One of our favourite games at the moment is [amazon_link id=”B002IUFSPM” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Castle Panic[/amazon_link]. It’s a co-operative game, which makes a nice change from straight I-win-you-lose competition.
You and your fellow players are attempting to defend your castle against marauding monsters who are approaching from all sides, making their way from the forest to your castle walls. There are little stand up pieces to represent castle towers and castle walls that sit in the centre of the board, which is divided into coloured zones and rings. There are no tokens to move every turn, rather each player tries to knock out as many monsters as possible using the cards in their hand: a selection of colour-coded archers, knights and swordsmen. There are some special cards that allow a player to throw monsters back into the forest, tar monsters to keep them from moving forward, and rebuild walls. All monsters move towards the centre, and more monsters are chosen and placed on the board before it’s the next player’s turn. The monsters win if they can knock down all your castle towers. The players win if they defeat all the monsters with at least one castle tower still standing. All the monsters. And there are a 49 of them.
A full game runs about half an hour. Our 4 and a half year old can play his turn without a lot of help from us, despite not being able to read the cards (each one has a picture, and I think he’s starting to recognize the words now too). We let him pick the monsters for each of our turns, which keeps him involved in each turn. Because it’s a co-operative game, there is discussion every turn about who will use what card and when, and trading as well. Each player rolls the die to decide which zone the new monsters will be placed in, and we also let him do these rolls as well. Special monsters that trigger other events, like adding even more monsters or moving all existing monsters in another ring, keep that part of the turn a bit unpredictable. After playing it just about twice a day for a couple of weeks, our son has all the attributes of the special monsters memorized (‘Mummy! The Orc Warlord moves all monsters forward!’), as well as getting excited when the Fortify Wall card comes up.
It’s a good mix of simple game play and unpredictability, making it interesting enough to play again and again. There’s a [amazon_link id=”B009YQGES8″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Wizard’s Tower expansion to the game[/amazon_link] we haven’t tried out yet, too. It’s also one of the cheaper ones out there, retailing for about $35.
The age range on the box suggest 10 and up, but I think a 6 year old would have no trouble playing unaided. Also labelled for 1-6 players, and it really is entertaining for just 2 players. That’s a bit critical, because many of these more interesting board games don’t work very well with fewer than 4 players. This one is an exception.
Watch the Castle Panic episode of Tabletop to get a sense of the gameplay, and because it’s a pretty hilariously accurate representation of most of our own Castle Panic games.