Thursday, October 8, 2009

Castle Panic - another fun coopertive game

It wasn't long ago that the only cooperative games on the market were those produced by Family Pastimes. Not to knock that outstanding publisher but it's been exciting to see the cooperative game niche really expand in recent years. Let's look at a recent product which I believe hails from my old home in Texas.

Castle Panic is a game in which the players attempt to defend their castle from advancing goblins, orcs and trolls. The board is set up with a castle in the center and rings of territory surrounding it. The farthest ring can be reached by archers. The next closest ring can be reached by knights. The absolute closest ring can be reached by swordsmen. Through the course of the game various monsters appear outside the farthest circle and then begin to advance towards the castle. The player's challenge is to activate and use their archers, knights, and swordsmen in the best fashion and prevent the monsters from reaching and destroying the castle and its walls.

The specific rules system is hardly more complex than the basic game concept. Players have a hand of cards representing archers, swordsmen, etc etc and play them during their turn. Cards may slay monsters, repair the castle, or some other useful task. In a given turn players refresh their hand and then play as many cards as they wish. In each turn a player also draws monster tokens randomly and places them in the forest around the castle. The monsters advance automatically once placed.

The game system has some variability built into it. Some monster tokens represent stronger enemies. Some cause a special event to occur such as forcing the players to discard certain cards or causing a huge boulder to appear and roll towards the castle. The variability, along with the inexorable march of the monsters towards the hapless castle, adds a good amount of drama to the game.

In the end drama is what this game is about. It's exciting to work with your friends to defend the castle and slay monsters. It's exciting to see them steadily advancing, or to suddenly draw the "Goblin King" token and find yourself awash in goblins. I have my doubts about the strategic qualities of Castle Panic, this is more just a fun, cooperative romp.

I think Castle Panic is a great game for players old enough to cooperate and play as a team, but too young for more sophisticated games. I'm not sure I see this as a great crossover game that adults can play as well. Still, as a choice for a fun evening with the kids I think Castle Panic has lots to offer.

Castle Panic is published by a smaller company. interested parties could special order it or contact the publishers, Fireside Games.

Pros: cooperative, exciting, great gripping concept

Cons: not a deep game per se, good for younger players.
Beyond the basics: pretty basic, really, but probably lots of replay value till the kids grow out of it.

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