Publisher: Momentum Volsk
Game Designer: TJ Dunbar
Artwork: Jared Blando, Cryssy Cheung, Christopher Clements, Kevin Falkenberg, Ken Huntley, Guillermo H. Nuñez, Betsy Peterschmidt, Will Pottorff and Benita Winckler
Ages: 13 & up
Playing Time: 30-60 minutes
Suggested Retail Price: $50
Castle Assault is a two-player battle card game from Momentum Volsk that is re-launching on Kickstarter in early March. After failing to fund last year, the team set themselves to finishing out the back stories for each faction while investing more heavily into completing the art and graphic layout. Now with the game 95% complete, it’s prepared to hit Kickstarter for funding in just a few short weeks.
Along with the expanded back stories, some rules were tightened and tweaked and Momentum Volsk expanded the game a little more by including new Hero Units. These Hero Units can be ‘leveled-up’ as you progress through the single player campaign, allowing you to add a little bit more personality and strength to your deck for head-to-head matches against your opponent’s hero.
I first saw Castle Assault back in late November at BGG Con when I sat down for a demo with designer TJ Dunbar and I was immediately impressed with the gameplay, so he sent me home with a prototype for review. My prototype copy came with a simple poster style game board and three decks; the Wolf and Elf factions along with a solo campaign deck.
When funded on Kickstarter, the game will come with a mounted 20″ x 30″ Game Board, 6 Faction decks, 6 Hero cards, a number of Factionless Ability cards, single player campaign deck, six d6, 4 glass tokens and a rule book. The six factions for the final game will be; Humans, Wolves, Elves, Vampires, Undead and Orcs.
The goal of the game is to lead your faction to victory by attacking and destroying your opponent’s castle. Once their castle has been reduced from its starting strength of 10 down to zero you win! For a deeper look at the games rules, you can check out the current iteration of the PNP rules on the Momentum Volsk website.
During setup of Castle Assault you choose your faction and construct a deck of at least 30, but no more than 40 cards. Each faction comes with 34 cards, so you will need to decide which cards to use while mixing in a good balance of ability cards to extend your attack and defense options. The main restriction in construction is that you cannot have more than two copies of any card in your deck; this is good for keeping things balanced.
You begin the game with a five card hand and then roll for momentum, the mechanism that is the first step in each players turn. Momentum is measured by an eight block meter that grants attack bonuses when it’s fully in your favor. Good dice rolls are not the only way it moves as some unit abilities can also advance it in either direction.
At the start of your turn and any time you win a battle, you add another card from your deck to your hand. Once the cards are exhausted they are not reshuffled and replenished, you will only play what you have left in your hand and depending on how the deck plays out, it could be a good or a bad thing. Smart play of your cards late in the game becomes very critical.
Cards are fielded in the game by paying for them with resources, this is the base currency of the game comprised of cards you commit from your hand to a pool with each card worth one resource and this card is also lost for the duration of the game. So, in order to place a unit card that has a cost of 2 for example, you will need to have two resources in the pool and so on.
The two types of cards you can play in Castle Assault are units and abilities. Units come in a mixed variety from grunts all the way to Lord units. Lord units are of course very tough but grunt units also benefit from some of their individual unit abilities, not to be confused with ability cards.
Ability cards come in two flavors, faction and factionless. Factionless are cards that can be used by any faction where the faction cards are specific to that faction’s deck. With Ability cards you can boost health, add to defense or attack and move both friendly and enemy units laterally.
The Castle Assault game board is a 3×10 grid with one row at either end representing each player’s castle. Player units all begin in one of the three castle spaces when they are placed during the play unit step of the Open Phase and cannot move unless they were under your control at the beginning of your turn. The exception to this is the Haste trait, units with this trait can be played immediately and having a unit with haste when you are under siege can give you a better chance of repelling an attack.
Most units travel in a linear fashion, straight down the lane towards the enemy castle but may be moved laterally either by ability cards played on them or if the unit has that inherent capability.
Once these units reach the opponent’s castle, their attacks inflict damage on the castle unless there is a unit in the castle location that they are attacking, then they must attack and destroy the defending unit first. It’s very simple to follow but not as easy to carry out, getting across the battlefield lends to high attrition rates from combat, so use lateral movement when possible to both avoid combat and shield weaker units.
Combat in Castle Assault is simple and quick but definitely not boring. The ability to use linear and lateral ranged attacks along with other modifiers gained from charging, momentum, ability cards or nearby unit boons creates a wide assortment of tactical options and decisions, keeping things interesting with each play. Determining the victor of the battle is just a matter of comparing attack strength against AC and health, when a unit is at or below zero strength they are destroyed and removed from the board and the victor draws another card from their deck. In the case of both units destroying each other, both players draw cards. So you can chew through the deck at a brisk pace with a lot of combat.
The faction decks are well done and easy to switch out from game to game because they are similar to play but each has a distinct flavor and capabilities, allowing anyone to find a faction that suits their style. Having played both the Elves and Wolves for this review, I really loved how each faction has a unique look, feel and play.
Elves are best suited to using standoff attacks and lateral movement to dance around the battlefield. The standoff archers make for great defensive units or to soften castle defenses and when you add abilities, or boons from other units, they can reach really far down the board. Elves are also no slouches in head-to-head battle either.
Wolves have some standoff capability but it was very limited, their strength is in their brutal, head-on combat prowess buffed by their ability to summon other units from your hand onto the board. This is just what you’d expect from werewolves who are driven by ferocity and an absence of fear. They’re tanks, straight up the gut to punch you in the face, hard.
After playing with two of the factions, I’m excited to see how the rest of them play in the finished product of Castle Assault. I really like the unique artistic interpretations of each faction from the nine artists who provided the graphical work. Some hint at a slight manga influence while others have a haunting ethereal beauty, each in stark contrast to the other giving the factions exclusive looks of their own.
With this in mind, I’m hoping the final graphical layout is tightened up a bit from the prototype. While functional, I found a couple of problems which I feel need addressing before manufacture.
Some of the font and color gradient combinations were not only distracting but hard to read. For example, the Vast Sorceress card’s unit title looks a bit muddled in the image and based on how some of the cards in hand look now I can see this being less than attractive. Perhaps a better font would present a cleaner look.
Aside from that esthetic complaint, a more pertinent concern comes from the card layouts. Granted, this is a prototype so I’m sure this will be addressed in the final layout for improvement but it does require mention.
The layouts are quite different when it comes to ability cards for the two factions I’ve played; Elves have a very clean look to them where the ability tag is neatly distinguished as is note of whether it is an instant ability or an attachment. The Wolves were more difficult to see because the ability tag is not bordered and the font is too small and dark in color, almost hidden in the top corner of the card. The instant and attachment icons are on the right side of the card, separate from the ability tag (unlike the Elf cards) and blends into the darker and busier background making them more difficult to notice at first glance.
As I said, I expect that this is due to this being a prototype and I’m sure a more consistent and cleaner layout will be in the final product.
Those minor, but important complaints aside, I found the game easily playable and very enjoyable. The game is not difficult to understand and the well done rule book provides multiple examples for each of the abilities and combat situations as reference.
Overall, Castle Assault is a very fun game that just needs a little more polish on its presentation to be an excellent two-player game that I definitely recommend backing on Kickstarter. The solo option adds even more value, as you can play solitaire but also advance your hero units to build them up for your two-player games.
Castle Assault accomplishes what it sets out to do, be a fun, fast and easy to play battle card game for two players and it does it well. It’s not too heavy on rules but it still has options to explore, giving you good strategic depth and strong replayability. This is a game you will learn after one play but will spend many games perfecting your play style and strategies.
If you’re a fan of battle card games and are looking for a quality two-player game to back on Kickstarter, keep an eye out for this one in March. With the added solo campaign, you can play this anytime you’re in the mood for a quick battle.
I say back it!
Company Website: http://www.momentumvolsk.com/
Company Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/castleassault
Company Twitter: https://twitter.com/CastleAssault
Note: A preview copy of this game was provided to me.