As it is likely known by many of you, the strength of the wolf is the pack, but this wolf is flying like Han – solo. Just like Han, I’m going to kill a massive, anthropomorphic lion tyrant that is slowly dying.
I may have dreamt that last bit.
Welcome to Armello, the board game that is less board and more game.
The name of the game is to kill the Lion King in the center of the map. He has been corrupted by rot, and is slowly dying as the days turn to nights. The day drains one HP from the King, but the night increases his rot. The time changes after every hero has taken a turn. Who are these heroes, you might ask? Well, they’re each a member of their respective Animal Clan (I.e. Rabbit, Rat, Bear, and Wolf) and there are two per clan.
Now, each hero has a special ability that can be useful for your playstyle, or be a nice way to cap off a game against AI. Not only does each hero have an ability unique to them, but each clan has four rings that unlock from using clan heroes to complete matches. Each ring is useful in its own way, and the final one is usually the most useful. It doesn’t take awfully long to unlock the final rings, but it does mean you’ll probably end up specializing to one specific clan or character for your gameplay.
There are also amulets, the final little cherry to top your very hairy sundae. They are unlocked by winning a match with a specific condition, or winning a certain amount of times. This gives you that final tweak to help get an edge above the competition, and it really works in a nice way. My only issue is that the game seems to have a little issue recognizing a Kingslayer victory. My second win was with such, and I didn’t unlock the amulet associated with the condition. Not the end of the world, but it was a little irking.
When you finally enter the board, you’ll realize the treat you’re in. The board is procedurally generated, but you can select to use a pre-generated map from the options menu, and contains seven different tile pieces, excluding the palace pieces. There’s a basic tile, one that provides stealth at night, one that damages you for walking on it, a dungeon that gives random rewards, stone circles that will heal uncorrupted foes, and mountains that cost two AP to cross but provide an extra shield in combat. You will travel through the map and capture settlements, the final piece, and gain gold for every dawn that you possess them.
You may be wondering, what’s the point in adventuring the world if that’s all there is? Well, there are quests. You have to reach the specific location and hope you can pass the check to get the special loot, or pass up the loot for a guaranteed success. These quests can give the best loot in the game, and can really help you get to the end game with the proper stuff. One of the other things that show up in the world are Spirit Stones, an item that in a quantity of four can lead you to a victory condition.
One of the interesting things with this game is the card system. You get a random draw at the start of the game, and can select a random card from one of three categories every time you use a card. The number you can have is decided by the Wit of your character, which can be increased by spells or by completing quests that test Wit.
The three categories are Equipment, Spells, or Trickery. Equipment can be equipped by your character or be used once against other characters and creatures in the game. The spells can be buffs, or debuffs, and are used to set perils on tiles that will lead to a roll check for anybody who steps on it. This mean you can activate your own trap if you aren’t careful. The final cards, Trickery, can be used to sabotage your opponents in hopes of making them easier to kill or making it easier for them to fail a peril check.
The fourth card type in the game, ones that can’t be pulled, are Followers. These are equipped like Equipment, but they don’t take the same slots, and don’t generally give boosts to combat rolls. They can vary in powers, and bring anything from gaining gold at dusk to being able to sacrifice health for casting spells. There is also equipment that gets better with the more companions you have, and so it could be worth bolstering your numbers if you have such equipment.
Another mechanic included in Armello is the prestige system. You get prestige for killing creatures and other players, but lose prestige for killing the King’s Guards. Each morning the King will ask the Prestige Leader to ratify one of two new policies. These usually are corrupted and evil policies that will hurt all heroes in some way. These can backfire, or they can work to destroy your foes. The prestige also decides victory if the King is killed in combat and his foe dies or the King dies from his rot. Sometimes it is better to just rush Prestige and avoid everything that could decrease it, especially if you’re fighting the AI. They’ll kamikaze the King and end the game, even if it means they’ll lose.
The final mechanic is Rot. Rot is an attribute picked up from failing certain quests and from being beat by Bane’s in combat. This is *mostly* a negligible mechanic, or so it seems. If you have high rot and fight another infected opponent, it can be the matter of life or death. The person with the most Rot gets bonus die equivalent to the opponent’s rot. If your opponent has 2 rot, it is alright and the match can still be close. If your opponent has six Rot and you have seven, you’ll get six extra die, in some cases that doubles how many die you roll. That can really smoosh your opponent into the ground and decide who wins the match.
This mechanic is something to remember when it comes to the King, for he grows by one rot every dusk. This means that your extra seven rot won’t compare to his ten, and so you’ll be facing an opponent that has massive amounts of attacks and blocks. If you’re going to use rot as your special weapon against the King, make sure you do it quickly and don’t let him build up his rot.
Now let’s talk the nitty gritty.
The game is very shallow at the moment. There are only eight characters, and there are really only a few ways to play the game. The reason why I specify it being shallow at the moment, is because it’s a board game. Board games, back in the days of the late-90s and early-00s, would release expansions that change the rules and add more content to be beloved by everybody. The game already has the Usurpers DLC being advertised in the message box on the menu, so chances are Armello is going to get updated and changed enough to make it even better. I hope that League of Geeks take this game to truly deeper levels of gameplay, and hopefully add bigger maps with different designs. All this game needs to do is add more flair and possibility for it to be the perfect board game to grace the Xbox One.
One way they can improve the game is by creating a mode where you play as the King against the AI. You’re trying to prevent them from getting any Spirit Stones or kill you, so you play perils and try to deter the Clans long enough for your Rot to fully infect you. You could select from at random what your policies would be for the Prestige Leader, and could even move your King’s Guard around. Adding something like this would allow for a break to any the monotony and make this game perfect.
In the end, Armello is a star to hang around with the recent Grow Up. It does what it wanted to do and really nails that on the head. I’m glad to give LoG my five stars for a fantastic board game, and hope they expand it to really unlock the full potential that resides within.