Number of Players: 2-4+
Time: 60 Minutes
Game type: Mission/goals
Gamer Type: Casual
Complexity: 4 Gateway/Party
When I think of castle games, I think of games where one team raids the castle and the other team defends or cooperative games where people explore the castle. These have been the tropes in castle-style gaming for as long as I remember. When I was asked to review Castle Break, I wondered which type of game it was. I was pleasantly surprised to see that One Up Games took a completely new approach to the castle genre and is bringing party gaming a medieval theme.
Right out of the box, Castle Break springs from the mold with a new story. In this game, you are a competitor in the annual games where you complete quests, get coins, make them into keys, all to be the first to free the dragon and bring glory to your house. You heard that right: One Up game brings the concept of sports to the medieval and it does not disappoint. This is not simply putting modern sport rules in a medieval theme, this is full-on concept development that really draws the player into the game. When the medieval genre has become so “standardized” over the last few years, it is great to see a game that breaks out of the mold and injects some new blood into the theme. 8 of 10.
This game comes in a standard medium-sized box, which makes it look great on your shelf. The cover art really feeds to the theme in both feel and gameplay. The real treasure is when you get in the box. The game board is a perfect value between information, theme, and playability. The artist at One Up really hit the nail on the head with this one. Too often, you see a game where they cram too much info on the board, or they sacrifice gameplay for being too fancy; the artist here balanced things perfectly and they bring a great game with great art to the market. 8 of 10.
Leading off with two “8s” in the scoring system sets up for a great score. When we start to look at the mechanics of this game, does it hold up? Well, first of all, this is a gateway game, so you are not going to see high strategy (next section) built-in. The game is built around a solid system of move, mission, complete mission. This allows for the gameplay to run smoothly. As you will notice, the number of players is 4+. The game plays best with four, so there can be some “server lag” when you play with the full six characters. This is more because you wait awhile between turns. The randomization of the two different dice, the lock dice, and the regular dice play well together and there is a good mix of cards that keeps things random. This may make some Eurogamer “purists’” heads explode, but most really fun games do. 7 of 10.
One of my greatest gripes about people who hate gateway games is that they say the strategy is not there. Strategy in a game depends on you. If a game has several custom-made strategies that you have to choose from, you are not a strategist – you are just a good picker. When a game comes across simple and allows you to pick your strategy, that is when the masters separate themselves from the “shoots and ladders wargamers.” Castle Break is not a high strategy game, whatever that means, it was not built to be one. This is built to be a gateway game that is easy to learn and you must master the game and your opponents to really master it. Anyone can play and anyone can win. It has the big four. The two best strategies I saw work were rush (do it quickly), offense/defense (nail your opponent and stop their strategy), and engine building (its all in the cards). How you intertwine these macro strategies dictates how well your personal strategy will work in the game. 7 of 10.
Novelty and Conclusion
When I heard “castle game,” I thought it was going to be what we are used to seeing in castle games. As you can guess from the score of 39 of 50 this is a great game. By the way, the novelty score for this game is 9 because they breathed life into a genre that has been stale since parachute pants were in style. Keeping the industry moving forward is one of the great things about gaming, we can ignore the politics and just build a bigger game. One Up went out and took a great topic and made a great game in the topic.
Realists may attack the game, saying dragons are not real, but they do not understand what fantasy is. A fantasy game lets you leave reality and have fun. In this crazy world we live in right now, escaping from reality even if just for a moment can help people deal with the scary things that are happening. Castle Break is one of these fun games; get your friends together (wear your masks if you’re worried) and enjoy some time with friends. Gaming is and always will be about people, the dice, the cards, the boards, and the tiles are just walls that we can easily tear down so we can connect directly with our friends and realize that it is friends and family that make the world go round.
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