-Welcome to this series where I resolve to play my Steam games backlog! Here are my discoveries!-
Time Played: 1.9 hours
I’m continuing the Steam series with yet another game that I Kickstarted last year: Armello.
This game was released as early access in January, and the developers have been tweaking and adding lots of new content ever since. I waited a bit until the dust cleared to play this game and form my opinion.
Now, before I start my review, I’m going to borrow a semi-quote from Sir Mixalot.
Everything art-wise from the intro, the board, the characters, the cards… it’s a jaw-droppingly beautiful game. The art alone was inspiring enough for me to back it last year. Huge props to the art team on this.
What Is It?
Armello describes itself as:
Armello is a grim fairy-tale board game come to life. Full of swashbuckling adventure combining deep, tactical card play, rich tabletop strategy and RPG elements.
I’d say that’s pretty accurate.
Armello is a digital board game that combines moving over a gridded map, drawing and playing cards, RPG character stats and equipment, and rolling dice for battle and skill checks. So it’s a pretty huge conglomeration of a lot of different gaming elements all rolled into one.
You can play Armello solo, against three computer AI opponents, or choose to play mulitiplayer (I’m assuming on Steam). I don’t know how the multiplayer works since I’ve only played solo so far. But for competitive enthusiasts, it’s probably more fun to play against real folks than the AI.
Armello is a world of animal creatures, ruled by a king who is slowly dying to the infection of the rot. This is, indeed a “grim fairy-tale” in that it was kinda hard for me to sit there and watch the king’s life ticking away each match. I don’t know exactly what the rot is, but it’s pretty nasty, and even players can become infected.
You play one of four animal heroes within the kingdom, sent by your clan to claim the throne in whatever way necessary. Each hero has their own stats that provide strengths and weaknesses. For example, Thane the wolf is a warrior with a lot of Fight (5 points) and decent Health (4 points), which makes him a natural at battle. His Wits (3) and Spirit (3), are much lower, which hinders his spell casting and the max number of cards he starts with each day.
Each character is a little different, with their own special abilities, which changes things up when you play with each.
You can win the game with one of four victory conditions:
- Prestige victory – You earn the most prestige in the game. When the king finally dies to the rot, you win the throne. Easiest condition to earn, and only one I’ve seen so far, though I haven’t won yet.
- Spirit Stone victory – You gather four spirit stones that randomly spawn at night, or can be earned in quests. Take them to the palace and cure the king of his rot, while banishing him and earning the throne. Sounds pretty mean.
- Kill the King victory – You break into the palace, overcome the palace perils (which isn’t easy to do), and kill the king. Sounds pretty mean, too.
- Rot victory – You purposely become infected with rot, build up more rot than the king, break into the palace and kill him while rotted to take the throne. Doesn’t sound like the kingdom is in any better hands with you on the throne, though. 😄
As you can see, there’s no kind outcome for the poor king in all this.
I’m not much of a board game player, though I do tend to find them fun. I’m also not strong at playing games with heavy focus on strategy and numbers. So I just wanted to put that out there before my review.
I felt this game looks and runs extremely well for an early access release. I didn’t run into any bugs or issues while playing, and was really impressed by the overall presentation and feel of the game.
However, for me, there was a lot of complexity to the game that I had to struggle to get my mind around as a brand new player. There wasn’t a tutorial mode, but tutorial screens did pop up from time to time on my first play-through, trying to help me get a grip on all the cards, dice, stats, perils, equipment, card burning, etc that goes on in this game. The game does have an extensive help section, but this requires you to pause the game, go to help and read wiki-like entries to find the information, which isn’t very intuitive if all you want to do is jump in and learn the game by playing.
This game has a lot of moving parts, which is a good thing for replay value and for those who enjoy the challenge. Add to it randomly generated maps and more randomness in the cards you draw, the quests you get, the dice you roll, and the daily rule drawn by the prestige leader every morning, and you’d be hard pressed to play the same game twice.
By the end of the first game, which overwhelmed me a bit, I had a basic idea of what to do. I still felt like I was missing a lot of information, though, so I turned to playthrough videos to help me out. This one was very helpful in taking me step by step through what stats meant, what the interface was about and how to play the basic game.
Armed with more information, I played a second round. I wasn’t as overwhelmed the second time, but I still found myself struggling to beat Thane, who I swear is OP. Even with an awesome cloak that added a permanent 3 prestige, he still trounced enemies one after another on the map and solidly beat everyone else. Maybe I should play him next time, though I really like Mercurio, being a rat-lover. 🙂
Armello is a good, solid digital board game with a lot of neat elements that combine into unique gameplay. Each round took me about an hour to complete solo, so be ready to spend about that amount of time for each playthrough. It’s not a huge amount of time, but not something you can pick up and put down, unless you’re playing solo (there is a saving option for solo play).
It looks and feels fantastic, and I’ve certainly not played anything like it before. All the different elements, while really cool, may be a bit overwhelming for a new player who is not a board gamer. There is a learning curve for those folks, so be sure to check out a video (like above) to ensure this kind of gameplay is something that appeals to you. Especially with the current $25 price tag on Steam.
My personal verdict is that I might pick up this game from time to time for a quick solo play, I don’t think I’m going to put hours into it… because I’d rather be spending my time playing a different genre. That’s just me. However, I’m proud to have supported this game in Kickstarter and I’m happy that it is being made a reality, because those who love board gaming will probably find a lot to love in Armello.
I’m not sure what the devs can add to this game to make it non-early-access, but I’m looking forward to following the development as it continues to grow.
Yes – If you enjoy board/card/dice gaming. Be sure to check out a playthrough video if you’re uncertain, however.