Pick of the Week – August 3-9, 2015

We have finally reached the finale for my series of board and card game Picks that I began several weeks ago.  For one last time, I will remind you that I discovered all of these thanks to Tabletop, the web series hosted by Wil Wheaton in which he and his guests each episode play a different game (or games in some cases).  As viewers, we get to learn the rules, see gameplay, and enjoy the banter.

Most games including all of the ones that I’ve talked about up to now are competitive.  Players work against each other to win.  There is, however, another class of game in which the players work together against the game itself.  Perhaps the most famous of these is Pandemic, in which players race to stop diseases from decimating the Earth, but my Pick for this week takes place on a much smaller field.

In Castle Panic, players are tasked with defending a small castle in the center of a clearing from hordes of monsters advancing from all sides.  The castle has six walls and six towers, and one hit from a monster is all it takes to destroy them.  The players, meanwhile, have archers, knights, swordsmen, and the occasional hero, barbarian, or other helpful people or items to use to mount their defense.

The board is divided into three colored cones as well as a series of concentric rings around the castle.  In order to kill a monster, a player must have a card with the right color and right defender.  For example, an orc sitting in the Red Archer ring can be hit as long as the player has a Red Archer card in his hand.  Players exchange cards and plan their defensive strategy as more and more monsters head their way.  If all the castle towers are destroyed, the players lose, and the monsters are victorious.  But if the players manage to defeat all of the monsters, they win! 

HERE is the Tabletop episode dedicated to Castle Panic.  For those who want a bit of competitiveness, players can collect the tokens for the monsters they kill, and the one with the most at the end is the overall winner.  Considering the need to work together to have a chance at victory, though, I have never bothered with this option.

There are currently two expansions for Castle Panic, The Wizard’s Tower and The Dark Titan, which add new cards and monster tokens to the game.  There are also two other varieties of the game.  Dead Panic uses the same basic mechanic but moves it from a castle that you defend from monsters to a remote cabin that you defend from zombies.  And then there’s Munchkin Panic, which mashes up Castle Panic and Munchkin by replacing the Castle Panic monsters with Munchkin creatures and adding in Munchkin-style treasures, such as the Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment.

- Alan Decker

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