One of my favorite experiences with Armello was a multiplayer match. I was unable to complete my own quests, and an item limited my movement speed and my maneuverability made it difficult for me to get out of bad spots after that. I managed to survive by using a Banish Card on myself to escape the clutches of three other players. I also used my influence with King to terrorize every village in the world, which allowed me to gain more Prestige. It came down to a scramble to defeat the dying King. Two heroes killed each other, opening the door for me to enter the King's room and killing him, thus allowing me to take the crown and win the game.
Even complex "RPG" board games, which use a mix of tokens, dice, cards and a variety of rules and permutations, rely heavily upon these elements being randomly generated as part of their drive. It's not about strategy; winning is all about adapting to the dice. This is in contrast to video games which have predictable progression and set goals that can be planned. Armello is a master at this, making it enjoyable and entertaining even after repeated playthroughs.
The Australian-made game's objective is to replace the dying King in a land of fantasy animal kingdoms, a maddened, hulking lion who has been corrupted with a magic disease called the Rot. You are one of eight characters from four animal tribes and must find a way to either overthrow the monstrous monarch or to become famous enough for him to succeed you. Redwall was my favorite book, and I love the setting. I especially like the emphasis on corruption and nature magic. The book is a mix of European and Asian elements. Amber's umbrella-concealed knife gives me a Japanese feel. It's all bright and colorful; even the dark, corrupted black-and-violets from dark rituals are distinctive.
It looks incredible. Although the majority of the characters and board are three-dimensional, they are not perfectly detailed but match the character art. Hexes depict sleepy towns that are set on fire by terror, filled with crackles and shrieks; there are dungeons, forests, stone circles, and mountains all over the octagonal terrain. Some of the most beautiful art in the game-cards is the partially animated scenes and abilities. Their artwork is definitely eye-catching. It includes everything from a spear flying through air to a noble eating everything, while disregarding important correspondence. This power can cripple a player's ability of making a profit from their lands. Fighting between players results in a dice-rolling spar. This art style is Flash-like and I find it most charming. Although there is no voice acting, each tutorial prologue and the opening of the game are accompanied by a scroll of text. The atmosphere is enhanced by the soundtrack featuring haunting, wonderful tones and the screech from demonic Banes.
In good board game fashion matches can vary in their outcome and play. There are nine days and nights before the King dies. This gives you plenty of time for backstabbing and dominance to win or lose. While gold and magic are important for making use of your cards, prestige is the most valuable resource. This allows you to control the King's board-affecting events, as well as winning the game in situations where he dies by himself (without any other player being directly responsible). It is crucial to manage your resources. You need enough gold to kill or heal another player. Perils (traps that require you to roll dice) are also important.
A tremendous amount of strategy is involved. You can use cards in multiple ways and create synergies that can help you damage other players. Or, they can be used to cause conflicts so your dice pool produces certain results. This is not a new concept for RPG board games like this. However, it is well executed, the complexity is important. You have options. Quests can be completed in safe ways, but you also have special options depending on what gear you have (a Coinmaster at your companions table might let you bribe your way to certain quests). You can choose your character and have different playstyles. My favorite character, Wolf Clan's River had a bow that caused damage to her enemies before she attacked. You can customize stats before the game by using each clan's bonuses and a variety of generic tokens.
This game is great for sitting around with three random people. However, the emote system can be a little limited. There is no way to directly congratulate players. It's still a fun online board game and is highly recommended.
Armello combines tactical card play, engrossing tabletop strategy and RPG elements to great effect, highly recommended.
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