After a successful Kickstarter campaign, and developed since 2011 by studio League of Geeks, Armello was originally released on PC, followed by a PlayStation 4 release. A year later after its September 2015 launch, Armello finally lands on Xbox One as part of Microsoft’s Summer Spotlight program, and I got the chance to test this game. If the world of board games has no secrets for you and you are an avid strategist, then Armello has all the cards in hand to make you the new master of the kingdom.
If Armello visually looks at first glance like a Civilization-like title, it goes further by adding many elements of RPG and card games. The board is set on a plain that randomly generates 4 animal protagonists which set to gain full powers of the Armello kingdom. A struggle that you need to carry an iron fist sprinkled with a good dose of intelligence, strategy and alliance back-stabbing trickery.
“heroes carry the journey’s burdens, not on their shoulders, but in their hearts.” is the wisdom you will be welcomed with when discovering a kingdom ruled by a mad Lion king, plagued by dark magic. The universe seems straight out of a fairy tale and it is thanks to a tutorial prologue campaign that we discover the various heroes (from each of the four animal clans). In total, you’ll have the choice to choose from 8 characters (12 with the Usurpers Hero Pack DLC), split evenly into the Rabbit, Wolf, Rat and Bear faction. Your choice of character will have to be based on your play style as some are stronger with magic, brute force or malice, thus a constant evaluation of your hero strengths and weaknesses, which of course, will have a major impact on your game.
The board is divided like a giant checkerboard, with each spot being a hexagon, and turns are set as a day to night cycle, which by the way affects some clans being more affective during each time of the day. Every morning, the mad Lion king will grant a player on the bard the choice of a new law based on the highest affinity point. The character who manages to win the favor of the king – with the highest affinity point – can choose from two laws that will apply immediately, and they can be quite harmful, such as taking over settlements or tax of 2 gold every day.
To fight effectively in this chaos, and claim the throne of the Armello kingdom, you will have to start by gaining bonuses and buffs, such as taking over villages to win 1 extra piece of gold per turn, or unveil the secret of dungeon and cave slots. There’s four possibilities of winning in this game, such as killing the king, which will require you to have a strong enough character to win the fight against him; Prestige win which is getting more than the king himself at the end of nine turns; Get more Rot points than the King (the corruption) or finally collect Four Spiritual Stones hidden on the map, so you can cleanse the King.
If nine turn doesn’t seem like much, the game’s only vice is that it runs extremely slow in terms of pace, taking me about 60 minutes for a AI match and up to 2 hours and more for a multiplayer game. And while the objectives are clear, during these 9 turns, you will have to fight against your opponents who are regularly ruining your life, but also the royal guard who defend the King’s land. To help you in your quest, you will need to use different cards and this is where the game gets even better! Indeed, you can get stack up to 4 cards, which can give you buffs, cast spells or set traps to attempt to penalize your opponents on certain key areas of the map.
So why does the game take long? As you know, like any board game, there’s a set of turns where your character is allowed to perform certain limited actions. Every turn, each hero will receive 3 action points (AP) to be used intelligently, and you consume them to move to the plains, pass through swamps (get poisoned in the process) or take refuge in protective mountains for 2 AP instead of just one. The idea is to move intelligently to your quest while minimizing the clashes, which can be harder than it seems with 3 opponents including the King’s Royal Guard. And that’s where things take time, because while you might take a maximum of 2-5 minutes to decide your moves, the AI opponentscan easily exceed the 10 minutes, and even with turning on the AI Speed in the options, it barely makes a difference.
If you do end up having to take up arms and defend yourself, the combat phases are relatively simple, with your character having a set of dices that will determine its attack and defense. On top of dices are your equipment and the various cards in your possession, which you can also “burn” to active some extra boost, and make sure you survive or kill your opponent.
While Armello will be a title difficult to grasp for most at first, League of Geeks thankfully prepared a tutorial which is split into the 4 factions and set up the story of the game, as well as understanding the basic mechanics of the game. The real strength obviously comes from its multiplayer mode, and although only available online, you will meet formidable and ruthless players.
Armello was reviewed using a Xbox One downloadable code of the game provided by League of Geeks and Ico Partners. The game is also available on PC and . We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• Successful mix of different strategic genres.
• A complete package for a cheap price.
• Online multiplayer with ranking system
• Great mood set by the music and visual style
• Very strategic and complex
• Difficult to play at first (we suggest to go through the mandatory tutorial)
• Can be too slow and not dynamic enough for some
• Multiplayer games can last up to 2 hours