The Engines of War expansion for Castle Panic from Fireside Games continues to raise the stakes in this modern classic that holds players to defend their castle from an onslaught of foes. The original Castle Panic base game featured a slew of innovative mechanics in which concentric zones are divided into arcs, colors, and rings to define a board of spaces in which Monsters march toward the player’s castle at the center. The players must work together to defeat the monster by playing attack and defense cards, and the player who claims the most points in trophies is named the “Master Slayer.”
With solid core of mechanics, as well as strong production values on all of the pieces, Castle Panic proves to be a well-balanced and eagerly paced game in its own right. Expansions such as The Wizard’s Tower crank the intensity up to another level with more powerful attacks on both sides. The new Engines of War adds another dynamic to the game by providing Resource cards players may draw instead of the traditional cards bearing warriors. Instead, players draw Brick, Wood, Rope, and Mortar, combining them through a special Engineer tile to lay down traps, reinforce walls, and, most importantly, erect a Keep as the site of potent weapons: the Catapult, which hits a single square with heavy damage, and Ballista, whose damage continues to roll up the board, tearing through the Monstrous masses in a line.
Just as the defenders are powered up, so are the Monsters. New tiles include Siege Engines, which do not take damage as they ravage castle walls, a previous rule that has saved many defenders during a round of Castle Panic as Monsters who broke through defenses exhaust themselves. As daunting as those Siege Engines are, additional innovations make the threat truly terrifying. The Barracks and Forward Camp add structure to the previous random onslaught, focusing and advancing the Monsters to more quickly exhaust the players’ defense. Perhaps most terrifying is the Shaman, who heals every Monster in combat during their move phase. More than ever before, players will have to determine their most immediate threats and strategize to eliminate them, even if it means something bigger is left on the board.
Castle Panic is a cooperative game for one to six players aged ten and up. Play lasts for roughly an hour, which could be drastically shortened if players do not work in concert and cover each other’s back. Ideally, players will seek out the best for themselves through teamwork, such as a strategy of engineering new defenses early on in the game or reacting defensively throughout. As designer Justin DeWitt notes in the rules, “We want you to customize,” so players should “put different Monsters in, take others out… The most important thing is to have fun!” With expansions like Engines of War, there seems to always be another level of fun to be had.