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My review of Castle Panic

I dismissed Castle Panic from Fireside Games a number of times based solely on the cartoonish box art and despite everybody and their grandma giving it good reviews all over the Internet since its release in 2010. When friends who are discerning connoisseurs of gaming gave it praise, I finally reconsidered and added it to my collection!

From the publisher:
Players must work together to defend their castle, in the center of the board, from monsters that attack out of the forest, at the edges of the board. Players trade cards, hit and slay monsters, and plan strategies together to keep their castle towers intact. The players either win or lose together, but only the player with the most victory points is declared the Master Slayer.

My observations after 8+ solo games (2 wins, 6+ losses):

Physical Engagement: Very Good
• Setting up to play takes no time at all, and the board with little castle towers in the center is extremely colorful and engaging.
• Cards and game tokens are of excellent quality.
• Repetitive imagery on cards and tokens is totally acceptable in a mainstream board game format, but a negative for the solo gamer. Though more individualized characterization of castle attackers and defenders would have been a major plus, I can try to take off my grognard lenses and let this one pass. However, when the most memorable "character" in the game is a boulder, clearly, a bit more thought could have gone into the consideration of a more well-developed cast. 

Solo Mechanics: Good
• The solo rules are identical to the multiplayer rules, and that makes total sense in a cooperative game. If you like a game wherein the cards you randomly draw are your only defense against a game AI that will constantly send waves of enemies at you until they're exhausted, then you'll like it as much alone as with others...except there'll be nobody to trade with...

Immersive Aesthetic: Good
• Do I feel like I'm alone in a castle surrounded by marauding goblins, orcs, and trolls that want to get in and eat me? Sure, especially when I'm being overwhelmed by enemy forces and I know that my current hand of cards just won't get any better on the next turn.
• There is barely any "world" or mythos associated with the game. Overall, it's a self-propelling mechanism dressed loosely in medieval fantasy garb. Longtime, serious fans of fantasy RPGs and war games will find this a meager meal, indeed, when it comes to immersion.

Replay Value: Good
• This is one of those games that you'll only play solo just before your friends arrive to play it or just after your friends have left after playing it. You probably won't crave its solo experience without the social impetus. Still, when you play a solo game of Castle Panic, you won't stop at one - trust me! It really is fun!

Get this if you like uncomplicated, quick-to-start solo challenges versus overwhelming odds. Also, I highly recommend it if you have casual board game nights with family and friends because it's easy to learn, exciting for group play, and offers clever variable degrees of competitiveness to go along with the cooperative objective. It is especially good with the young ones, so consider it very highly recommended with kids (there are no overtly violent images).

Don't get this if you need crunch with your siege warfare or if you do not plan on playing casual group games any time soon.

NOTE: I have not tried the expansion The Wizard's Tower. If I do, I'll post about it.

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