Peace and tranquillity disappeared the moment the Rot took hold of the King. A once orderly land, plunged into war and deceit. Even as the King’s life fades, prominent members of the clans position themselves to fill the gap. Either through power, cunning or corruption, Armello will have a new ruler.
Armello is a digital board game in which players vie for the rule of the kingdom. You take on the role of a hero and move about the board capturing towns, defeating beasts, delving into dungeons and battling other heroes. From his castle in the centre of the board the King enacts decrees, decided upon by the highest Prestige player that turn. The ultimate aim is to defeat the King, or have the most Prestige when the Rot finally takes him, in order to ascend to power.
Players can choose from eight heroes, each from one of the four clans throughout the kingdom. Heroes have certain abilities and statistics, while the clan they hail from provides additional bonuses. When starting a game, players also have the chance to augment their chosen character by choosing a ring and a talisman. Each of these items provides an additional boost and can be used to prop up the areas your character lacks in, or really commit to excelling in a targeted field.
The play area is a hex-based board, with the King’s castles sitting in the centre. The surrounding terrain is randomly placed, making each game of Armello a unique challenge. Using Action Points, players move their character around the board. Certain hexes have effects, for instance, swamps cause an automatic hit when a hero moves onto them.
Each player has a hand of cards. These cards can be used to augment or hinder characters, burnt to provide combat bonuses , or placed on terrain tiles to create effects or Perils. Perils are challenges placed by players, or the King, which activate when a player moves onto their hex. Successfully completing the challenge means the character comes out unscathed. Failing a challenge results in the character suffering whatever penalties were attached to the Peril, such as losing a hit point.
Combat and Perils are resolved by rolling dice. Rather than numerals or pips, the dice display symbols. In combat, swords rolled cause your opponent to lose a hit point, while shields rolled block hits. Additional symbols are context sensitive, for instance, in combat during the day sun icons confer extra attacks. Perils are resolved by rolling dice and matching them to those symbols required by the encounter. In both cases cards in the players hand can be burned to grant guaranteed die results.
The game happens over a number of turns. Each turn has a two part cycle, day and night, and players can activate their characters in both phases. On the dawn of each new turn players are paid income from their captured towns, and the King calls on the Prestige leader to choose one of two events for that turn. The events affect the entire board, for instance, the King taxing two gold coins from each player. Each dawn the King loses a hit point, and at dusk he gains a Rot point.
There is much more to Armello, but these are the basics of play. It is very much a board game, almost unapologetically so. Which I appreciate. Players are given cards, and made to roll dice. But every effort has been made to bring life and engagement to these mechanics. Rather than static cards, the illustrations animate, bringing menace to the thugs and an otherworldly fury to the magic. A complex combat mechanic is made palatable by clever use of GUI design and selected automation.
The digital medium has been used not just to create a tabletop game, but to augment the ideals behind board games and push them beyond the places physical media can reach. It provides a speed and ease to a system that would be far slower if constrained to a physical product. This is all supported by excellent environmental and character graphics, along with realistic sounds, which bring the player into the world of Armello.
Some issues do exist, though they are extremely minor. There is a noticeable lack of indication of the play order during the game. While not absolutely necessary, a reminder of when another character activates would have been helpful in a few occasions. Also, whenever a character captures a town the hex displays their clan banner. This becomes a little confusing when there are multiple characters from the same clan in the game. While players can hover over a town to see who owns it, it makes scanning the board not quite as informative as it should be.
SUMMARY: All-in-all, Armello is a challenging game which equally rewards good resource management and a variety of play styles. Fans of tabletop board games will find a lot to engage with, and the multiplayer offers a chance for them to scratch that competitive itch at any time. Moreover, because the bulk of the mechanics are handled automatically, non-tabletop gamers will just as easily find their footing in Armello. Especially with the easy-to-follow tutorial prologue.
If facing an evil King, either for the good of the land or your own personal gain, sounds like an entertaining prospect then Armello is for you. Heed the call of the Wyld and head out to meet your destiny.
Armello was developed by League of Geeks, and is available now on Steam.