A lot can be done when board games are strictly digitalized. Not only can the visuals be tweaked into great modern-day graphics, but much can be done with the games rules and gameplay. When an Australian indie developer, League of Geeks, launched its Kickstarter campaign last year, its premise was a board game that featured an anthropomorphic world in a fantasy setting. The campaign was a huge success; it surpassed a few stretch goals in addition to garnering the financial support of the Australian government. Its name was Armello.
Armello was released earlier this month on PS4 and on PC via Steam. The game’s pre-release hype was so good that Sony picked the game as part of its Vote to Play campaign, where PlayStation Plus members can select one of the free video games they would get from three upcoming title releases by popular vote. Unfortunately, Armello did not get picked, but Sony is offering a discount on it until the end of this month.
The game is set in the titular world of Armello, a literal animal kingdom ruled by anthropomorphic bears, bunnies and the like. The animals are grouped into clans based on their classifications. Of course, the king of the land of Armello is a lion, and he rules the kingdom from his ironclad castle with a number of heavily-armored guards. While the land has been peaceful for years, a terrible force called the Rot is corrupting the land and has hit the king as a death sentence. This is an opportunity for other clan leaders rising up to take the crown.
Armello, in its essence, a very intricate turn-based board game. So intricate that it utilizes several tools of a board game: dice and cards. There are also a multitude of role-playing elements such as hit points, status effects as well as action points. To explain all of the game’s elements in detail can be quite laborious. In fact, it is of utmost importance that the first activity in the game is to play the prologue and not start a new game. The prologue is a great four-step tutorial on how the game is played. Here is a quick rundown of what can be learned of the gameplay:
- There are four ways to win a game: killing the king in battle, letting the rot poison and kill the king, having a higher prestige when the king dies from the poison, and healing the king with spirit stones.
- There are eight players that can be selected, each having his/her own statistics and abilities that can assist on how the game can be played, especially on what method to win.
- There are quests that can be taken while ultimately trying to win a game. Quests direct a player to a certain tile and decide whether to complete the quest the easy or hard way. The easy way allows the completion without any risks; the hard way rewards or punishes based on the outcome of a statistics game.
- There are weapons, armors, spells, trickeries, and allies in the game that are symbolized as cards. Cards have costs to play, and they are usually gold or spirit points. Items and allies can turn the tide of the battle if utilized well.
- There are many types of statistics of a certain character. A critical statistic is prestige. The character who has the most prestige will obtain significant benefits. First, the character with the highest-prestige after a full day (i.e., two round cycles of day and night) will be able to pick which law will affect the land for that day, based on what trickeries the king wants to deploy. The second and most important aspect of prestige is whichever character has the most prestige after the king has died from the rot will win the game, given that other characters have not won by other means of victories.
These are just scratches on the surface of Armello‘s gameplay elements. To master, or even win the game, takes a lot of strategy and sometimes a little bit of luck. The expectation of winning a game after getting past the prologue may be out of reach, but after getting seasoned for a few games and figuring out a strategy, victory can be achieved.
The work that League of Geeks team has put in for the artwork for Armello is amazing. The hexagonal game board looks like a world map filled with forests, caves, plains, and so forth. As turns go from day to night, the ambiance of the board changes from bright and cheery to dark and mysterious.
The characters are designed very methodically, giving each character’s traits evident in their clothing, armor, and weapons. For example, Amber, the playable female rabbit character, is cunning in politics and can be very sneaky with her ability in obtaining prestige. Her weapon is a sword hidden in an umbrella, which is very fitting. Such character design shows the developers’ intelligent design choices.
To Buy or Not to Buy
Armello is definitely recommended for any board game enthusiast. It is also for anyone who is looking for a board game that has some really deep game mechanics, especially ones that take careful strategies and mastery in order to win. In addition, those who have been hyped about the game but did not get a chance to back its Kickstarter campaign should pick it up.
Overthrow the Rotting King by Any Means Necessary
Plot - 8/10
Gameplay - 8/10
Design - 8/10
+Very deep and intricate board game mechanics
+Amazing game board design
+Methodical character designs
-Figuring out a strategy to win takes a while