Come on guys, we all know I deserve to be Queen.
Type: Single Player, Multiplayer
Genre: Strategy RPG Board Game
Developer: League of Geeks
Publisher: League of Geeks
Release date: September 27th, 2018
Game Provided, DLC purchased
I have loved playing tabletop games for almost as long as I have loved playing video games. It was honestly one of the things that could just melt my shyness away while growing up. Since then, I sadly moved away from where I used to go to board game nights and my irl friends are not remotely interested in any of the tabletop games I have. Luckily, there are ways to play them with others online. When I heard about Armello being a digital board game and later that it’s coming to the Switch, I naturally jumped at the opportunity.
The once wonderful King of Armello has been infected by a mysterious disease called Rot. Each passing day the Rot twists the King’s mind further and brings him closer to death. Noticing the King’s sudden change of behavior, the four clans of Armello have sent out their best hero to claim the throne. Will you be the next King or Queen?
At first Armello can seem pretty difficult, even after the tutorial, but with just a few games you’ll get the hang of it. There are various play styles that you can choose from, more if you decide to buy the DLC, which depend on both the hero you choose and what victory condition you want to achieve. Each hero has different starting stats as well as a unique ability. You can grant bonuses through rings, which are clan specific, and amulets. At first, only the default rings will be available, but just by playing the game and trying to get the different victories you will unlock more.
Most of the game, which usually lasts around an hour, is building towards victory. Each day you get a variety of things to do, and also things you can do on other player’s turns. You can draw cards (items, spells, or trickery) if you have less than your Wits stat. You can play these as long as you can afford it and if it is aimed at the right target specified, which can mean equipping something, casting a spell, or playing a peril. You’ll also start out by choosing a quest, which serves as a way to increase a stat and gain Prestige. Each will guide you to a specific tile where you can decide to complete it the risky way or the safe way. Completing it the risky way will have you do a stat check to decide if you get a reward or a negative affect. The safe way just gives you the stat increase. Don’t worry though, even if you fail the stat check, you still get the stat increase. Sometimes, if you have items equipped or recruited followers, there may be a third story choice that you can choose from as well, but you won’t know till you get there.
With each turn you can move three times (this can change depending on what you play), though most tiles have their own effect. These effects are numerous, such as forests giving stealth and ambush at night, settlements giving you coins each day when captured, or dungeons which can be explored for treasure, coins and followers, while also being able to spawn Banes. Some tiles may have a Peril, which will require you to roll dice to match set symbols or suffer the card’s effect. If you’re not so confident, you can burn cards, which also have a symbol corresponding to a side of your dice, to guarantee it.
If you walk into a tile that is already occupied by another hero or creature (or they walk into yours) a battle will initiate. Both you and your opponent will gain dice equal to your fight plus any effect an equipped card may have in battle (such as getting a shield or extra dice). The cards in your hands can also help here as you can burn cards to ensure a symbol is rolled. If a hero dies, they will lose Prestige and if they win a battle against another hero they will gain Prestige. However it’s different for Banes and King’s Guards. Killing a Bane will give you Prestige, but dying to one will give you one Rot. Even attacking a King’s Guard will give you a bounty and killing one will make you lose Prestige.
Rot changes up things quite a bit. Once you gain one Rot you will start losing one health every dawn. Once corrupted (5+ Rot), going into a Stone Circle will most likely kill you as well. If you go against a Bane or another hero and they have more Rot than you, they get extra dice equal to your Rot value. However, if you have more, you will get the extra dice. If you’re corrupted it will also cause Worm dice results to hit and explode, while Wylds will miss. Along with being killed by Banes, you can get Rot by casting certain spells, equipping certain items, failing certain Perils or quests, and killing a Bane when corrupted.
Prestige is pretty important in Armello other than being one of the victory conditions. Despite the King being infected with Rot, he will call in the Prestige leader to choose between two decrees to be in effect for one day (though some can last for the rest of the game). A decree can range from making certain tiles off limits to giving Banes an extra stat in Fight and AP for the rest on the game.
There is also one thing that I should mention that changes things up. At certain dungeons you can get The Stranger as a reward and he will automatically be recruited. Before you get to move, The Stranger will force you to another tile. Depending on the situation this is good or bad. If you’re corrupted or low on health he can lead you to your death, but his movement is free and can put you on top of a mountain or closer to your destination. One game I got lucky and The Stranger forced me right to my quest. The Stranger can’t be removed normally, he is a clingy little cat, so it’s time to play tag. If a hero stands by another with The Stranger as a follower, there is a chance he will change owners. Otherwise, the King can force The Stranger to leave when entering the Palace.
There are four different victory conditions that you can aim for in a game and, as you can probably guess, they are pretty difficult to achieve. The first, and probably the easier of the four, would be a Prestige victory. This just requires you to be the Prestige leader at the end of the game, however, you must keep an eye out on the other’s Prestige. The only thing that matters is who is the Prestige leader when the King dies, so you’ll need to make sure no one passes you up. At the same time, you have to watch out for someone trying to get another victory condition and try to stop it (or wish for the best). The battle to stay Prestige leader will all be for naught if someone else manages to kill the King.
The others require you to pass the Palace’s Peril (or complete four quests to get a key quest to bypass it) and face the King. The Spirit Stone victory is the easiest of these, though finding four Spirit Stones and keeping them can be difficult. You will have to collect four Spirit Stones, which can be acquired as a quest reward or it can randomly appear at a Stone Circle, to cleanse the King. Keep in mind the King will die in the process. You can also go for the Rot victory, where you attack the King while having more Rot than him and survive. While it may seem impossible to gain more Rot than the King before he dies, it is possible. Once you get five, and become corrupted, it goes much more smoothly. Especially when a quest that would usually give you a Spirit Stone changes to giving more Rot. Or you can just simply attack the King and survive for the Kingslayer Victory. Rot and Kingslayer Victories are the most difficult considering that the King will be able to steal and roll your missed dice and Wyld results will count as shields for him. If a hero dies alongside the King, the Prestige leader will win instead.
I managed to get into some multiplayer games and it was pretty fun despite losing a lot. Playing with other people actually lets you make unlikely truces, most likely to prevent someone winning early. These can lead to thinking up tactics to persuade someone to not attack you, make enemies with someone (sorry my quest was there), and finally getting to use those emotes. While there are not a lot of people on the Switch, I mostly didn’t have much trouble finding others. Just try to find a game when you believe others would be awake and looking for games. While you’re waiting, you can even play a single player game so you’re not just sitting in the lobby.
Apart from regular multiplayer there are two events, Stranger Games (on Wednesdays) and Fury Friday, that change up the house rules. However, it doesn’t seem like a lot of people are playing Stranger Games or Fury Friday right now. When you finish a multiplayer match, you can give other player commendations, level up, and get a chest. Leveling up is based on stars, which you can get by getting two or more commendations, winning the game (and having a win streak), having the Listener amulet on, and just finishing the game. Leveling gets you closer to an amulet and gives you a new portrait while in a lobby. There will also be a chest, three per day, that will give you a new dice skin. If you happen to get multiples, you can choose to sacrifice five dice of the same rarity and collection to get a dice of the next rarity.
There are bugs with the Switch version of Armello. It has the tendency to freeze at the end of multiplayer matches, which causes you to lose a chest. There also seems to be a bug with single player games where sometimes it won’t load the save, but keep you on the menu and won’t register any buttons being pressed. The only way to fix it is to restart the game. This can be pretty annoying especially when you’re at the end and just about to get a victory that you haven’t achieved yet. The dev team does seem to want to fix these bugs as they fixed a previous bug I encountered (progress towards amulets and rings not saving).
With the Switch version all current DLC is neatly packaged as two options, either opt into buying the Complete Edition or wait till you know for sure you want more and buy the Complete Edition Upgrade separately. If you do decide to get it, you’ll get 2 board skins, 6 dice skins, and 12 new heroes (4 of which make up a new clan) who come along with new amulets and rings. These new heroes certainly change things up. For example, Sylas from the new Bandit Clan turns getting a bounty into an advantage with his ability to gain a sword for each bounty level. You also have Fang (from The Rivals DLC) that starts with one Rot and, upon slaughtering, will stop their opponent striking back with a frightening roar when attacking ( I love this roar ).
Overall, I had fun playing Armello. It’s the kind of complexity I generally like in tabletop games while also looking gorgeous from the board to the character designs. There are just so many playstyles you can go with as every character, including DLC characters, will correspond with one and will have weaknesses so it wouldn’t be totally stacked in that character’s favor. If you don’t mind the possibility of multiplayer games freezing, Armello is the perfect excuse to get a Switch Online membership. However, single player games are still super fun and challenging, even though the AI makes stupid moves sometimes. Just don’t let the complexity prevent you from trying Armello out, it is really easy to get into the groove of things. Personally, I couldn’t help from going back and playing another game to have a chance at a certain victory or see if I can win against other people.