Review: Armello – Xbox One

Posted on September 21, 2016 by Master Materia

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Armello is a great segue into the world of tabletop games.
Game – Armello
Platform – Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Windows
Developer/Publisher – League of Geeks
Release date – August 29th, 2016
Price – $19.99
Armello is a tabletop turn-based card game centered around factions of animal kingdom heroes. The goal is simply to become the most prestigious or victorious hero in the kingdom. The player is given cards from three different decks: Items, Spells, and Trickery. The Items deck contains weapons, armor, tools, and consumables to either beef up the attack or defense of the hero. The Spells deck arms you with powerful spells, buffs, and nasty curses. Finally, the Trickery deck arms you with traps, ruses, and political maneuvers to undermine the opposing heroes. Your wits level determines the number of cards you can draw.
armello_1If you know tabletops, then you know the basic premise already. Armello starts off way too slow in its turn-based gameplay, and it’s not until the second solo playthrough that you’re introduced to the Quick AI Turns feature underneath Gameplay options. Play another round of Armello and you are introduced to the ‘fast forward’ feature that speeds the turns along quite well. It’s important to remember because Armello can turn you away at first blush if you didn’t know that you’re able to change the game’s pace.
Armello is a very balanced title. It may not have a deep story line, but it’s incredibly rich in detail. The playable characters are very well drawn and the mannerisms fit the species as well as the character class. Mercurio is a sneaky, weasel-like rat. The wolves are majestic and fierce, and represent a balanced offense. Meanwhile, the kingdom’s sickly king is twitchy and vile.
armello_2The object is fairly simple: become the new victor of the animal kingdom of Armello. The victory can be achieved by defeating the king in battle, becoming the most prestigious hero by the end of the game, becoming the most corrupt creature in the game, or by delivering the holy spirit stones to the castle at the center of the board.
Kill a hero (player) and a prestige point is awarded. Players with the most prestige have the power to influence the king every other turn and it comes with some powerful perks. The first couple rounds I played Armello and it seemed incredibly two-dimensional. The best players were the attackers. Obviously this tactic makes for an easy victory if you’re armed to the teeth with dice, but once you start to understand the depth and complexity of Armello’s strategy, the tank players aren’t quite as strong as they look. Some of my fastest, smoothest victories have gone to the players with higher wits. Higher wits meant more draw cards, and that allowed for a more robust strategy. Throw other players off their game and traverse through perils with greater ease.
armello_3The best example comes from the game’s “corruption”. Corruption appears to be the worst strategy at first glance. Playing against other corrupt heroes, bane (AI bad guys), and the king is almost impossible when you’re partially corrupted. If your enemy has a corruption of 6 and you have a corruption of 3, then the enemy gets 3 extra dice. It’s bogus… until you’re the one with the hire corruption. Here you can reap the benefits of Wyld dice, which normally give you zilch on your roll. It’s also nice because some of the most offensive cards add corruption, which furthers your corruption and really adds an alternate element to the gameplay.
armello_4Armello’s really weakest when it comes to its standard board. There are different board tiles: mountainous, plains, dungeons, forests, and settlements. Each tile has its own subset of playable interactions depending on the strategy of the character. The disappointment here stems from the lack of variations of gameplay. It’s always a randomly generated hexagonal board with the king in the middle. It really would have been nice to see a broader spectrum of game boards since this isn’t limited to a tabletop in the traditional sense.
There are over 140 cards, 8 dice variations, and 8 playable characters. Armello is a well-done, smartly crafted turn-based tabletop strategy game. Keep in mind, if words like tabletop or turn-based turn you off, then Armello isn’t the game for you anyway.
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