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Subject: A GREAT game to play with children --- and why rss

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Larry Welborn
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Anderson
South Carolina
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I first saw mention of Castle Panic back in the Summer of 2009 and I knew instantly that I would have to buy it for my family. As I hoped, this game has been a big hit for the family and a great game to play with my son, age 8, and daughter, age 6. This review is based only on the co-op version, in which all players share equally in victory or defeat. All photos used are courtesy of the designer Justin De Witt.

Object of the Game: In the co-op version of the game, all the players are working to protect the castle from the onslaught of various monsters. The castle consist of 6 wall sections and 6 towers that the monsters are trying to destroy. Walls can be rebuilt during the game, but towers remain destroyed. If all 6 towers are destroyed, the players lose. If at least one tower remains after all of the monsters are defeated, the players win.



Play: Each turn consists of 6 phases, that must be taken in the following order:

1. A player fills his hand back to the maximum, which ranges from 4 to 6 depending on the number of players.

2. The player may optionally discard one card and draw another from the draw pile.

3. A player may optionally trade a card or two, again depending on the number of players, with another player.

4. A player then plays his cards. Cards primarily target an opponent in a specific area of the board, such as a Red Archer will hit a monster in the red archer section of the board only. Other cards allow you to fortify walls, attack a monster anywhere, rebuild a section of wall, etc.




5. The player moves all the monsters on the board one space closer to the castle. If a monster gets to the wall, he destroys it at the cost of one hit point. If the wall is destroyed, he moves into the castle and destroys a tower for the cost of one hit point.

6. Finally, the player draws two more monster tokens and follows the directions. Some tokens add monsters to the board, others have different effects, such as having the monsters move an extra space or causing the players to lose cards. Play then proceeds to the next player.




Here are the reasons I think the game is a great one to play with children:

Game Length:
We are playing the game to completion in about 35-45 minutes. This is a good length of time as the children stay involved and don't lose interest. When a game lasts over an hour, many children, including mine, start to lose focus and want to quit.

Team Play: I find that the team play aspect of co-op games work well with children as the whole family can share in a victory. On the occasions where the family suffers a lost, at least everyone has lost together. (Note: I'm not saying that children shouldn't play competitively, but a good co-op game is a nice change of pace.)

Components: The components are very nice. The board is beautiful and the monsters are drawn in a more cartoon style, which goes well with a family game. The only gripe is that the cards are printed on rather thin stock. Since the hands are played open, this is only a minor complaint.

Simple Play: This is a game that children as young as 5 can grasp the rules and make meaningful decisions during the game. Both of my children understood the game after only a few minutes of explanation.

Strategy: Despite the simple rules, there are meaningful strategic decisions to be made during the game. For example, my children quickly learned to hold the most powerful cards, such as the Barbarian, in reserve. There are also choices to be made as to which monster to attack, which wall section to be rebuilt and so forth. But the decisions are all within the ability of the children to determine, which leads us to . . .

No dominant player: Many co-op games suffer when a dominant player basically plays for everyone, telling them where to move, what to play, etc. When we first started playing Pandemic with the children, often they were merely moving as we instructed. In Castle Panic even the children can usually figure out the best move, or something close to the best move. As such, everyone gets to equally participate in the game.

Minimal downtime: Children lose interest fast when they have to wait and wait until their turn. In this game, each turn plays quickly. Plus since there may be card trading between the players, everyone stays involved. Finally, the results of a player affects the whole team so everyone stays interested.

Winnable: The difficulty level of the basic co-op game is not too hard. We have won 75% of our games, although we have been down to 1 or 2 towers in all games except 1. Compare that to Lord of the Rings in which my wife and I played probably 8 to 10 games before our first win. A lot of loses are fine for adults, not so fine for children. If they can never win, they lose interest. However, too easy can be boring also, but not to worry because the game is . . .

Scalable: There are several ways listed in the rules to make the game either easier or more difficult. These changes do not modify the base game so you don't have to learn a different ruleset. There are also two other versions of the game, Overlord and Standard. In Overlord one player assumes the role of the Monsters and battles the other players. In Standard, the players work together as in the co-op version but if the players win, the player who gained the most monster points is the winner.



Conclusion: Castle Panic is one of the best family games to be released in 2009 and I highly recommend it.
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Sandra Sherwood
United States
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I have this ordered for my 7-year-old for Christmas. Glad to hear it works well for that age.
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I juggle cats.
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Do you always play pure co-op? This is the only way I've played so far (love it!) and I'm a bit leery of "standard" play.
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Larry Welborn
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Anderson
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johnweldy wrote:
Do you always play pure co-op? This is the only way I've played so far (love it!) and I'm a bit leery of "standard" play.


So far we have only played co-op as I'm not sure that standard will go over well with the children. I could see them refusing to cooperate with each other and losing the game more than not.

My son has expressed an interest in being the Overlord so we may try that version next.
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Scott Roberts
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Good review. I will have to get this. My kids like co-op games and my 8 year old boy loves them. The first thing he asks when I pull ouyt a new game is "is it cooperative?"
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Ken Newell
Canada
Prince George
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We played 4 adults in the "standard" version and had some fun with it. As it was the first time playing for 2 of the adults, there wasn't much in the way of planning to take out monsters. We got so far behind initially that we just needed to best strategize to win the game. Afterward we worried about the "monster slayer".

In the end, the "monster slayer" really was secondary to just having survived to the end of the game.

With my 7 yr old, we have only played pure coop, but based on the adult play, I don't think it will be that big of a deal to go "standard".
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James Cartwright
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I play this with my kids and they really enjoy it, it's a great family game.
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Anthony Martins
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Larry Welborn wrote:
johnweldy wrote:
Do you always play pure co-op? This is the only way I've played so far (love it!) and I'm a bit leery of "standard" play.


So far we have only played co-op as I'm not sure that standard will go over well with the children. I could see them refusing to cooperate with each other and losing the game more than not.

My son has expressed an interest in being the Overlord so we may try that version next.


I've heard this happen with adults as well laugh
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Mark Farr
Australia
Sydney
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Great review, Larry. I did not know about this game before reading your review.
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Alex Η
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Great review! Thanks so much! I will play the game with my boys, eventually.

goo
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Bulldozers
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Crystal Lake
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nerotora wrote:
Great review! Thanks so much! I will play the game with my boys, eventually.

goo


What Alex said!
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Mark Farr
Australia
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Well, Larry, I have now ordered this game, based on your review. I am sure that my crowd (friends and family) will love it. Good to see you around on the thread again. You were missed.
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Larry Welborn
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Anderson
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Tobold wrote:
Well, Larry, I have now ordered this game, based on your review. I am sure that my crowd (friends and family) will love it. Good to see you around on the thread again. You were missed.


Thanks, Mark. Let me know if your family likes it.
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Clinton "Kayoz"
United States
Rexburg
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Thanks for the review! Just placed an order for it. I believe my kids will really enjoy this one. Who knows maybe the misses will want to join in on some castle defense!
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