Published on September 28th, 2015 | by Across the Board Games Staff0
Depose the King in Armello
The Digital Tabletop Game Experience
Luke and I received two two copies of Armello, a digital adventure game by League of Geeks that recently went into Early Access on Steam, September 1st. In addition to the developers and artists that went into making this game, more than 6,000 Kickstarter backers helped to fund their post production in April last year. Armello is a project that aims to bring the complex strategy of a tabletop dungeon delve together with enhanced features of a digital game.
For the last three weeks I’ve been plunged in creative work which left little time dedicate our day-long game days and frequent visits our FLGS. During breaks, I found myself drawn to Armello. I wanted to enjoy stimulating strategy of a board game but I had limited time, space and players. Armello is a perfect solution and offers 60-90 minutes of solo or multiplayer gameplay. I can even pause the game and come back later to pick up where I left off.
Armello immediately draws players into the conflict. Their trailer below shows the different animal clans that are seeking to overthrow the corrupt king. This fairy tale world is under attack from The Rot, an evil power that has driven the king to madness and creeps into their kingdom at each turn. As hero of this story, you must depose the king and claim the throne for yourself…before the other heroes do the same.
Every turn players use their action points to move and attack. Players have stats, magical and monetary resources to pay for equipment, spells and trickery cards. Armello reminds me of many other dungeon delve and adventuring tabletop games (like Descent or A Touch of Evil) where players run around, kill monsters and other players, collect equipment, complete quests and build up their stats before going to take on the final boss.
Just like in their tabletop counterparts, Armello relies on many random factors: card draws, objective spawning, monster spawning, dice-rolling combat and an event deck. There are so many random events that even for the most prepared hero some things are completely out of their hands. This is probably the biggest drawback to Armello- its reliance on randomness.
Where Armello excels is their intuitive user interface, gorgeous art and clearly defined player objectives. The detailed tutorial can bring even the most novice board gamer into the gameplay and easily teach them all the different objectives and challenges while keeping the player connected with the story.
Another great advantage of the digital board game is the automatic rules enforcement and pop up glossary. I didn’t have to wonder where or when I could play a card– helpful text and highlighted hexes would show me where I could and couldn’t place a card.
Anytime I had a question about an ability or keyword I could do so easily by just hovering over the object or text in question. I have played many games incorrectly due to misinterpreted rules– in Armello, you don’t have to worry about incorrect movements, missing resources due to miscalculations, or illegal actions. The digital game won’t allow it. And I didn’t once have to read through pages and pages of rulebook to find what info I needed.
Armello brings a lot of pros to the side of digital tabletop games, but could use a few improvements. There should be an option to speed up or skip through the AI opponents’ turns. Armello offers a scrolling feed of the opponents’ actions, so every move is recorded and available for whoever wants those details. For me, I don’t use that feature and having downtime between turns in a game with AI is very boring.
Will Play Again and Again
Armello isn’t a game you play a couple times and box it up in your collection. Players are encouraged to play again and again with the different animal clans. A player gains XP each time they play and the game tracks their progress and in-game achievements. Accomplishing the different victory paths and playing as all the animal clans, for example, unlocks additional starting items and equipment.
Even a seasoned gamer like myself took 6 games before actually finding victory. While the gameplay is easy to understand, a victory in Armello is not something a player can stumble upon. Finally defeating the king (before he dies in 7 turns) is a difficult task which makes a win feel gratifying. I’m very glad to have this game in my collection for times when I want to quickly engage in an adventure tabletop game.
I’ll just get this out of the way: Armello is a streamlined version of Talisman. This isn’t an accusation, because Armello is a great product. It’s exactly what it seems to be: a faster, leaner version of the game that inspired it. Players roam the map, leveling up by defeating challenges and completing quests. Eventually you’ll go to the middle of the board, break into the Palace and challenge the King. If you defeat him, you win.
I like that there are different ways to challenge the King, allowing players the chance to try different paths to victory. You can try to kill the King, cure his corruption, protect the King and be his right-hand, or kill him while your character is super-corrupted and become a new dark lord.
I found Armello fun and engaging, a great way for some casual, mostly mindless gaming after a hard day at work. There isn’t a lot of strategic depth, and there is a lot of randomness in pretty much every aspect of the game. The fun isn’t in hard game choices, it’s in stealing a win from your friend when they thought they were about to end the game.