Lions and Bears And…Bunnies, Oh My?
I am always on the lookout for great games that I can play together with friends. Although Civilization 5 has been our default game ever since its last expansion came out, admittedly we’ve been looking to add some variety to our quality time together. As a turn based, strategy focused game with pretty graphics and surprisingly deep game mechanics, Armello was practically everything we were looking for. While I will probably never seek to play this game by myself, as soon as my friends contact me about a possible game night, you had best believe I’m going to free up that evening.
Let’s cover gameplay first. If you’re a player who has played a good number of table top games you are going to feel right at home with Armello. There are stacks of cards you play with, movement points to move your character on a board, tricks you can play on enemies on the field or on your friends, the list goes on. It’s really just a table-top game that you play on a computer. Fortunately even if you’re not well versed in the complexities of tabletop, the tutorial in the single player mode is good enough to get you familiar with the game. The rest is really easy to learn within at least one or two playthroughs. The bare bones game mechanic is that there is an evil king who is corrupted by evil magic called Rot which is an actual stat in the game. He has 9 points of health in total and every morning he loses one health point. Since the game moves in a day and night cycle you essentially are given two turns before he loses health, meaning the game ends by around 18 turns. This is one of the best features of Armello as it provides a guaranteed end point for every game, preventing it from dragging out too long and becoming boring. The game gives you four ways of winning. You can kill the king yourself, you can rack up a stat called Prestige and win by default if he dies of the corruption, you can try to purify him by collecting random stones that appear on the map and then challenging him to a fight, or you could aim for the hardest way to win by out-corrupting him with your own stacks Rot and then kill him.
There are also three types of cards in the game. Item cards give you items you can equip to your character at the cost of gold. While they can greatly enhance your playthough by equipping them, each character is only allowed three items to equip at a time. Magic cards use magic points, but can give you awesome bonuses like an extra point to move or long distance spells to fire at people. Trickery cards are my favorite, though. Their effects vary greatly, but they almost always provide an effect that completely screws another player over to your benefit. They’re great fun and can rouse awesome reactions from your friends when they’re not expecting it. They’re perfect for turning around a game, too! My first win was actually by using two trickery cards in tandem. The game was one turn away from ending, no one was going to reach the king in time to kill him so it was going to turn into a prestige victory, and I had the lowest prestige of anyone on the map. I had been nursing a particular card called “Game of Thorns” for about an hour in my hand which would steal a prestige point from other players’ and pass it on to me. The only downside was that I didn’t have enough gold to put it into play. That was until I drew one that gave me gold by stealing it from all the players on the map!! Cards don’t take any movement points to actually play, so I was able to use them both while it was someone else’s turn and gain enough prestige to win the game before the king died. I know I would call myself a liar if I were reading that, but I swear it really happened! It was GLORIOUS!!
As you can probably tell by my rant, Armello is a really deep and fun game where at almost every turn you can expect something to happen. I didn’t even mention how the dice system worked, or the intricacies of fights with the monsters that spawn at night and the king’s guard who you should try to avoid clashing with. Otherwise this article would turn out much longer than it has to. Just know that this is not a game you should play with people you don’t consider level headed. Given everything that can happen I can see this becoming the next Mario Party where people start a game as friends and end it as mortal enemies with insults being slung about each others’ mothers. Even if the game isn’t very fun by yourself, it’s not worth losing friendships over, really.
Armello has stylized graphics that remind me somehow of Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. The colors are soft, the outlines of the characters seem to be missing, and everything is more on the cartoony side of things, but not in a bad way. I actually really like how it looks. There’s also two different art styles in the game itself. There’s one art style which you see with the map and the 3D character models walking around, but there’s a second one that kicks in as soon as you trigger a dice rolling sequence. In this style the characters are all hand drawn with stop-and-go animations. Although the game could easily get tiring to watch if it was always done in this style, the dice rolling sequences are short enough to where it never really gets old or takes away from the gaming experience. While the game comes with a day and night cycle mechanic, the map itself also changes seasons which adds a nice bit of variety for players like myself who like doing back-to-back games and tire of seeing the same stuff over and over.
The soundtrack is unfortunately somewhat boring. It’s very backgroundy, even if that’s not an actual word. It’s there just to keep your ears occupied is what I’m getting at. I will mention that the sound effects are actually pretty well done and really add value to the game. There’s a specific sound for every action like swords clashing, blocking, stealth walking through forests, and so on. They really make you stay on your toes and help immerse you further in the game, and the sound of the dice clacking against each other when you roll them was a really nice touch. That’s part of the little things I enjoyed about board games, the sound of dice. I’m glad they snuck that in there. It’s not part of the music, but sound is something that can go much farther than just the musical score of of a game.
Over all, though, I say Armello is the perfect game to play at the end of the day with a group of friends. Each playthrough won’t take more than three hours at most, and it provides lots of fun and replay value for any who are interested in finding something to play while talking with a group of your best buds. It’s definitely worth a pick up, just make sure you’re buying the fourpack and getting other people involved. I can see this game getting pretty lonely and meaningless without anyone there to play it with you.
I have been Roderick and thank you for taking the time to read this review on BitCultures. Looking forward to writing more for you in the future! Until then stay cool, beautiful people.