TableTopTakes: Castle Panic
There are some cooperative games that are really hard and you will lose way more often than you win. Castle Panic is a game on the opposite end, where you win more often than not. Is that a problem with this game, or is it still interesting enough and challenging enough that it’s worth playing?
Castle Panic is a classic tower defense style game where you and the other players team up as heroes who are sending out troops, firing with archers and trying to stop the goblin horde that is coming to knock down the walls of your castle and destroy it. The game plays simply where players on their turns play out cards matching colors and ranges to kill off the goblins. But some goblins take more than one hit so can you get them taken out before they start destroying everything. Every turn you are drawing cards, trading them, and hoping to take out a goblin or three. To make it a little bit more challenging there are things that you can do like rebuild castle walls and put up barricades to drive back the horde for at least a turn. And there are boss monsters who will do things like cause you to draw and place more monsters on a single turn or heal already injured monsters. Finally, when placing the monsters it’s a die roll, so if you are unlucky, you might have monsters overrun one of the colors.
This is a simple game that I think works well as an introduction to fantasy games for kids, and as a cooperative game that you can play with a lot of kids. There is a “kids” version, but that is targeting getting kids in that 3-6 age range. The main game they say that it’s for 10+, but that has more to do with the piece sizes than the game itself, I think younger kids would be able to play this and the Board Game Geek community agrees with me as they rate it a 6+ in terms of the age range. The card play is easy, you draw up cards, you can put mortar and brick together to rebuild a wall, you can trade cards, etc. all of this is done in a mainly cooperative way. You can play fully cooperative, but like Marvel Legendary, they suggest that you keep who you’ve killed to see who has done more in the end.
With that said, I do think the game is almost too simple to play with adults. Even in a casual gaming environment with a bunch of non-gamers, the game doesn’t have long term legs. The play doesn’t change up too much and the strategy of the game is fairly limited. You’re really just seeing what you draw in terms of cards and monsters, and where you roll to place out the monsters. There are some things, like discarding and drawing a card that you can push to hope to get a better outcome, but it really comes down to the draws and the rolls. I’ve played games where I’ve gotten the boss who makes you draw more monsters when the bag was almost empty so we couldn’t draw enough, and that makes it easier, or the boss who heals monsters when no monsters were injured, I’ve also had the flip happen as well. I’ve had the one who causes you to draw monsters draw into the tile that has you draw more monster and all of a sudden we’re being overrun by goblins.
With that all said, I don’t think it is a bad game for what it is. It isn’t your normal kids game, Candyland or Snakes and Ladders where you are at the whim of a die or a random card draw. There is decision making that has to go into the game as you are able to plan multiple turns ahead. You never know what you might draw that might change up that plan, but the monsters move in a predictable pattern, one forward every turn, so you can plan your turns out fairly well and trading cards matters more because you want to get the right cards to the right players at the right time with a limited number of trades that you can make. So I think, even with non-gamers who are adults, it gives you something to think about and do for a play or two, and more than that if you are playing with kids.
Overall, this is a game that i still have in my collection. Yes, it is a bit simple, but I know that it’s a game that I can pull out with most people and get the game up and running fast. There is also the bright colors and 3d towers and walls that look interesting to it has a good table presence and people are more interested in playing it. It isn’t a game that I play that often, but as my kid gets older, it’ll be one of those transitional games into a bigger games as it teaches cooperation and planning in gaming.
Overall Grade: C+
Gamer Grade: D
Casual Grade: B-
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