Occasionally, a game developer will put something together so striking you can’t bear to pass it up. When I first saw League of Geeks’ newest PC title, Armello, I knew something special was just waiting for me. After spending several hours with it, I’m happy to report I wasn’t disappointed.
The premise is one of political intrigue, war, and magic, much like Game of Thrones, but with animals. The king of Armello, a lion, is suffering from rot and if nothing is done, will die in a matter of days. Each of the four clans (rat, wolf, rabbit, and bear) sends a champion forth in a bid to become the next ruler of Armello. They must tour the kingdom, performing deeds to earn Prestige. Along the way, they’ll have to fight one another, explore dungeons, conquer settlements, and battle evil rot-filled shades. Of course, they can always choose to depose the king themselves or take the nobler route to rid Armello and its king of the rot!
There are four heroes to choose from, each with their own unique benefits and skills. Players take turns moving around a hex-based map, Along the way, they can conquer settlements to earn more gold, visit ruins to search for treasure, and visit stone circles to rest and heal.
As you journey, you can also play a variety of cards to help along the way. Each of the cards fall into three categories: Item, Spell, and Trickery. Item cards can be equipped or used for various effects (weapons and armor, healing potions, etc). Spell cards allow you to draw on the arcane to cast lightning bolts, boost your chances and battle, and more. Finally, Trickery cards will allow you to do some downright devious things to the other players, like inciting riots in their villages, stealing their equipped items, and planting traps to get the upper hand.Combat is its own unique aspect of Armello. When you’re engaged in battle, you’ll be taken to a face-off screen. Here, you’ll have a chance to sacrifice cards for attack and defense bonuses. You’ll then throw six-sided dice in an attempt to attack or defend blows from your opponent. If luck (and the cards you’ve sacrificed) are with you, you’ll land enough blows to vanquish your enemy while defending his riposte. You have to be careful though! Falling in combat will send you back to your starting hex and cost you one Prestige. There are a variety of ways to win a game of Armello. The most common way is to have the most Prestige when the king passes. Prestige can be earned by conquering foes, vanquishing Banes (dark beings spawned by the Rot), and completing quests. If you’re bold enough, though, you can force your way into the king’s castle, defeat his guards, conquer the Perils placed before you (note that Perils are a mechanic set up with very specific, difficult requirements to overcome) and slay the king to take the crown for yourself (if you are slain the process, however, you hand victory to the remaining player with the most Prestige). For the more benevolent, however, you can obtain four spirit stones as you travel, confront the king, and banish him, ridding the land of Armello of the Rot that plagued it. Finally, if you have more Rot than the king and you manage to slay him, you’re guaranteed victory. Armello currently features single player and online public and private game modes. In my experience, the Early Access crowd isn’t terribly online savvy yet (I tried for over an hour to find a game with no success). It would also be fantastic if there were a single-machine hot seat option. This would make such an incredible physical board game, and it would be nice to share that sort of experience on my PC too.
One of the most striking and engaging aspects of Armello is its visual design. The game combines a bright, vibrant color palette with beautiful Disney-like illustration and animation to deliver a polished, arresting aesthetic production. Even the cards feature a remarkable level of detail and brilliance, ensuring you’ll want to play time and again to see them all.
With its fantastic visual design and addictive tabletop mechanics, Armello promises to keep strategy and tabletop fans engaged for the foreseeable future. When you take into account the team at League of Geeks is still hard at work polishing their product with what appear to be plans to add more heroes, cards, and more, I’m incredibly hopeful this already well-polished Early Access game will deliver more than promised.