A digital board-game made by Melbourne based developer League of Geeks, Armello is a curious blend of turn-based strategy, RPG and card game. Set in the fictional land of Armello, players (controlled by real people or the AI) go on quests, explore dungeons, and capture territory, all the while trying to fulfill one of the numerous victory conditions before the game ends.
You see, each game has a built-in time limit. A corrupting taint called the Rot has infected the King of Armello. Each day (every 2 turns), the Rot takes its toll, draining the King’s life as it makes him a more dangerous opponent and drives him further to madness. When the King dies, the game comes to an end. This leads to my one and only niggle with Armello: there are so many interesting paths to victory (not to mention fun diversions), that it would be nice to have some more time to experiment and put your strategy into effect.
For example, it’s possible to win the game but storming the palace and besting the King in a duel (though he is the most dangerous foe in the game, so you’ll probably want to complete a few quests and gain attack and defence boosting equipment - which means you’ll also need to capture and hold onto settlements to secure the money needed to use said equipment). Or, you could try and collect enough Spirit Stones - which appear at certain points of the board at random intervals - which allow you to purge the King of the Rot. Or, you can try and stop anyone from killing the King, and seek to acquire the most prestige - meaning you’ll automatically win when the King finally ‘assumes room temperature’.
Whatever path you choose, you’ll find pressure being brought to bear by not only the clock, the ‘Banes’ which appear with increasing regularity as the Rot spreads, and the King’s increasingly bizarre edicts (which the prestige leader can control), but also fellow players. Your opponents will continually harass you and try to stymie your efforts, laying traps, ambushes, attacking you outright or even getting the King to put a bounty on your head. Whenever you fall foul of your foes (and you inevitably will), you end up back at your character’s starting point, losing precious time as you make your way back around the board.
Speaking of characters, there are plenty to choose from, each geared towards different play-styles (do you want to be a noble mage? A brave warrior? Or perhaps repeatedly bushwhacking and slaying your fellow players appeals more?). Each play-through is truly different, and the variety really encourages you to experiment with numerous different strategies and approaches. Also, it’s worth noting that Armello contains more than just the board-game. It also comes with a digital library full of numerous short stories set in the Armello universe. All of this is delivered in a highly polished form, and Armello’s vibrant and rich visual style.
As a turn-based game, Armello succeeds in nailing that elusive ‘just one more turn’ feeling, and the sheer variety of viable approaches will lure you back again and again. If you like turn-based games in a fantasy setting, Armello is well with your consideration. ■