Once upon a time there lived many animal clans coexisting in peace under the guidance of a fair and powerful king. One day, the king started acting strangely and the clans suspected foul play by one another, corrupting the king’s mind. Little did they know that it was the Rot that had taken hold — and his days as king are now coming to a close. Who will rule this land after the king’s inevitable death, and just exactly how and when will that death occur?
This is the story of Armello – a storytelling fantasy card and board game where magic, intrigue, deception, and greed rule the land. Play as one of 8 playable characters with the sole aim of becoming the next ruler of Armello. There have been a few tweaks to the user interface and gameplay design since my early preview. Now that the game has undergone general release, let’s take a look to see what improvements have been made. Is Armello as fun to play now as it was back then?
Is this the beginning of another great chapter for Armello, or is it now a closed book? Read on to find out…
Armello is – without question – one of the most beautifully designed digital board games out there. The fantasy and magic it brings across with its design is completely believable. You become fully immersed in this living, breathing land from the moment you start the game. All of the champions are highly detailed on and off the board, and their personalities shine through. Armello has set a new standard of design for digital board games – a standard that sets it far apart from its competition.
There aren’t many games that get straight into the storytelling like Armello does. New to the full version is a Prologue that teaches you the basics of the game such as movement, using cards, and victory conditions. Each section is covered by introducing you to the champion from each of the 4 clans; Bear, Rabbit, Rat, and Wolf. You are also given a little backstory on these clans and champions, and their reasons for suspecting foul play by the other clans.
Gameplay is turn-based with each player taking their turns in sequence rather than simultaneously. During a turn you can perform any number of actions that you can afford to. Movement costs you Action Points (AP) and the usage of cards costs you the resources printed on it. There are several card types that are used to advance your game state or to hinder that of the opposing players. Perhaps my favorite card type is the Trickery cards. These can lay Perils on one of the hex tiles that your opponents must pass or face their consequence. The other two card types are Items and Spells, but they’re not nearly as fun as the Trickery cards!
I’m a huge fan of games that include alternate victory conditions, essentially, several ways to win – we’ve got that here in Armello. All of the ways to win make sense as they are deeply thematic and lend to their own strategies in gameplay. Don’t want to get involved with too much fighting? Go for the Spirit Stone victory path instead of the Prestige one. This opens up many options during the course of a game and it’s quite easy to switch between them if you wish. I was often finding myself switching tactics based on what the other players were doing – all because it would suit me better in that instance whilst slowing them down.
You’ll need a lot of luck to help you through some of the game’s mechanics. Questing, overcoming Perils, and Battle sequences are just some of the instances where luck can often decide the outcome. For example, when you land on the tile of your current quest, you are usually presented with two options. One is an easy path with very little danger whilst the other uses one of your base statistics (depending on the quest type) in order to determine how successful you may be. The key word here is ‘may’, as even with a 60% chance of a successful encounter, the game can still choose the negative icon over the positive one.
You can improve your chances with equipment from the Items cards, but you can only carry three pieces of equipment at a time so you can’t prepare for every eventuality. If you’ve got a weaker champion, you may want to go heavier on the weapon and armor equips to give yourself a fighting chance in combat.
Battles are settled using unique six sided dice that denote hits and misses. Clan affiliations, equips, and Rot all play a part in the number of dice you can cast in battle. What follows this is an amazing battle animation between the two combatants that brings the whole conflict to life.
There is so much more to Armello than luck, dice, and cards. There is a great narrative that comes to life as you play. I couldn’t help myself from making up stories when I was playing as to why I was doing what I was doing, and thus was completely immersed in every game that I played. The day and night cycle is an awesome feature that changes the way you play between turns as well. I’m simply astonished and impressed by the levels of innovation on offer here.
MODES AND FEATURES
Because Armello is designed to be played as a multiplayer game it has less focus on a central story arc or unlocks. Purchasing the game gets you access to the entire game and all its content. You have access to 8 characters and unlockable items that can enhance certain aspects of your champion. I spent a lot of my time playing the A.I. because I found it hard to get an online game going, but that will change once there are more players on-board as it’s a new release right now.
There appears to be no way to change the game rules at this time which lowers the amount of customization. A little would go a long way to prolonging the gameplay beyond just a couple of games. Playing a full game can take a while and is by no means something for people who want a short fix. You’ll need to dedicate some time to playing before loading it up.
The card gallery lets you see all of the cards you’ve seen played during the course of the game. This is more important in this game than others because a number of the cards are beautifully animated. I sometimes wouldn’t want to play a card simple because I enjoyed looking at it whilst it was still in my hand! This emphasizes just how much love and attention went into this game.
Board games are often linear and predictable – Armello is completely different from the template. Whilst it’s no secret that a lot of what you do will rely on some luck – the rest of what happens is up to you. Making good choices when presented with decisions and knowing when to go into a fight with another player is all on you. Going in against a stronger fighter can lead to your death and a loss of Prestige. You’re not dead for long though and are immediately re-spawned at your Clan grounds.
Having the choice of how to win is a novelty, as a lot of other games feel as though the alternate victory conditions are an afterthought. Nothing in Armello feels like an afterthought, and if I had to suggest one particular strategy I wouldn’t be able to. Each of them is viable enough for you to invest in that path. My only advice would be to not spread yourself too thinly and play to the strengths of your champion. Got a lot of Fight stat at the start, and from your equips? Then focus on Prestige or defeating the King.
Some of your best friends in this game are the Trickery cards. A lot of them cost Gold to use and no champion should be short on this. Ensure you get some settlements close to your clan grounds for that extra income each dawn. Then play Trickery cards that trigger Perils on tiles close to your opponents. Though your opponents will be aware of a Peril card played at that location, they will not know what type it is. This can also be a good way to ensure a better path for yourself when you need that extra space to avoid another champion.
If you couldn’t tell already – I am very impressed with Armello. The developers have done something completely different to what’s been on offer for so long in this genre. They’ve re-imagined and reinvented what a digital card and board game should look and play like.
Graphically, this is the best digital board game I have ever played. The attention to detail in the 3D modeling of the gameboard and the animations bring the game to life in so many ways. The 2D sequences are just as beautiful, with no imperfections. The soundtrack is also a pleasure to listen to and fits extremely well with the overall aesthetic of the game.
Armello is a must have for any digital board game enthusiast, or for anyone looking to get into something a little different. There aren’t enough words to describe just how much of an amazing gameplay experience you will have playing this game – you’ll just have to trust me and try it for yourself!
For more screenshots, click here.
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