An Armello Review
Armello is a 3D hex tiled, turned based strategy board game that is produced by League of Geeks. It has optional multiplayer elements, cards to collect, dice to toss and entire board to explore with your chosen character and amulet. The point of the game is to either kill or cure your King since he’s dying of Rot, a corruption disease that is spread by evil banes which spawn at night and slowly corrupts the lands, flipping otherwise beneficial tiles into swamps which will cause damage if you step on them.
Disclosure: This review was written using a press copy of the game.
As you busy yourself with plundering loot and fighting foes, the King becomes progressively more insane due to the corruption and his health begins to decline, essentially making him an hourglass telling you how much time left you have before he inevitably meets his demise. That means it’s a rush to win by whichever method you choose before the 20 turns — which are split into day and night — are up.
Now, this may sound a bit complicated at first, particularly when it comes to the dice system, but after your first game you generally get the gist of it, not only that, but the game also offers a pretty comprehensive tutorial in the prologue to get you off to a good start as well. Which isn’t something I can say for a disappointing chunk of games out there, which often throw you into a sink or swim type of experience for your first go.
There are four methods to win the game:
The King Slayer Victory, which is fairly self-explanatory, where you need to kill the corrupted King before the game is done. It sounds pretty straightforward and simple, but it really isn’t. The King’s guards are actually pretty hard to beat, which I definitely learned the hard way. I thought that with Thane (the more combat oriented starting character) that I’d be best to try the “King Slayer” victory, so the moment I thought I was geared well enough, I strutted my way to the castle. My plan was to slip past the guards and just make my way to the King, but it seemed that unlike the majority of other games I’ve ever played, the King actually hired some competent guards. They put me down like a rabid dog and all I could do was whimper and limp my way back to my starting square, tail tucked between my legs and shame painted all over my face. Clearly, my bark was worse than my bite.
The Rot victory, which requires you to face the King in battle while you have a Rot level higher than his. It is a bit like King Slayer since either way, he ends up dead, but this one requires you to basically go around gaining levels of Rot before you make an attempt on your glorious leader’s life. I’ve never tried this method yet, probably because I find something a little twisted about going up to a dying man and going “HA, here’s more of what is killing you! Choke on it!”.
But hey, if you don’t mind being the Lord of Corruption, go for it! (I’ll just silently judge you for it.)
The Prestige victory seems to be the simplest to achieve since you just go about making sure you have the highest prestige rating out of everyone as you bide your time till the King kicks the bucket. That is done by winning any combat you face and completing quests. Being the Prestige Leader gives the added bonus of being able to pick the new declaration each day which allows you to tilt the game in your favour, not that these are ever really nice things in the first place, they’re often more like choosing the better of two evils and you find yourself sitting there thinking “Well, both of these things are terrible, but which one will ruin my opponent’s day more than mine?” Who needs friends anyway, right?
The most peaceful method is the Spirit Stone victory which requires you to collect four spirit stones, enter the castle and purge the King of the Rot, cleaning the land of Armello as well. That sounds easy, except getting in there still isn’t the easiest thing in the world since the guards will intervene — I guess they didn’t get the memo that you are there to help their boss — and you still need to complete challenges and run around quite a bit to collect spirit stones while hoping none of your opponents are going for the same type of victory. It’s always awkward running into someone heading to the same Spirit stone as you, it’s kind of like going to a Christmas sale and reaching for the last pair of leather gloves on the rack at the same time as another shopper. Do you politely back down or do you smack their hands away from them and fight?
As I already pointed out, this is a tile based game where there are plains, forests, mountains, settlements, swamps, spirit stone circles and dungeons. All of which, except the plains, having different effects on the character. From the mountains, costing you more action points to climb, but giving you the benefit of increased defenses, or settlements which will give you additional gold to dungeons which offer what one would expect, including the typical treasure or danger and swamps which will cause you damage.
You get to choose your character at the start of each game along with your ring and a bonus strength (which would be on the screen after the above screenshot was taken). The characters available have different strengths, whether it be in combat, wits, stealth or magic. Allowing the player to pick a character that suits their playstyle and to play to your strengths. Are you an aggressor? Are you the type of person that likes to throw a wrench in someone else’s plans? Are you more the peaceful player that tries to avoid combat and do your best to win by other means?
You gain cards throughout the game through quests, they can give you companion’s, gear, traps, spells and various other benefits. It’s up to you to play them as you choose, but keep in mind others can check your active cards, just like you can see theirs. What is that you say? That it means it pays off to pay attention during your opponent’s turns? You’re absolutely right! You can watch your opponents turns and while you wait, you can check their activated cards, such as the armor they are using so you can better gauge your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Not to mention that the artwork on the cards is amazing as well as animated! I can’t explain how much that small detail pleased me, not to mention that it gives credit to each artist on the card if you mouseover the art itself.
I appreciate that Armello doesn’t seem to forget the little things that can give a player glee, such as actually being able to roll the dice within the game and watch them as they tumble about before giving you your results, hints of humor, seeing the characters actions and reactions in combat, both in the combat screen and on the map, or allowing you to watch your opponent’s battle. With its enchanting music and beautiful artwork, it really seems to hit the spot and their dedication to paying attention to details is astounding, they even gave you a card gallery so you could look through all the cards you’ve unlocked from the loading screen!
There is gated content in the game, but it’s unlocked through actually playing the game, not paying for it, which is rewarding and pretty awesome. Two ways in which you can unlock other content include winning enough games with a specific character, to winning via a specific victory style. Which to me is a great way to encourage you to try different methods and characters, instead of just sticking to the same ones all the time.
I can’t stress enough how beautiful this game is, both in the visuals, music and overall sounds. The artists really applied themselves and you can see the pride in their workmanship. I’d honestly consider buying a card deck with the artwork, particularly if they were holographic. If you haven’t looked at the game already, you can just check out their website to get an idea of their artistic style, even their website looks amazing.
I actually was fortunate enough to visit the Armello booth at Pax Prime 2015 and I really wish I’d had more time to spend with them so I could ask a few questions. Those that were there to represent League of Geeks proved to be both friendly and approachable. Each time I had a chance to stop by they were busy answering other people’s questions at their booth, which made me smile since the game definitely deserved the attention they were getting. Of course that meant that felt it best not to take up their time when there were people waiting to try out their game that weren’t fortunate enough to have the early access that I had (I’ve meant to write this review for a very…very…long time.) Instead, I ended up spending my time introducing a friend to it and answering a few questions from people who were waiting in line before I slipped away.
All in all, I think Armello is worth a buy from anyone who finds this genre of game to their tastes. The fact that you can either random into multiplayer or play it with friends makes it even more appealing, since you can learn one another’s play styles and try to strategize around them and each game will be a bit different depending on the opponents you face.
Seriously, it’s worth the $19.99 so I strongly suggest you buy it, if you’re hesitant, you can always wait for a steam sale, but either way you won’t regret it. If all you want is the music, they’ve even got the soundtrack for sale separately for $9.99.
- Does anyone else think it looks like the A in Armello is flexing? Just sayin’….