Saturday, April 1, 2023


Fans of the tower defense video games will be geeked about CASTLE PANIC from Fireside Games. It brings the popular genre to the realm of board games. A hoard of monsters is attacking your castle in this cooperative tabletop game. Work together to prevent your Keep from being overrun for a fun game night involving two to six players. 

I took on the role of King Arthur and my son joined me as Prince Valiant as we defended Castle Bravehold versus an army of goblins, orcs and trolls. Monsters range in how menacing they are with goblins taking one hit of damage to kill, orcs two hits, and trolls require three hits of damage. They are marching on a game board divided up into grids labeled Forest, Archer, Knight, Swordsman, Castle with our castle located at the center of it all. Monsters don't attack players directly but rather destroy castle walls and towers by entering the spaces the structures occupy. If all your castle towers come crashing down, the day is lost! 

Players pull from an action card deck each turn. Cards allow for players to utilize archers, knights, and swordsman to attack monsters when the monsters are in designated zones related a defender type. So, an archer can only attack a monster when it is in the archer arc, a knight in the knight arc, and swordsman in the swordsman arc. Also, the board is divided into colored zones and only your warriors that match a zone's color can attack monsters within it.

Cards can also be pulled that allow players to utilize a tar cauldron to slow down the approaching army as well as fortify or rebuild walls. Players can trade cards and strategize how to cooperatively attack monsters and utilize special actions to be victorious against the hoard. All the monster tokens must be exhausted and at least one castle tower still standing for the players to prevail.

The game begins with a number of designated monster tokens prepositioned on the playing board as instructed in the rulebook. Each player has their own turn to draw cards and engage in actions. Following each player's turn their is a blind draw to add two more random monsters into game play. A dice roll determines where each of the monsters is placed on the board. All monsters start in the forest arc where they can't be hit or damaged by castle defenders. The monster then moves one arc closer to the castle each player turn unless they are stopped by the players.

Each monster is a triangle shaped cardboard token with artwork depicting it. The number of hit points of the character is printed on the tips of the triangle and the highest number should be pointed towards the castle. As the monster takes damage the triangle is spun around to show the existing amount pointing in the direction it is marching. So, if a troll with three hit points takes a point of damage by an archer and another point of damage by a knight, it will show 1 point as it enters the swordsman arc. If players knock a monster's hit points to zero, the token is removed from the board and can't be replayed.

In addition to the general warrior goblins, orcs and trolls there are also Boss Monsters that can randomly appear during the token blind draws. Each has a special effect that goes into effect when they are first drawn. After that, these monsters behave like regular warriors. The Boss Monsters in the CASTLE PANIC base game are:


The Goblin King never arrives alone. When his token is pulled, draw three more monster tokens to go along with his. All four tokens are placed immediately within the forest arc. 


Place this fierce military commander in the forest. Then immediately move all the monsters on the board, including the Orc Warlord, one arc forward. 


The Troll Mage emboldens all monsters to press the attack. Just like the Orc Warlord every monster on the board moves forward one arc in the same turn the Troll Mage is placed on the board.


When this healer is placed on the board, all monsters immediately regain one point lost to damage. Fortunately, this is a one-time effect, yet it can still have a major impact in pushing forward or extinguishing a wave of the monsters' assault.  

The difficulty level of a game of CASTLE PANIC can be impacted by adding or reducing types of tokens. For example, not including trolls in the game essentially creates an easy mode. For our first game, to moderate the difficulty a bit, we included all the goblin, orc and troll warriors, but only utilized the Goblin King and Healer tokens out of the Monster Bosses. There were a few waves of monsters where we may have been overwhelmed if the Orc Warlord and Troll Mage appeared and instituted their special effects. So, the Monster Bosses absolutely impact how challenging of a game you play. 

Passing cards back and forth while talking through our actions was working out well; but then we had some bad card draws and suddenly our castle walls were breached. I had two mortar cards in my hand but couldn't use them without combining them with brick cards to rebuild the walls. Prince Valiant though pulled two brick cards in his draw! 

We were able to repair the breach just before the monsters were able to surge in. Then in our next few turns cut down the attackers fending off this wave of their assault. This gave us a chance to catch our breath and stock up on our arsenal of action cards. 

We weren't guaranteed victory yet though. We had a succession of monster draws that brought out a challenging group of reinforcements made up mostly of trolls and orcs which are no pushover to defeat. Then things got worse as the Goblin King and Healer arrived on the battlefield to reinforce the monster army assault on Castle Bravehold.

It appeared as all might be lost as the trolls began to overwhelm us. But then there was a glimmer of hope. The last of the monster tokens was drawn! We just had to outlast those that were on the game board before they tore down the towers within our keep. Could we hold out?

We had some luck come our way! The Prince pulled during one of his turns a "Draw 2 Cards" action card to let us add extra attacks to our defense. He was determined to valiantly fight the enemy!

While he was fighting off the hoard, I took charge of fortify a wall and pour down some tar to slow down the attackers buying us some extra time. 

Yet the monster army didn't cease their push to destroy the castle! They began tearing down the castle's walls and towers. Two towers fell! If all the towers fell, we lose the game. Damage done to the monsters as they tore down the castle and the aid of a Barbarian helped us clear out the intruders from within it.

Then suddenly victory was in our grasp! There was only one monster left on the board. A hero dispatched it and then there were no combatants left to assault us. We had outlasted the monster army. We were victorious! 

The game lasted about an hour and we had a really fun time playing it. It is recommended for ages 8 & up making it a nice selection for a family game night. It has rules that are easy for kids to grasp but yet the game play is challenging enough to keep adults like this Geek Daddy entertained. Based upon the good time my son and I had playing CASTLE PANIC it absolutely earns a Geek Daddy nod of approval.

The game utilized cardboard game pieces instead of plastic miniatures which also contributes to it having a younger player skew then tabletop games tend to be averaging these days. I've been getting a little tired of painting gaming miniatures lately and liked the mechanics of using CASTLE PANIC'S cardboard tokens so that didn't interfere with our enjoyment of playing it. For those who really want to play CASTLE PANIC with miniature figures there is a Deluxe version coming out that features those style of game pieces. 

Additionally, for the basic edition of CASTLE PANIC there are expansion boxes to add variety to the game. The Wizard's Tower provides magic spells that you can use to fend off the monster army; as well as adds new combatants to battle such as imps, centaurs and ogres; and new bosses to challenge you including a basilisk, chimera, and dragon to fight. Crowns and Quests provides an element of role playing presenting players with twelve characters that have unique abilities who are charged with going on up to 18 different side quests that compliment the overall game play. Once you've played a few games of CASTLE PANIC add some expansion packs to keep it exciting.

For more information about CASTLE PANIC head over to

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