They always say you shouldn’t try and reinvent the wheel, so indie development squad, League of Geeks have decided to simply make their own. Armello is a clever, Shakespearean style digital board game that draws its influences from ’80s and ’90s nostalgia, wrapping itself up in fantastical characters, a lore rich story and strong design choices.
Long Live the King
The kingdom is in peril, under attack from Rot, which has managed to corrupt the king. You’re one of four forest folk that have decided to put themselves forward to replace the dying monarch. Ruling is no easy task, however, so the next ruler needs to prove themselves more worthy of the title than the other three hopefuls. You’re able to fight the king directly, ascend beyond his level or even mercifully heal him in a bid to swipe his position, which one you pick will dictate your experience with Armello.
These heroes that deem themselves worthy of ruling come in the form of anthropomorphic animals with titles seemingly plucked straight from the Game of Thrones series, featuring the likes of Thane the Winter Wolf, Amber the Far Seeker, Sana the Forest Sister, and Mercurio the Grinning Blade. They each have their own array of perks like nocturnal bonuses, loot multipliers and spies to help you decide who will be your champion.
Although gorgeously animated, this tale does come with a strict set of instructions, much like your dusty box of Scrabble up in the attic. Heroes have limited action points per turn for movement along with ability cards that enable the use of things like traps and magic spells. You’re in a constant race against the other three suitors and tactics are at the heart of a successful game of Armello, using your abilities in a variety of offensive and defensive manners will be key as it’ll ultimately be your main source of Prestige.
Prestige Rank 10
Prestige is akin to a political currently, dictating your favor in the kingdom based on your actions. Those in possession of the most Prestige at the rising of the sun are able to implement new laws, altering the state of play on the board. Prestige is also key in a stalemate situation – when nobody overthrows the king before the allotted time expires, the hero with the most Prestige is awarded the throne and therefore victory. Its rule book is certainly weighty, but not by any means unmanageable, Armello spoon-feeds you the information you’ll need gradually and rewards perseverance with some great experiences.
The board is relatively concise and tidy, concentrating the action and gorgeous spirtes allowing for battle phases to never be too far apart. Armello’s arcane dice help to further mix things up, each side bearing a different symbol, which usually equates to either an attack strike against your opponent, or a defensive maneuver. The number of dice you throw each turn is directly linked to your attack points – five points results in five throws, for example. Setting up an attack can take a short while, but once things get moving it’s a pleasing domino effect of carnage.
You’ve Activated My Trap Card
The attacks aren’t simply two woodland furries stabbing one and another with sticks either, aforementioned cards and their stunning articles of artwork like to stir things up. Cards are divided into three decks: “Items” (weapons, armor and tools) “Tricks” (traps and moves aimed at hindering your opponent’s movement) and “Spells” (buffs for defense or the offensive curses) reminding you that this is in fact a deep and well-constructed digital board game. There are over 120 cards in Armello and for the most part seem exceptionally well-balanced, they’re nifty little extras that are blindingly nice to look at and go a long way to promote Armello’s fantastical themes and lore.
Being digitized has been the enabling factor for Armello. In reality this would be a boring stat-checking and constant dice rolling experience, but the PS4 takes all the slack, doing the math and dice-rolling for you, allowing you to just enjoy the show. This makes the heavy rule book seem more palatable while you enjoy the rich and engaging lore. It’s a well-balanced and good-looking experience that shows originality is still possible in a format that’s centuries old.
Armello review copy provided by publisher. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.