TJ Dunbar’s Castle Assault from MomentumVolsk brings epic fantasy to the table with stunning art and gripping gameplay.
At its foundation, Castle Assault is a tower defense game, pitting two players against one another for dominance. Yet the game has a rich depth thanks to its art and character cards set in diverse decks.
When interviewed at Gen Con 2015, Dunbar noted that he had been inspired by World of Warcraft raids and Live-Action Role-Playing, both of which share in the excellent mechanics and dedication to story that Castle Assault offers.
Players will certainly first notice the enthralling High Fantasy art, examples of which are featured on the MomentumVolsk website. The richly painted images feature different artists for each deck to give a sense of unique culture for each. Much of the fun of the game is simply studying the rich tapestry that Castle Assault creates and pondering the backgrounds of the named major cards.
In addition to the art being outright mesmerizing, it hides “Easter eggs” that only a careful few might catch. Some cards make fantasy references, and several sets of cards blend together to create a panoramic image.
Gameplay in Castle Assault has a solid foundation of mechanics. Each turn, players go through phases of drawing cards, discarding to play from their hands with more powerful cards requiring more discards, and moving cards forward. The gradual build-up through discarding creates a game that grows as it is played, unlike many strategy games that seem to wind down to the end. Decks are not reshuffled, so players must balance the speed of their forces’ growth with outlasting their opponent.
One clever addition to the game is the Momentum Meter along the side of the field of battle. Each turn, players roll off to see who takes the lead for that phase. Either end of the Momentum Meter gives attack bonuses, encouraging a speedy, bloody game with a fun tug-of-war aspect. The game continues until one player is defeated, even if both decks are tapped out leaving a few straggling soldiers to stumble over the dead on their way to fight.
Each deck in Castle Assault is a different “Warband” of races often seen in the fantasy genre. Rather than simply being a skin over similar decks, the Warbands offer widely different strengths that translate into distinctive strategies. The bold Humans stand with high defensive stats, the Orcs fight fast and dirty, the Elves hold back behind their bows to build their strength, Vampires have powers that drain opponents, Werewolves feature special combo-attacks, and the Undead respawn, terrifyingly getting up again from where they fell. Players will likely pick their favorites, but those may change as there are some 30 additional unique Warbands planned. According to Dunbar, the first expansion will launch coining late 2015 or early 2016.
While dueling between the towers is great fun, Castle Assault comes with alternative rules and special Hero cards for single-player campaigns. Through these special scenarios, players keep their hero card and its powers, building it up through several levels of battle until finally facing legendary monsters featuring upward of 47 health points (while a typical card in the dueling game might be five).
Castle Assault is a game for one or two players aged 13 and up. The average game lasts about half an hour, although games can be over in quick blitzes or languish on as players grind each other down. Players curious to give it a try may download the print ‘n play sample game from MomentumVolsk before stepping out onto the broader battlefield.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B0143WO69Q]