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Board Games With OB #9: Castle Panic

Welcome to Board Games With OB, a somewhat profane, possibly semi-regular feature where OregonBeast gets a board game he likes and briefly explains how to play it and hopes you would be interested in playing it, too. Because board games are fucking awesome.

Isn’t it great how board games can let you hate your friends? Seriously. You’re just going along, churning out a hard-earned gaming victory, when all of a sudden one of those FUCKING ASSHOLES comes along and just ruins your plans.

Well, you don’t necessary have to play against your friends in a board game. There is also the cooperative board game. In cooperative games, instead of the game simply acting as the conduit through which the players compete to destroy each other into shells of their former gaming selves, a cooperative game is the competition itself. The players work together to defeat the game. Either everybody wins, or everybody loses. Plus, these games often allow for a solitaire variation if you so desire.

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Your options abound in the cooperative game genre. You can stop illness worldwide in Pandemic, build a flying machine before perishing in a sandstorm in Forbidden Desert or maybe fight off the invasion of Lovecraft’s Ancient Ones in Arkham Horror.

But in this edition of BGWOB, we’ll be looking at Castle Panic, a board game interpretation of the tower defense web game genre.

Game: Castle Panic
Players: 1 to 6
Gametime: 45 to 60 minutes
Designer: Justin De Witt (USA)
Key Mechanics: Card trading, group planning

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The Story: You’re part of a group of castle-dwellers. Your castle is in the middle of a clearing surrounded by a forest. A forest that is apparently full of goblins, orcs and trolls who, for whatever reason, are pissed off at you and have decided to come tear said castle to the fucking ground. So now you’ve got to fight off the monster onslaught.

What do you do? In Castle Panic, you’re fighting off monster represented by triangular tokens. The monsters are trying to go after your castle, which is made up of six towers in the center of the board surrounded by six pieces of wall. Basically, think of the castle as the target of bullseye surrounded by four rings. The rings are labeled Forest, Archers, Knights and Swordsmen. The rings are subdivided by three colored zones (red, blue and green). Your defense against the oncoming markers are represented by a deck of cards. So, for example, if you have a Green Archer card, you can play the card to deal damage to any monster in the green section of the Archer ring.

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So, here’s how the game progresses: All the players get dealt a hand of cards. On a player’s turn, they are allowed to discard a card for a new one and also make a trade of a card with another player. They then play as many of their cards as possible against monsters. Most of these cards are going to be an archer, knight or swordsman of a single color. But that’s not the entirety of the deck. Some cards may be an Any Color of one of the attack ranges. Others may be a Hero (can attack a monster in any of the rings of a specific color), or even the bad-ass motherfucking Barbarian (insta-kills any monster on the board). Other cards offer special abilities (combine with an attack card to insta-kill a monster, scavenge a card already played, draw extra cards, rebuild walls, etc.).

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After a player ends their turn, all the monsters still on the board advance one range closer to the towers. If a monster hits a wall or a tower, the wall/tower is destroyed (the monster takes damage for doing it). Two new monster tokens are blind drawn and a die roll determines what section of the forest ring they are placed in. The next player then takes their turn.

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Now, let’s talk about those monsters. The majority of the tokens you defend against are either goblins (one hit to kill), orcs (two hits to kill) or trolls (three hits to kill). But that’s not all. Other tokens mixed in can effect the monster layout of the board, completely fucking up any strategy you’ve planned out to kill them off. Some tokens can manipulate the monsters movement. (either having them move clockwise or counter-clockwise or allowing monsters in a certain color to advance another range closer) Other tokens are “plauges” which force the players to discard all of their archers, knights or swordsmen. Or force you to draw additional tokens. Or “giant boulders” that will enter the board destroying everything in its path. (monster, walls or towers) Or, even worse, it could be one of four “boss monsters” that not only take a shitload of hits to kill, but will also manipulate the other monster already on the board.

How to taste sweet, sweet, victory: Castle Panic is a game of survival. Get through all of the monster tokens and have any of the six towers still standing and undestroyed, everybody wins. If the monsters destroy all of the towers, everybody loses.

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So, what’s awesome about this game?

  • The cool thing about all cooperative games is the change of pace they offer. It forces communication between players on every single turn.
  • The tokens which manipulate the layout of monsters on the board forces a creative, adaptive approach to the planning process.
  • The random elements. Drawing tokens and cards definitely can create suspense if you find yourself in a bind. Or those moments when a perfect plan has been layed out thanks to a trade, then all of a sudden all the monsters in blue get to move forward one space and FUCK THE FUCKING UNIVERSE.
  • Like many cooperative games, there are ways to manipulate the game difficulty to make it harder (start with no walls)
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Variety is the spice of life: There is one formal expansion for Castle Panic: The Wizard’s Tower. This expansion replaces one of the standard towers with a special “Wizard’s Tower” that grants the players the ability to use super-powerful spells against monsters. Of course, if the Wizard’s Tower is destroyed, those spells go away. And, also, the expansion adds additional, even more powerful monsters, including ones that have tokens not shaped like triangles because of all the damned hits they take.

Watch it in action: Castle Panic was featured in Season 1 of Tabletop.

Previous Board Games With OB: [Takenoko] [Snake Oil] [Tsuro] [Dixit] [The Resistance] [Hey, That's My Fish!] [Ticket To Ride] [Survive: Escape From Atlantis]

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Images via BoardGameGeek

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