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Subject: Castle Panic Review : Did you say panic or picnic? rss

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Andrew Leahy
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"Yes monsters. Come lumber slowly out of the forest while I cut you down with arrows, lances, and swords. Your cartoon demeanor threatens me not. Have at thee."

I played solo last night, for my first play, and twice today in 3 and 4 player games with friends. Our ages ranged from 30 somethings to 8 years old. It's enough for me to give you a basic review of the game, in my "game geek-lite", sort of perspective. Just so you understand my slant, I'm a strategy game, Ameritrash, and light war-game fan. I'll also play any Euro, dexterity, card, "whatever-game" as long as it is good. (wink)


Picnic or panic?
"Your archer shoots the goblin, and goes back to eating his sandwich on the ramparts."

Solo, the game plays out in an hour. You would have to really be moving quick to play in 30 minutes. It would be "Speed Castle Panic" at that pace. Just physically dealing cards to yourself and putting tokens in the right spot will take you 30 minutes alone to get through the monster pool. Add in some light decision making and you get your hour easy. With cooperative play I'd add about 5-10 minutes per player.

The game doesn't present any very difficult choices to any of the players, solo, or cooperatively. You do have choice, but after looking at your cards and around the table, the best move usually sticks out quite easily. So in essence, it becomes not much of a choice at all. "Trade me this archer for that knight … ok and then I can play all of these down. Next turn." And on and on it goes. It can feel a bit like you are letting a script play out. This is a light strategy game with an extra emphasis on light. Easy to play easy to master.

There is also not a whole lot of panic in my castle. Maybe my troops are just steel eyed veterans from orc wars long ago? In the three games we played, our worst, was three towers still up, and one wall up, but it has never been a nail biter yet. Even in that dire situation we knew we had the game beat.

I think next time I want to play with one of the variants where there are no outer walls to start, or in co-op where people have "home towers" and if knocked down are out of the game. It needs a little more teeth to it for me to feel the panic. I'm also thinking I might like a chance for the archers to miss their shots. I'm thinking they might need to take a die roll to hit. I wouldn't also mind adding in a beeping timer, like from catch phrase, to force a sense of urgency. If the timer buzzes out, that players turn is over, and the monsters move forward. In my opinion, it just plain needs to be harder.

You might also feel when you get about halfway through the monster deck it starts to become a little tedious. The monster chits are not varied enough and by the time you kill your 4th orc, really, are you excited to see a 5th one show up in the forest? No, you are not. It's a pretty homogenous army of green out there.

That being said, it is a good game for kids and adults to play together. Good simple family fun. It will get a bit of play with my friends kids, and as my son grows a bit older, but this will not be a game I readily grab for. It has its place but this isn't one that has me anxious to play it again.

Can the Wizard's Tower expansion bring a little more spark to this? I'd definitely like to see some more going on in the game: more types of cards, monsters, and things happening. If the expansion is priced right it will probably make it to the lower rungs of my wish list.

Pros:
- Very easy to learn and play.
- Plays well solo, in groups, and with a variety of rules and ages.
- Good production values and graphics.

Cons:
- Very simple and choices seem painfully obvious to the point of not being a choice.
- Not enough variety in monsters or challenges to the defenders.
- Fantasy theme seems a little bit tired on this. It strikes this weird middle ground of cute and fierce and just doesn't seem to work well as either.

6 out of 10


Final Word:
"A try before you buy, and know you are getting really a light kids/family game, in this "cute castle of mild agitation". It's not a bad way to spend an hour and half of time with friends and family. Pretty enjoyable overall, but light."

EDIT:
I'm bumping my rating up to 6 from a 5. We played again tonight with no walls at the start. It played a tiny bit tighter this way and we did all have some good laughs. By end of game we had three towers, fully walled in, and both fortifications on! We had some luck on our side for sure. Since we still all cannot seem to loose, we are going to throw in that archers have to roll a 3 or higher on attack to hit.
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Jacovis
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Thanks for the review. I wanted to highlight something you touched upon. My son is 6 turning 7, and this game is absolutely fantastic for us because not only is it a simple to set up and play co-op game, but it's a game where when he plays with adults we let him make his own decisions. It's an excellent stepping stone for building gaming confidence, and independence, and the choices are pretty obvious to us, but as a family game I rate it much higher. Is it Pandemic? No. But it definitely has a place in the development of younger gamers. This is also why I ranked it much higher Thanks again!

Cheers, and all best!

Jacovis
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Alex Merchant
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I was tossing up buying stronghold but readnit was recommended for 14+ and spotted castle panic nearby. I was looking for a fun castle siege game and one that would suit 6-8 y.os. I settled on castle panic. Seems ok after two plays with three players.

The kids seem to have taken to it although they were a bit stressed when I increased the number of monsters per turn from 2 to 5 in game two. We still only lost one tower. I think the difficulty is easily adjustable to the level of the kids. If they are "getting it" increasing monsters per turn seems to work ok.

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    My three boys (9, 6, and 6 at the time) were done with this game in ten minutes. Castle Panic really brings no opportunities for reading skills or critical thinking, and they thought it was a snoozer to boot.

    Spending the same amount of money on a couple of Pokémon TCG starter decks (about $12 each) will bring much more benefit to the kids both enjoyment-wise and educationally. It provides opportunity to drive reading skills and encourage critical thinking in a a nice package, and provides a much more engaging play for kids between six and twelve. Each of my boys has 100+ plays in on this one, less than one on Castle Panic.

    Castle Panic is the Twinkie of board games.

             S.


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Kevin Outlaw
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A few things worth nothing (in my experience):

The game gets harder the more players you have. It gets much harder to figure out optimum movies, and the monsters are relentless. Also, if you are finding the game too easy, you should definitely try out the variants (as you suggested in your review). Mix and match the rules that make the game work for your group.

However, we have found the best part of the game comes from playing with the rule that there is still an ultimate winner at the end - if you lose, you all lose; if you win, the person who scored the most points wins. This really changes up the simple trade a card then use your cards system, as you try to do just enough to stop your towers from being destroyed while still keeping all the best moves for yourself. Trying to bluff the other players, saying you don't have cards that you do, but still trying to work as a team, adds a huge amount of fun and backstabbing to the game.

Just my opinion, but I think this is a great, quick, co-op filler which is simple enough so that you can change it up with variants to suit. Of course, it is family friendly and great for younger players.
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Freelance Police
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I tried out the "Home Towers" variant and it was heckafun. Instead of this "cooperation" rubbish, you gleefully pretend not to have cards they need as a monster crashes into them and take them out. Then you draw a "monsters move clockwise" tile and they smash into you. Curses!
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Andrew Leahy
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Jacovis wrote:
Thanks for the review. I wanted to highlight something you touched upon. My son is 6 turning 7, and this game is absolutely fantastic for us because not only is it a simple to set up and play co-op game, but it's a game where when he plays with adults we let him make his own decisions. It's an excellent stepping stone for building gaming confidence, and independence, and the choices are pretty obvious to us, but as a family game I rate it much higher. Is it Pandemic? No. But it definitely has a place in the development of younger gamers. This is also why I ranked it much higher Thanks again!

Cheers, and all best!

Jacovis


Hey Jacovis. Thanks for your reply and insights.

Yes, I very much agree that as a learning game with the 6-8 year old crowd Castle Panic is probably a smash hit. It might be an 8 or 9 in that niche/context. Outside of that though it doesn't deliver a whole lot. The box also says 10 and up on the outside and I think I'd argue it down to an 8 pretty easy.

Upping the difficulty with variant rules makes it a bit more enjoyable and close. We did have a better time tonight by starting without the outer walls. I think if you are not buying this game as a kids game though, and you have no 6-10 year olds to play it with, this isn't the game for you.

Risk is also in this same age range of 10 and up. We have been following our Castle Panic games with Risk these past two nights and it is just no contest. The 8 year old we have playing with us does fine at both games but is hilarious at Risk because she is so unpredictable, aggressive, and animated during Risk. The 12 year old we have playing against us is frighteningly good at Risk too, but she needs to play as "the Overlord" in Castle Panic to keep her interested in it. Nothing like crushing dad, right?

I've decided, for this family I have been playing with, I'm going to smash the two games together and get them Lord of The Rings Risk for Christmas. I think that will go over huge.
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James Bjork

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I totally agree with the OP, and bought this game today at Barnes and Noble based on his recommendation.

I got this to play with wife and 7-year-old, and after a session of the cooperative variant (no tallying of individual kills), it was a big hit.

No, seasoned strategy gamers will not get much out of this game.

However, the cooperative nature of the gameplay is an absolute MUST when admixing the very young and adults. I think the rules were a little above the comfortable understanding level for my seven-year-old (who seems to be cognitively average based on his school tests), but he got the gist.

So, if you want a lemonade(instead of beer)-and-pretzels family game that can accomodate younger children, this hits the mark!
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