I've recently found myself drawn back into the world of tabletop board games. I'm a fan of the larger, more in-depth titles that take hours to complete or use rules similar to Dungeons & Dragons or the White Wolf series. Pending the ability to get a group of people together, they keep my attention for extended periods of time without fail.
The world of Armello is filled with anthropomorphic animals. Players will see rats, cats, bears, foxes, and more throughout their journey. The king, a massive lion, has begun ruling with an erratic behavior no one can fully comprehend. Playing through the prologue, players find out he is infected with “the Rot”, a terrible evil that pervades the land. The four major clans, the ones who just so happened to help put the king into power, make it a point to save Armello through a variety of methods.
Beforehand, players pick their champion - there's a motley crew available to pick from, each with their own strengths. Some are better at fighting, others at magic or subterfuge, and others even at just plain old adventuring. Each hero hails from a different clan – rats, wolves, bears, or rabbits. These four clans comprise the largest groups of Armello standing against the king’s tyrannical rule. I’m personally a fan of the wolves as they are better versed for battling, but each clan has a primary set of strengths. Once picked, players take their turns on a day/night cycle as they move around the board, gathering their strength up.
When you finally reach the overall board, you’ll find it is a hexagonal patterned setup of tiles. Players move through the use of action points, which are regenerated at the beginning of each turn. Some tiles have dungeons and cities on them, others mountains and swamps. The cities are an important way to generate gold for your intrepid hero, so capturing them early on provides a needed boost. Others, like the swamp, carry a penalty to health when passing through.
A large piece to the overall game are the cards. Cards are divided into items, magic, and trickery cards. Items provide bonuses to different aspects of the game - either a boost in combat to attack or defense or maybe even just the ability to walk over tiles without worry. Item cards require gold to equip and use, so keep plenty available at all times. Magic cards are similar but require magic ability to use at any point. Magic is a finite resource that recharges at every night turn, but these cards range from healing you to throwing fireballs at others. Lastly, the trickery cards include place-able perils (traps), and more. There are additional cards, like party members that aid your hero, which can be found and equipped much like items.
On top of placing perils that players must deal with, players are also able to take on quests throughout the game. Each quest is a chance to prove your hero’s worth and ability. Each quest is based on a specific attribute – fighting, body, magic, spirit. When taking these quests on, it’s possible to just do the basic “yeah, it’s done” response, or take on the more challenging “I want to test my mettle” response. Sometimes these provide additional, special items, prestige, or even an increase in your abilities. Other times, especially when you fail, these cost you much the same. The challenges where you'll test your mettle give you a random chance of succeeding based on the key stat, but I found myself losing those more often than not.
Now, this isn’t a giant game of just “this card beats that card.” The game’s system for combat or overcoming perils is based on dice. The number of dice available to your hero is dependent upon their fighting, spirit, or magic abilities, equipped items, and the challenge itself. It's actually a neat system with some interesting challenges; especially since combat has both players finishing their turn before combat is complete. That's how I ended up losing a game, even though I straight up murdered the king - he just happened to kill me as well.
What’s the point of Armello? Well, primarily it’s dethroning the king, but your methods are open to debate. Do you want to save the king and the kingdom? Collect enough soul stones and you can rid him (and the kingdom) of the pervading rot. Perhaps you want to do it by force? Get strong enough to ambush him; if you really want to rule as an evil being, get more rot before taking him down and you become the next dark king. Lastly, and perhaps the oddest is the prestige win – just carry a prestigious legacy by the time the lion keels over and you’ll be crowned king.
Armello is definitely a game I'd recommend if you are a fan of tabletop board games. It manages to capture that unique spirit and presents it in a magical world full of color and vibrancy. Even with the prologue helping teach new players, there's a deep learning curve on the main game that may take a few attempts to fully comprehend everything. With that said, it's not necessarily a bad thing though since Armello rewards multiple playthroughs. The single-player portion isn’t terribly long, meaning a single game can be finished relatively quick, depending on the situation.
Note: The Armello review is based on a digital PC copy of the game, provided for review purposes.