The king of Armello has fallen ill to the Rot, which twists his mind and soul. As he descends into madness, the four Great Clans each send a hero to claim the throne. As one of these heroes, you will complete quests, gather equipment and followers, and fight enemies in this innovative turn-based strategy board game from League of Geeks.
When you start a new game you first have to pick a hero from one of the four Great Clans (Bear, Wolf, Rabbit, or Rat), each with different abilities that influence how you play. You then choose an amulet and ring which can strengthen what your character is good at or compensate for what they’re not.
For example, Brun from the Bear Clan gains one fight when using a spell which encourages using spells before combat. However, his magic is low, so using the Jade ring (which gives +3 magic if you’re in a forest at dawn) makes up for this weakness. Amber from the Rabbit Clan gives better rewards when exploring dungeons, which gives more flexibility in how you decide to win the game. Using the Dig amulet increases the chance of finding Spirit Stones when exploring dungeons, which makes it easier to get that victory against the king.
There’s no real wrong choice in which hero, amulet, and ring you use since it depends on your playstyle and how you want to achieve victory.
Once the game starts you’re presented with a gorgeous game board. Armello’s graphics, sound effects, and music are all top-notch.
The dice rolls look like actual dice being thrown on a board and somehow appear as if they’re bouncing on your computer screen. The attention to detail in the cards, tiles, and characters—along with the fluid animations—gives Armello a beautiful aesthetic.
You’re given a number of cards based on your Wits and three quests from which to choose. Completing quests permanently increases a stat by 1 (Fight, Body, Wits, or Spirit) and, if you’re lucky, an additional award. Complete all of the quests to eventually make your way into the castle to confront, and hopefully defeat, the king of Armello. However, you don’t have to do the quests if you don’t want to, since you can attack the king at any time if you think you’re strong enough.
There are many challenges to overcome—from random perils that you’ll need to use dice to overcome or suffer the penalties, to banes (monster shadow birds) which will attack you and spawn from dungeons at night, and enemy players who will use their cards against you or just fight you to force you back to the start if you’re defeated. Exploring dungeons gives you a random reward if you’re lucky, and claiming a settlement gives you a unit of gold every day. You’ll need gold or magic to use cards, so without gold most of the great cards you have can’t be used, which can be bad when your settlements are taken by enemy players.
In the screenshot above, I’m attacking the king and both of us are rolling dice to determine our attack and defense. To defeat the king and win the game, I have to have more attack dice than the king has defense dice and health combined, which I do. Unfortunately, so does the king, and since both of us attack one after the other, this means we’ll both end up defeated after combat is over. That gives victory to the player with the highest prestige, which means my choice of attacking the king was an unwise one.
Fortunately, by using cards you can make the dice roll in your favor by either equipping items and followers with the appropriate bonuses, or burning them. By burning cards, you make one of your dice take on the card’s symbol. A card with a sword symbol turns into attack, while a card with a shield symbol turns into defense, and so on, for all of the symbols. You do lose the card, but it’s a small trade-off in order to win the battle or defeat the peril.
Dice rolls are one of Armello’s greatest strengths and biggest source of frustration. You’ll cheer when you get enough defense dice to not die to an enemy attack, and curse when you roll badly and lose a battle you thought would be an easy victory.
The biggest problem I had with Armello relates back to dice rolls and randomness; it’s hard to bounce back after too much bad luck. I’ve had a few games where I had to go to a tile on the opposite side of the board for a quest, and I just couldn’t get there. Either an enemy hero killed me or I failed a peril, and since there’s a limited amount of turns before the king dies, there’s not a lot of leeway. Essentially, you can overcome a little bit of bad luck, but if you get a lot of bad luck there’s nothing you can do except hope for better fortune.
I’d also really like to see more of everything: heroes, tiles, seasons, equipment, followers, perils, banes, rings, amulets, dice, victory conditions, etc. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a good selection right now, but having more would add more variety and replayability.
Armello is a really fun board game, and since each game only lasts about 30 minutes, I find myself playing while eating dinner or whenever I have a bit of spare time. Finding an online game usually doesn’t take long, and playing against real people adds extra unpredictability the AI doesn’t have.
If you like turn-based strategy or board games, Armello is worth taking a closer look.
Genre: Turn-based strategy board game
Developer: League of Geeks
Minimum Requirements: OS X v10.9, Dual-core 2.2 GHz processor, 2 GB RAM, OpenGL SM3.0 capable video card with 1024 MB VRAM, 4 GB available hard drive space
Availability: Now at Steam, GOG.com, or directly from League of Geeks