February 29th, 2016
Time Played: 8 Hours
Last Played: 2/12/2016
Armello: Haphazard Regicide
Ever wanted to kill a king? No? Oh… Well, ugh, this is significantly more awkward, isn’t’ it? I guess– er, you know, forget I said anything.
So…Do you like anthropomorphic animals? Yes? Cool! Well… Remember that murder thing I mentioned…?
Armello is a pretty rad indie game that simulates a stellar board game experience. One that mixes elements from Table-Top, Pen and Paper RPGs, and a bit of MtG to make for a very unique experience. Armello is pretty simple to play once you get the hang of the game’s systems. But it’s fairly complex to explain… Despite a bit of a learning curve, this game is definitely worth the initial hump of “What the hell am I doing?”.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, the main goal of Armello is to become the new Monarch. The current King has been stricken with an evil disease called ‘The Rot’. And as you would expect, he’s not doing so hot. Every night his condition worsens, and every day he inches closer to death. The Rot also affects his mind, sending him into madness. I feel bad for the guy.
Now, how does this relate to the player? Well, every win condition involves usurping him, either by waiting for him to die and taking his place. Or taking the throne through force. Heck, even the condition that involves purifying the King of his Rot kills him. So you need to get comfortable with the idea of regicide. Despite it’s appearance, Armello is a pretty dark and rough game.
The death of the King is the impetus, and the final goal, of your actions. Almost everything you do will revolve around this end goal. But the King is more of a passive piece on the board. He looms over the game, and carries out evil machinations, but never poses an immediate threat. What you have to look out for is the three other people all actively scheming, and advancing their own plots. You’ll be put in situations very regularly that involve you prolonging the King’s life in order to ensure you’re the one to end it. The enemy of my enemy and all that.
There are a lot of moving pieces in Armello. Four players all working towards a similar goal. With alliances and rivalries beginning and ending on a turn by turn bases. What might appear like help from another player is really just them protecting themselves. I’ll help you this turn to back stab you next turn.
Everything might be going exceptionally well on turn three, but by turn four the entire board state has changed and you must re-assess. It pays to think ahead, and have a plan, but it is invaluable to be able to adapt. There were many occasions where I was one turn away from winning, only to have it slip away from me when the AI pulled a total dark horse victory out of thin air.
How is this possible? Well, every player has a wide array of abilities that can, when used creatively, be applied to completely ruin another player’s day. There are pieces of equipment that increase your prowess in battle– making it easier to kill the King… or anything else. There are magic spells that give nasty status effects, such as: ending your turn prematurely, move you across the board, or possibly even killing you. And my personal favorite, traps. These can be anything from poison, killing companions, stealing their cards or gold, negating their equipment.. the list goes on. If you think through your actions, and use everything at your disposal, you can send someone in the lead into last place with one turn.
The order you do things in, and how long you wait to do it are incredibly important. On your turn you, usually, have three action points that allow you to do the various things at your disposal. Some take more than others… Simply moving three spaces can wreck havoc on another player. Scattered around the game’s map are little villages. If you move your character through them they will pay tribute to you in the form of gold. Without gold you can’t perform certain actions. Having three turns worth of set up be ruined because you’re short one gold is incredibly disheartening.
The swings in Armello are fast and hard. I’ve gone from first to last and back more than once over the course of a game. It’s never dull, and never boring. The pressure is almost always on. And the games are fast enough that you can play one over a lunch break.
Aside from killing the other players, there are also quests you can embark on that give various rewards. Sometimes the rewards can be game winning. Other times they can be a massive disappointment. But you’ll always walk away with some kind of a bonus, like an increase in your stats and Prestige. If the King dies of his Rot, the player with the highest prestige is the winner by default.
Armello really requires you to think, and demands a good bit a strategy. The games go by quick so your plans need to come to fruition sooner, rather than later. I find myself planning for the end game on turn one. “I want to win via killing the king”. And adapting my play towards whatever will actively further that goal.
It’s a good mix of long term and short term planning at the exact same moment. If you realize that things aren’t going your way, you need to adjust your strategy or risk losing. By the time you realize “things are bad” it’s almost too late. It’s as much about furthering your own ends, as it is interfering with everyone else’s. Because everyone’s position is so precarious, just a small bit of interference is enough to make someone target you the rest of the game…
“If I can kill the bear this turn, I’ll lower their prestige enough that when the king dies two turns from now I can win.” Or even better “Well… If I can’t win, you’re definitely not winning either.”
Armello is a very mentally stimulating experience… And I’ve only played with the AI. So I can’t speak for playing with humans. I have to imagine it’s a hundred times better. But, that’s one of the best parts of Armello. The AI is actually very good! Now, once I got really acquainted with the game I was able to out play the AI fairly easily. But they’re still definitely capable of einschrauben mich über, hardcore.
And on top of everything else I’ve mentioned here. The game has some seriously great artwork. It has a great storybook style to it that is simultaneously both lighthearted, and very dark.
Watching a cute little rat solemnly hand over money to the king’s guards as they terrorize the townsfolk hits way harder than you’d expect. He’s not happy about it… but it has to be done.
Armello is awesome. It’s worth every penny. Seriously, support the Devs. If you like strategy, check it out. If you have friends, and want something to play together that doesn’t require a large time investment– Armello’s your game.
Buy it. I highly doubt you’ll regret it.