Castle Panic is a collaborative game that features a very simple concept: warriors are trapped in a tower and goblinoids of all varieties are trying to eat them. That’s it. Despite its simple (and grim) concept Castle Panic is a highly entertaining collaborative game for families.
The board consists of six segmented concentric circles, divided into two segments of three colors (red, green, blue) radiating from the center. In order from the center: towers, walls¸ then the swordsman, knight, and archer circles, and finally the forest circle. The tower and walls act as hit points of sorts, and the circles are striking range (archer/long, knight/medium, swordsman/short). Monsters move one circle towards the center each round and a variety of other monster tokens can move them between segments or closer to the tower. Boss monsters of various types also influence the number of monsters that appear and how they move.
The game consists of two components, cards and monster tokens. The cards consist of each type of warrior as well as special features like a barbarian who can take monsters out anywhere on the board. Players refresh their hand each round and can use as many cards as they like. Although it’s possible to compete between players with a monster trophy system (highest number of monsters slain wins), the game’s cooperative element really comes into play during the trading phase when players can share cards between them. The color-coding makes it an easy game to understand for children which is why it works so well as a family collaboration.
The monster tokens have some challenges however. The monster tokens are triangles, with a monster’s stats on one side and a leering face on the other. Each triangle points inward toward the circle with the monster’s hit points: goblins have 1, orcs have 2, and trolls have 3. When the monster is hit by a warrior the triangle is changed to point the lower number of hit points towards the center, so a troll that gets hit for 1 point is turned so that the number 2 points toward the center.
The problem is that the tokens also have effects like a plague that wipes out certain warriors, a boulder that smashes through everything in its path, and other monster-specific effects. The monster tokens are shuffled, which is relatively impossible given the way they’re designed. These tokens would have been better served as cards that would be easier to shuffle and place on the board.
The other problem is what happens once the monsters get inside the castle walls. Only a handful of cards can actually affect a monster within the walls, which means that if enough monsters breach the outer defenses it’s a foregone conclusion that the monsters will win. This is a simple fix however – just make it so that swordsmen can also affect monsters within the castle walls.
Castle Panic’s simplicity is perfect for kids. The game is easy to tweak. Despite its grim subject matter, it’s a great family game for budding geeks of all ages.
You can purchase Castle Panic at Noble Knight Games.