Originally Posted Sept 11, 2015
Board games these days have erupted into a powerhouse of table top gaming. Old classics like Monopoly and Life paved the way for such games like Smallworld and Lords of Waterdeep. So with the march of progression, it’s no surprise that we now find board games moving on to the digital platform. Enter Armello, by League of Geeks. Armello is a virtual board game, set in a storybook fantasy world of animal characters, magic, and more backstabbing than a political campaign. It features many of the mechanics gamers know from other games, including cards, dice, hexagonal maps, and easy to learn but hard to master strategy. Today we will go over what makes the game tick, what it feels like to play, and some of the weaker points, and help you decide if Armello is the game for you
As stated above, Armello is a digital board game. Four players, each choosing one of the eight possible characters from the four animal clans, start at opposites sides of the game board, with the King in the middle. The king is infected with a curse, the Rot, and is slowly wasting away. The goal is to amass enough items, magic and other bonuses to take down the king in various ways. Each turn cycle, that is, after all four players have gone, rotates time of day from day to night. Each day, the King loses one health. Each night, his Rot score increases. Players draw cards on their turns, which can cost coins for equipment items and trap like Trickery cards, or magic points for the Magic cards. Each character also has a bonus ability, such as the wolf River’s ability to initiate combat with her bow and deal a first strike bonus damage before starting the combat proper, or Brun the bear’s ability to gain more dice during combat equal to how many spells he has already cast that turn. The players can win in several ways, either slaying the King, being the most Prestigious player, or collecting ‘Spirit Stones’ and banishing him.
The world of Armello is truly beautiful. Drawn in an old storybook style, the game evokes the
sense of a Game of Thrones style kingdom, populated by the characters of the Redwall book series. The story goes that the King has fallen to a curse called the Rot, which is slowly corrupting him. The four largest clans of Wolf, Rat, Bear and Rabbit have sent warriors to gather strength and claim the throne. During the day, the royal dog guard in golden armor roam the map, while at night, purple runed vulture like beings called Bane soar from tile to tile. The player is given just enough background into the goings on in the world of Armello during the opening cinematic to feel a sense of purpose, while the flavor of the quests each player is given during the game makes it feel that much more alive.
Speaking of the quests, it speaks to the only big weakness I found in the game, and that is the randomness. Most games use random number generation, or RNG, in the form of dice or card draws, and Armello does as well, with a good balance of between success and failure. Where the randomness fails, in my own opinion, is the idea of mastering the game’s strategies. Some characters just need certain cards to have the best chance to win, and there’s no way to guarantee you’ll get it. Quests for these items and buffs given can more often than not be all but useless to a character on some turns, but must be completed to receive a new one. The only way to complete these quests is to roam to the, typically, other side of the board where they send you, costing at least 2 and a half turns to accomplish, providing something doesn’t end your life and send you back to your home hex. Speaking of other players, attempting multiplayer has typically led me on a wearily slow path of waiting for others to take turns, usually ending with me alt-tabbing to another window and not remaining attached to the game.
All in all, with its slow multiplayer and unfortunately necessary depth of randomness, I would still recommend Armello to anyone that asked me. The world is rich, the art is stunning, the game play in the single player flows very well, and I feel a sense of balance in each character depending on your chosen path to victory. The game is available on Steam for $20, and I find this to be highly acceptable for the fun I’ve had with it. I hope you check it out, and may we meet on the fields of Armello!
Stay Kultured, everyone!