There's a particular rush of adrenaline when the odd are stacked against you, whether in life or in games.
You're cornered, with very little resources at your disposal. Meanwhile, your adversaries increase in numbers and are closing in on you. At the very last minute, you craft a diabolical plan to give you just enough breathing room for your next move. With that drop of hope, you build your momentum larger and larger, until you've exploded into a tyrannical fit of rage, decimating your foes in its wake.
(Locks doors and windows.)
How does this translates well as a board game? Two words: Castle Panic.
It really does aptly sum up the game. You're in a "castle," and you will "panic." You're in charged of defending a castle smack dab in the middle of goblin territory (a poor choice in location), and all you need to do is survive through the waves of enemies intact.
(Peeps through blinds with binoculars.)
Your castle is surrounded by 6 quadrants, each with a starting monster at the start of the game. Your defense consists of card you draw from a deck, which ranges from an archer, knight, swordsman, and hero, each with varying attack ranges. The board is divided into concentric circles, like landing lights towards your castle in the middle there. And your attack cards specifically target certain arcs. It's up to you to calculate your attacks accordingly as the enemy approaches from all sides.
A "Pandemic" of Enemies
The "panic" part of the game comes from the enemies and their advances. At the end of every player's turn, more enemies spawn on the board, drawn randomly from the pile, and placed on the board. Then, all enemies will advance towards the castle by one region. So, for every turn you do not successfully kill an enemy, that's one more move they gain towards destroying your castle.
(Gathers weapons to the table.)
DEFENSE *clap clap clap* DEFENSE *clap clap clap*
Your castle, however, is not a complete loss. Your tower sections are each protected by a wall section, which will absorb one attack from (or deal one blow to) the enemy. However, once a wall is destroyed, it's gone from the game. You can, however, reconstruct walls, but it will require someone to play a brick card and a mortar card on their turn.
(Flips table to side and barricades door.)
Okay, Seems Simple Enough. I Think We Can...
You know, there are also other tokens there besides monsters. There are plagues which wipe out certain cards in one go, boulders that can damage both enemies and castles alike, and tokens that force users to draw MORE tokens.
Oh yeah, and one more thing - there are boss monsters; monsters that, when revealed, will cause additional pain to the board. One is general-like and will automatically add an additional movement to all goblins on the board upon arrival.
And before you can take that next breath, don't forget that you must endure through ALL of this in order to win the game. You must survive through all the enemies, plagues, boulders, and bosses, AND be the last one standing in the end, with any part of your castle still standing.
(Props up weapons on window sills.)
Think You Can Do It?
As a team, you can always trade cards with other players to get the most out of your strategy, but it's a nice challenge playing it solo. I've had times when only 2/6 of my towers were standing, and I had no more walls. But be careful of this false sense of confidence, for there is an expansion The Wizard's Tower.
How Much Harder Can an Expansion Be?
Well, let's see...some monsters are swapped out with others, a tower wall is replaced with the wizard's tower, and the difficulty gets ramped up to 11. Not only do you have new monsters to defend against and new wizard cards to dole out attacks, but you also have more boss monsters to deal with! And with a larger pool of boss monsters, you're only exposed to a few...so you don't even know who may pop up in your game!
As an example of how hard Castle Panic with the expansion can be, I once played one game and forfeited after the first turn. After one turn, I more than doubled the initial 6-monster start to a whopping 13 monsters. With a really poor hand, I just walked away.
Even the designer, Justin De Witt, finds playing the game solo to be a difficult feat. I got to meet him earlier this year at my local FLGS, and he agreed that even he himself can't win most of the time when playing his own game with its expansion!
(Grabs quiver of arrows.)
Overall, Castle Panic is a great game to own, whether you're playing on your own or with others. The only random chance is the appearance of monsters all around you, and that varies from game to game, making each one a story to tell. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to protect my house from those solicitors coming our way.