In 2009, a new board game took gaming tables around the world by storm. Castle Panic was an easy to learn cooperative game where players worked together to protect their castle walls and towers from invading monsters. Right from the start, your castle was surrounded by monsters who moved closer and closer each turn. More monsters appeared each turn and the onslaught continued to the very end of the game. For those who played this game, panic was an appropriate description of gameplay. Three expansions were released between 2011 and 2016 which added more monsters and other cool features. Now in 2021, the game is being re-released with upgraded features and detailed miniatures in Castle Panic Deluxe.
Castle Panic Deluxe is a cooperative tower defense game for 1-6 players, ages 10 and up, and takes about 45 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with several different pledge levels. The copy of the Castle Panic base game with wood monster tokens is $60. You can get the Castle Panic Deluxe base game with wood tokens and plastic castle pieces and monster miniatures for $90. A pledge of $200 gets you the deluxe base game, the Wizards Tower Deluxe expansion, and the playmat. Finally, the Castle Panic Deluxe Collection includes the base game, the Wizards Tower Deluxe, the Dark Titan Deluxe, the Engines of War Deluxe, and the Crowns and Quests Deluxe expansions as well as the playmat for $350. Castle Panic Deluxe was designed by Justin DeWitt and published by Fireside Games, with illustrations by Matt Pacquette and Justin Chan.
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Note: My review is based on a prototype copy, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality.
Here is what you get in the Castle Panic Deluxe
The game board consists of concentric rings around the central castle space. The play area is divided into six sectors divided into 3 different colors. The rings around the center are labeled from closest to farthest swordsman, knight, archer, and forest.
The castle consists of six towers surrounded by six walls. Each wall and tower pair are placed in one of the six sectors of the castle area.
The basic monsters consist of goblins with 1 HP, orcs with 2 HP, and trolls with 3 HP. The latter two monsters have rotating bases allowing you to adjust their remaining hit points.
There are four different boss monsters included in the base game. Each has special abilities that activate when they enter the game. The healer heals all monsters on the game board 1 HP up to their maximum. The orc warlord causes itself and all monsters in its same color sectors to move one ring closer to the castle. The troll mage causes all monsters on the game board to move one ring closer to the castle. Finally, the goblin king, causes you to draw three more monster tokens when it arrives.
Monster tokens are drawn from the draw bag each turn. Most deploy monsters to the forest of the gameboard. However, some tokens force you to discard cards from your hand, move monsters forward or sideways, or even cause you to draw more monster tokens!
Many of the castle cards are hit cards that allow you to inflict damage on a single monster in a specific ring identified by color and type. There are also special cards which let you build fortifications, repair walls, inflict more damage, and much more.
You can download a copy of the rulebook here.
The goal of the game is to prevent the monsters from destroying all six of your towers.
Start off by setting up your castle. Place one tower in each of the central sectors in the castle area. Then place the walls along the boundary between the castle area and the swordsman ring. Now draw 3 goblins, 2 orcs, and 1 troll from the monster tokens. Place a matching miniature for each monster in a different sector in the archer ring of the players’ choice. Place the six tokens to the side of the board to be collected by players who defeat those monsters. Return the rest of the monster tokens to the draw bag.
Players are each given an Order of Play card and then dealt a hand of cards face from the shuffled castle card deck. If playing with 2 players, each player gets 6 cards. Deal 5 cards to each for 3-5 player games and for six player games, they each get 4 cards. Place the remainder of the cards face down in a deck near the game board with room for a discard pile. Finally, place the fortification and tar minis, as well as the rest of the monster minis, to the side for use later in the game. You are now ready to play the game.
When you are ready to play, choose a player to go first. Each player takes their turn and then the next player goes. Each player’s turn consists of six phases. Let’s take a look at each phase in detail.
When it is your turn, draw cards up to your maximum hand size determined by the number of players. Since you have a full hand on your first turn, this phase is skipped. If the draw deck runs out of cards, then shuffle the discard pile to create a new draw deck.
Players may discard one card from their hand and then draw one new card. This is optional and a good way to get rid of a card you don’t need and try to draw one you can use.
This is an optional phase. A player may trade one card with another player for one card. In the case of a six-player game, a player can trade 2 cards total. They can both be traded with one player or one card each with two different players. Both players choose which cards they want to trade and players never have to trade if they choose not to do so. A card must be traded and cannot be just given to another player.
Now a player can play as many cards in their hand as they wish. When playing a hit card, a player can select a monster in the color and ring directed by the card and inflict one point of damage to that monster. Goblins are slain with one hit. However, for other monsters, rotate the base to show the reduced HP remaining. If the monster has no HP remaining, it is slain and removed from the game board. The player then gets the matching token for later scoring. Some cards slow down monsters or force them back away from the castle. For monsters that breach your walls and get into the castle area, they can only be attacked by cards with a tower icon on them. Monsters in the forest ring can never be hit. Players can also rebuild a destroyed wall by playing a brick card with a mortar card. You can choose which wall to rebuild and only one wall can be built in each sector. A fortify wall card can be played to build a fortification on a wall of your choice which does not already have a fortification on it. This makes the wall more difficult to destroy.
After a player has played all the cards they wish, then move all monsters on the game board one ring closer to the castle. If a monster is in the swordsman ring, when it moves forward it destroys the wall and takes one point of damage. If two or more monsters are in the same sector next to a wall, the player can choose which one takes the damage. The monsters then remain in the swordsman ring. When there is no wall in front of a monster, it then destroys the tower in their sector. As with the wall, a monster takes one point of damage and if it survives, enters the castle ring. Monsters in the castle ring move around the ring in a clockwise direction, destroying towers and taking damage.
Once all monsters on the board have moved, the active player draws two monster tokens from the draw bag. For each monster drawn, roll the die and then place that monster in the forest ring in the same sector as the number rolled on the die. If a token with an effect is drawn, then resolve it. When the giant boulder is drawn, roll the die and then place the boulder in the forest ring of that number. Move the boulder towards the castle, destroying any monsters in the rings it moves through. The boulder stops and is removed once it hits a fortification, wall or tower. That structure is destroyed.
The game ends when either the last tower is destroyed by the monsters and the players lose, or all of the monster tokens have been played and all monsters slain and the players win. The players then tally up their points for the tokens they have collected as trophies. Goblins are worth 1 victory point, orcs 2 VP, trolls 3 VP, and bosses are worth 4 VP. The player with the most victory points is declared the Master Slayer. In case of a tie, then the player with the most monster tokens is the winner. Monsters slain by the giant boulder or through damage received by attacking a structure are not awarded to players as trophies.
I purchased the original Castle Panic several years ago. Our family played it over and over again and we ended up purchasing all three of the expansions. While we did not win every game, we enjoyed the challenge. Since we were all working together to win the game, everyone stayed engaged and offered suggestions, especially when it came to trading cards. Each game had periods of tension as monsters were getting close and destroying walls. Once one got into the castle ring and started destroying towers, the real panic set in. That just made a victory much more appreciated. It has been a couple years since we played the game. When I received the prototype of Castle Panic Deluxe, my kids and I carefully unpacked it and marveled at the intricately designed miniatures. After a quick review of the rules, our memories were refreshed and we began playing the base game. We had so much fun. The familiar tension was there. However, now that my kids are a bit older, I enjoyed sitting back and letting them come up with strategies to win. We had forgotten how much we enjoyed this game. My son told me that he liked the original game, but “Castle Panic Deluxe is so much better!”
There are a lot of games out there that have cool miniatures and then try to build a game around them. That is not the case here. The game was great before without any miniatures. However, the castle and monster minis really add to the game. In the original, the monster tiles were cardboard and used to represent monsters on the board. now drawing wooden tokens from the bag has a great feel and then placing miniatures on the board provides a lot more drama to the game as they march ever closer to your walls.
The base game by itself is wonderful and will provide hours upon hours of fun. However, the expansions make a great game even better. Each comes with even more miniatures as well as expanded rules. If you only get one expansion, then make sure it is the Wizard Tower Deluxe. This adds 40 monster minis, including some 4 and 5 HP monsters, 15 castle minis such as the wizard tower and flames–yes, fire is added in this expansion. You also get more castle cards as well as a deck of wizard cards and 25 more wooden monster tokens. This expansion adds a lot of nice features and makes the game a bit more challenging. Plus since some of the powerful monsters are randomly chosen, you don’t know what you face until they appear on the board.
The Dark Titan Deluxe expansion is only available in the Castle Panic Deluxe Collection. It comes with a powerful monster, Agranok, as well as 15 other monster minis. This expansion also includes 4 support units that can help you win the battle, each with their own miniature. More castle cards and tokens are included as well. This expansion is very challenging as Agranok has 8 HP!
The Engines of War Deluxe expansion is also only available in the Castle Panic Deluxe Collection. This adds siege warfare to the game as the monsters have a battering ram, a siege tower, and more while the players get a keep along with traps and weapons they can construct to help defend their castle. This expansion also adds resources to the game which are used to build items. The new expansion, Crowns and Quests, is still under development, but will feature characters the players will play as with quests and lots of plastic pieces and other components. I was not able to preview any of this, but from information I have gathered, this looks like it will add a lot to the game.
As I mentioned earlier, my family loves playing Castle Panic. I am extremely impressed by Castle Panic Deluxe and all the expansions. This game system is tried and tested. The rules have been updated and are smooth as well as easy to learn. This is a great game for families to play with their children. While the suggested age is 10 and up, with help from adults or older siblings, younger players can also enjoy this game. The details on the miniatures are incredible and they add so much to the game. Often when I review a game on Kickstarter, I will have had the opportunity to play it for several hours. However, I have played this game for years and still really have a ball each time I play it. If you are already a fan of Castle Panic, then you will like this new deluxe version. If you have never played it before and are looking for a game that can be played with your family as well as a gaming group of adults, I highly recommend Castle Panic Deluxe. I can’t wait to see the final product.
For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Castle Panic Deluxe Kickstarter page!
Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.
This post was last modified on May 10, 2021 6:05 pm
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