By: Ted Chow
When Game of Thrones meets fluffy, anthropomorphic forest creatures, Armello is the culmination of said insidious melding. It’s alive; a game that brings the strategy of a board game with the politics and backstabbing of a medieval drama. The curtains have lifted and the stage actors are in cue, who will be the next king of Armello?
If you’re accustomed to turn-based strategy games such as Civilization, the overall control scheme is similar. You pan across a board-like map where all characters take turns across a smooth integration of actions. While waiting for your turn, you can view the encompassing board and plan out your strategy or sadistic trap for your victims.
A zoom in/out feature gives a better lay of the land or a close up of the gorgeous art. Overall, it is everything you would expect out of a turn-based strategy game.
Meticulously painted and thoroughly choreographed, the blending of art and orchestral scores are seamless. There is clearly a level of visual prowess in the integration of a light-hearted art style with that of a darker narrative. The board game ambience and the usage of cards is also a nice touch to the conquest of a kingdom as it provides a level of strategic depth rarely found in other games. The orchestral soundtrack is also naturally fitting and appropriate to long games of this medieval genre.
The overarching theme of Armello is to banish the mad king and claim the throne for your faction. The factions vying for power in Armello consist of the wolf, rabbit, bear and rat clans. While mainly there for aesthetic intrigue and narrative, the factions do provide starting bonuses that affect how you may wish to win and claim the throne. Said conditions are through prestige, rot, might and collecting spirit stones. Each is a viable way to win, but certain heroes may be well too adept at one or another.
Each player controls their hero throughout the game and vies for one of the winning conditions. Prestige is the political route and is accumulated through completing deeds that provide recognition of the king and gives the player the right to choose the next set of laws to be enacted. This can be used as subterfuge toward other players to slow them down.
Rot is the path of corruption and madness. By doing evil deeds or losing to evil creatures, you will gain rot that could potentially challenge the king’s rot. Collecting four spirit stones can give the player the power to cleanse the rot away. Lastly, might is the straightforward path as you gain equipment to fight the king in one-on-one combat.
Armello takes place on a randomly generated game board with up to four players — though the randomness will mainly be visual along with the placement of relevant tiles such as towns, forests, mountains, etc… Turns are also set during the dawn and dusk, and it’ll visually impact the board and events that unfold during those times.
Tiles on which your hero moves will provide advantages to your overall resources. Claiming a town will generate gold every dawn, while visiting a dungeon will provide you with a random amount of resources or awaken a Bane raven during the dusk. All these will help you use the cards that you draw every time it’s your turn.
What makes Armello unique in the digital space is its loyalty to a board game experience. The most noticeable feature that gives that away is the cards that serve as a viable means to thwart your competition. You will be able to choose from three different types of cards: equipments, magic and trickery.
Equipment cards are buffs that affect your battle stats during one-on-one confrontations. Magic can do a number of things from buffs to damage to manipulating a variety of things. Lastly, trickery provides ways to slow opponents down by laying traps that disable an opponent’s resources or ability to conduct a normal turn.
Quests are also available and can be chosen at the start of the game and subsequently after each completed quest. The player will be able to choose from a set of three and each one will direct the player to a different area of the board in order to complete it.
Completing a quest will award the player with permanent stat bonuses, magical items or even followers for hire. Followers act like the cards you draw, but they need to be hired with gold to provide their stated buff. While questing may help improve your hero, the player must always beware their opponents laying in wait to thwart them.
The last major feature of Armello would have to be the battle mode. Each battle is conducted through a one-on-one challenge with the roll of dice. The number of dice available depends on your stats, but the overall idea is to roll to buff either your attack or defense.
If your attack is greater than the enemy’s defense, damage will go through to the opponent’s health points. Additionally, you can also burn cards in your hand to get a desired effect such as increasing your defense. The battle will end with characters taking damage, if lethal damage is accumulated, that character will have to start back from his or her starting location.
Armello is an intricate game whose strategic depth and layers were barely touched upon in this review. It is a game that needs to be played in order to experience the subtleness that makes it great. It’s a masterfully crafted game that should appeal to all players.