Unique titles I've played in 2016
I'd added Castle Panic: The Wizard's Tower to my 4 year old son's wishlist two years in a row and nobody got it for him. I think the ages printed on the box scared them away. So I bought it since I know he can play games like this. We played it for the first time just before the new year and, as I expected, he had no problem with the changes. In fact, he reminded me of a few rules during that game... like how the Warlock could not be affected by the Wizard card I was trying to play. We barely won that round and we both really liked all the new monsters and choices with the extra cards and the Wizard's tower.
On New Year's Day, my 7 year old daughter (Azalea) wanted to give it a try so we all sat down and set it up. My son (Dane) had a fun time and did a great job explaining the changes in the game to his sister. One thing to note is that when my kids and I play this game, we just play to win as a team. We don't collect the monsters we slay to determine the master slayer at the end of the game.
Things were going great... we'd lost a number of walls, but had basically eliminated all of the monsters so far and had all but one tower still up as we neared the end game. The problem was that we had not yet seen any of the three new boss monsters so we knew those were all going to come in during the last several turns. At the end of Dane's turn, the Basilisk arrived as well as 5 Imps... one for each tower. On Azalea's turn, the Chimera and Warlock arrived. Things were getting bad as we knew they would.
Fortunately, Dane had the Barbarian card which can destroy any monster not in the forest. I was taking my turn and Dane was next. I mentioned that he could trade me the Barbarian card and I could destroy the Basilisk on my turn. He said, "no, I want to do it." I explained that it would probably be better if we could get rid of him on this turn so Dane could do the "discard a card" part of his turn (which the Basilisk blocks) but he wouldn't do it. I decided to go with it and not apply more pressure, but I did remind him that I thought the right move was to trade. I finished my turn and moved the monsters and then I drew two monster tiles.
I drew the "every player discard one card" tile and Dane's only card was the Barbarian. The look on his face was priceless as he discarded the Barbarian he'd held for several turns without using it. I mentioned how that would not have happened if he would have traded, but I didn't say much more. Dane wasn't able to do much on his turn and then drew the Goblin King (who adds 3 more monsters) and the add 4 more monsters tile. On his turn, 6 or 7 new monsters were added to the board.
We struggled through our next 5 turns or so, blocked by the Baslisk and with the Warlock bouncing around and the Chimera setting everything on fire. As our last few towers were crumbling down Dane said, "I think I should have traded you that Barbarian card." We all had a chuckle and while we were disappointed not to keep our castle intact, we did have a lot of fun playing. And, a lesson was definitely learned about teamwork and how it doesn't matter who completes a task as long as we are all doing our best to help it be completed.
Both Dane and Azalea asked to play the game again today. We played some other games with the rest of the family instead, but there is no doubt that they want revenge after a tough defeat.
I've rated Castle Panic a 6.5 after 15 plays. It's an okay game to play with kids, but very samey after a while. With Wizard's Tower, I've moved my rating to an 8. The decisions are much more interesting now. If you've played Castle Panic and felt like the ideas were pretty good but the game could be better and more interesting, I highly recommend trying out the Wizard's Tower. It doesn't redefine the game, but it adds a lot of newness and some tougher choices.