. That's why I think this game is so good. It not only plays well and is fun, but it fills a gap beautifully!

Do I have any complaints about this game? Any other thoughts? Well here they are!

Components:
The board is nice, but mine is mis-mounted in that there are several "bubbles" in it. Also, the board does not sit flush without some "encouragement", but that could just be my copy.
The tiles are nice, thick stock with fun illustrations.
The cards are VERY thin, and had to be sleeved right away. I'm not a sleeve nut, but these need them for sure! Thicker stock would have been nice. The artwork is very nice, however.
Towers and walls - these are functional and look good in that they are vertical instead of just markers. The stands are a bit loose, however, and often my walls would fall out of the holder when they would get destroyed by a monster. No biggie, but there it is.

What I Like:
Cooperative and fun for kids and adults.
Fills a need in the cooperative genre in my opinion.
Nice artwork and variety in gameplay.
Good time frame, if a little long for small kids who may need help from time to time focusing in a four or five player game.

What I think could have been better:
Card stock (see above).
Slightly shorter play time?
More variety of monsters (goblins and orcs and trolls, oh my!). These are all fun, and the game is just fine with them. The "leaders" and boulders are a great touch, but there are so many other monsters you could have thrown in there just for fun, why not?

Overall?
On the whole, I really like this game, and so do my kids. Each of the three games we have played have been wins, but they have all been close (only two three or four towers left, and most all walls trashed by the end of the game). I rate this a solid 7.5 on initial impressions. The game could only go down if we find we NEVER lose. I would recommend this game!
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Dan Poole
United States
Goldsboro
North Carolina
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Nice review. I agree that a larger variey of monsters would be great. An expansion would be really great.
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Ken Newell
Canada
Prince George
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My wife and I just played it for the first time last night. We put in two plays. Got our Castle thoroughly trashed the first time and then pulled out a stunning come from behind victory in the second game.

About the board: Mine is fine with no blisters or anything. so it sounds like you got an unfortunate copy.

About the cards: I agree with you. The cardstock could have been nicer, especially considering how often the cards are used. I will have to look at sleeves for them as well I think. But I usually detest sleeves.

About the tower holders: Originally I was disappointed at how loose the holders were, but in hindsight I actually like it. The holders for my other games like Arkham are so tight that you have to be really careful to take them off and put them on. These ones are nice as the cardboard won't get damaged when they go on and off.

About more monsters: We didn't think about that aspect. But now that you mention it, I think it does have some potential for expansions in that regards.

The one issue we had with the game, particularly in a 2 player game, was the lack of cards to stop monsters that are in the castle circle (the keep). To us it seemed near impossible to stop a monster once they got inside. You basically had to hope they would die by taking out towers but still leave you with one to defend.
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G. Gambill
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Shawnee on Delaware
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Thanks for the kind replies! I appreciate it!
Yeah, if a monster gets in, it can be bad, but remember, they take a hit of damage each time they take out a wall or tower, so most can only take out one or two towers at most before they die in their efforts. Also, we were saved by the "monsters move clockwise" once their in rule. In our last game, a troll got in but, (stupid troll) it went the wrong way into a vacant space where a boulder had taken out a tower, so that bought us a turn while he wandered around in the wrong direction. I guess it's good they're not that bright! We also found that one of us tried to hold onto the Scavenge card for just such an emergency to either "Drive him Back!", or go get the "Barbarian" card.
 
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James Cartwright
United Kingdom
Spilsby
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Great review, this is defiantely a game I would like to get when I've got some spare cash.
 
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Gordon Adams
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Yes, this is a great co-op game and does not take forever to play.

Played it this afternoon as a foursome and all gave it a great big thumbs up.

Not sure whether this game is a novelty and it's replayability factor will dimiish after the nth play or so, but it will be asked for again at some future date, of that I am sure.

Hope that an expansion will come out soon and that might certaintly add to the replayabilty factor.

Regards.
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Calavera Despierta
United States
Tucson
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Great review! I just played this game at a convention this weekend and was really impressed - great little filler game with some interesting mechanics.

Regarding replayability - I have the same concerns. I know there were some harder variants listed in the rulebook, including one to increase competition between players. Otherwise, one suggestion that comes immediately to mind is to add any monsters who are not directly killed by a hero (ones killed by a boulder, or who kill themselves slamming into a fortification) back into the box so they can respawn.
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G. Gambill
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Thanks for the kind comments about the review!
I agree with you about re-playability, although I've played 5 times now, and each game has felt different (all wins too. Hmmmmm). I just think it would have been easy to add an ogre, or a giant (someone has to hurl those boulders don't they?), or a giant spider There are many options that could be added. Maybe a big bad guy like the giant referenced above, and a few other heavy hitters where maybe only one comes out per game to add a little variety and uncertainty about who the big gun will be for the game (I'm thinking like A Touch of Evil where you don't know who will be the one you will face, or something like that). I think this could add some drama to the game. I keep seeing that scene from Lord of the Rings when they're in Moria and you hear one of them say, "Oh look, they've brought a cave troll." or something like that!
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Damon Mosier
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Burbank
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MScrivner wrote:
Great review! I just played this game at a convention this weekend and was really impressed - great little filler game with some interesting mechanics.

Regarding replayability - I have the same concerns. I know there were some harder variants listed in the rulebook, including one to increase competition between players. Otherwise, one suggestion that comes immediately to mind is to add any monsters who are not directly killed by a hero (ones killed by a boulder, or who kill themselves slamming into a fortification) back into the box so they can respawn.


OMG add dice! lol

Roll a D6 when you attack instead of automatically killing it. You have to roll higher than the number of hit points it currently has so they get easier to kill as they take damage, but the bigger ones are harder to hurt at first.
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