Isn't Armello supposed to be a boardgame?

Title Isn't Armello supposed to be a boardgame?
Author Tom Chick
Posted in Game reviews
When September 10, 2015

When it comes to designing a game, the folks at League of Geeks clearly know what they're doing. Armello is smart stuff, shrewdly tuned, paced, and themed..

Read the full article

That tilt-shift focus effect is the bane of modern strategy titles. Everyone loves to make their game look like little models, but they neglect to think about the impact it may have on playability.

To be fair, that tilt shift effect only kicks in when the camera zooms down for the dungeon exploration spinner. You can also zoom all the way in for the tilt-shift effect. The game has other viewing problems, but constant tilt-shift isn't one of them!

Or how about those traps, which place a marker on the space indicating the presence of said trap to all? Or the needless progression system built into the trinkets? I backed the game, but I can't recommend it to my friends when we can just boot up Tabletop Simulator instead.

I'm actually okay with the trap markers, because you still don't know the severity or type of trap. You just know that you're taking a risk if you go there. Do you think it would be better if the specifics of the traps were visible? Doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose of a trap?

I also don't mind the trinket progression. I like unlockables for the most part and it's kind of cool to incentivize stuff like playing the rabbit five times or going for a Spirit Stone victory.

Oh man, I didn't even think about Tabletop Simulator in relation to Armello. I mean, that thing has its own interface issues, but yeah, it does kind of cast new light on the concept of a videogame/boardgame hybrid, doesn't it?

Good review, Tom. My experiences are definitely similar. After the tutorials and one full game of Amrello I thought "hmmm, this might be good?"

I immediately went to twitter and asked the devs if they have any rules documentation available to read anywhere online, because I don't want to play a boardgame-ish game and not have a full understanding of how the mechanism work (or even WHAT the mechanisms are, in some cases).

Hopefully they will add more transparency, but considering my question on twitter has been totally ignored for the past week... maybe that's a big ask.

Hmmm... I didn't really mind the interface so much, but I played when there were a lot fewer cards programmed into the game, so a lot fewer variables to keep in mind.

What I did mind, is that Prestige victory is the only victory type that ever seemed to happen, which is basically running the clock out. The main reason is that avoiding the trap to get inside the castle is almost impossible unless you prepared for it a few turns in advance. Did that change?

Well, it seems to me you have to actively try for one of the other victory conditions. I mean, really, the basic way to play is to just hold on to the highest prestige until the king dies. The other victory conditions -- get four Spirit Stones or force your way in to kill the king -- seem like alternatives for players who can't hold the highest prestige or who want to try a specific character build (?). For instance, I enjoyed having to set up a Spirit Stone win to unlock trinket options for the characters I was using, but it was relatively easy since I was doing it from the beginning. I went in thinking "I'm going to get four Spirit Stones" and it became a race against the clock, as it should be.

As for getting inside the castle, I disagree. If you have enough wit to hold the necessary cards, you're good to go! Alternatively, in many of my games, I've unlocked a quest that gets me into the castle for free. I'm not sure what the conditions are for that, but it seems (?) that it happens automatically after you finish a certain number of quests. It's one of the many things I wish was more above board. :(

However, that's just getting in! Beating the king is a whole other issue.

But, yeah, clearly the prestige win is the most common. I'm not sure how that's a bad thing though. Why do you mind that? Do you feel all three victory conditions should be equally common? I could be wrong, but I don't think that's the intent.

Well, it's just that I've never seen a single win that wasn't a prestige win against other human players. It is easier to set up a particular victory against the AI, though. Then again, as I said, the rules might have changed from the last time I played. For example:

- The prestige leader has an edict that removes a spirit stone from all players, the timing of this can be devastating;
- Players would often dump "make this peril harder" cards on castle perils making them almost impossible to pass;
- Quests didn't let you in the castle for free before;
- Killing a camping player from afar didn't give any prestige;
- Attempting to enter the castle would make all guards hostile for the rest of the game, which the prestige leader wouldn't have to bother doing;

The end result is that "camping" was the best strategy if you ever got a decent prestige lead. Stick near your starting location and you'll be too much of a hassle to reach. Everyone making a mad dash to the castle in the last few turns while the king is very weak is really what makes the best Armello games interesting. At the very least, the prestige leader should have to make an attempt at personally stopping other players from going in the castle to preserve his lead and not just hide in his corner.

I know many of these rules have been tweaked since, but that cemented my impressions of the game. That's Early Access for you!

"purple is always the color of evil in non-grim situations"

Slaanesh would like to have a word with you, and he's in the grimmest situation of them all.

"At least a[t] first."
"I would want [t]o carefully consider"
"placing them in a larger context, or relat[ing] one section to another"

I think my biggest issue with the game is that it relies way too much on chance and. I also find it funny that these individual clans are suppose to cooperate with one another since the lion king brought them together. Why do I have to fight them? Why not turn this game into a tactical RPG where I can choose who is on my team and such. I want to love this game as well, but until they rebalance everything, it's gonna suck when it's obvious the AI for one reason or another has a huge advantage over the human player

Good review, Tom. I wrote a piece on this and similarly struggled to not just be constantly snarky because the game is just constantly trying to blind the player in a way that is obvious to anyone familiar with tabletop games.

It's unfortunate because there are some design chops on display here. Centering the game around the king's decreasing lifebar is a great solution to a prevalent issue in strategy board games - how do you keep the game length contained without the end feeling arbitrary or forced? There's a lot of elegant systems from card burning to terrain rules that could make for quite a deep game, but it feels like the art was prioritised over rules development halfway through. Spirit Stones are disconnected from the rest of the game, and the interesting Rot mechanics are undermined by a victory condition that is essentially "the combat victory, but harder".

It's nice to see strategy video games starting to pay more attention to their physical counterparts but Armello doesn't take nearly enough and I'm grateful for critics willing to point this out.

"like the diastolic and systolic pulse of your income."

Ok, Chick, that was great.

Nothing could be worse than The Witcher Adventure Game. It's the inverse of this: slick presentation, horrid mechanics. Our group tried 2 games and gave up before either game officially ended because it's so easy to get stuck in a never ending loop of getting wounded. The entire time it felt like one of those Arkham Horror games where you're trapped in the Hospital/Asylum the whole game.

Once the king is down to one heart, he's easily beaten if you equipped yourself with some good defense. Prestige victories become less common once a player understands how to take on the king, it becomes a palace rush.

It really was.

Sorry, I should have specified that I'd prefer the traps be entirely invisible until sprung. As it is, they are too easy to bypass - who designs them, Wile E. Coyote? Why take a trap that may have an effect 2-4 turns in the future (or never) when I could have an item for combat that I will definitely encounter? The trickery deck needs more appeal.

There's a good comparative study waiting to happen between Armello, Tabletop Simulator, and the new X-COM boardgame. I'll give it some thought and see what I come up with.