Saturday, April 16, 2011

Board Game Review: Princess Bride 'Storming the Castle'

Today, I will be reviewing the board game based on the film The Princess Bride. This game is called Storming the Castle, and the players in this game are attempting to storm the castle. The winner is the first to reach the castle.

Here's how it works. The ratings:
Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, andmakes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take.
Strategy: 2
Randomness: 4
Complexity: 2
Humour: Derivative.
Attractiveness: Useless.
Expected Length of Game Play: 30 minutes.
Play starts with each player selecting a character token. There are four from which to choose: Wesley, Buttercup, Fezzik, and Inigo. Each player also draws a number of terrain tiles (the number varies). These are arranged in a row leading from the player to the Castle tile in the centre of the table. Thus, the board is a cross (if there are four players; 3 players means the board is a T shape and 2 players means the board is just a straight line). They place their character on the terrain tile furthest from the castle. Finally, they draw a hand of five action cards.

Turns consist of a player taking four actions. An action may be used to move one terrain tile forward, or to play an action card. However, most terrain tiles require a certain card to be discarded in order to enter it (for example, you must play the 'Climbing Gear' or 'Dagger' card in order to enter the 'Cliff Top' terrain tile). Playing this card counts as part of the move, so even though you're playing a card to enter a new terrain tile, it only counts as one action (moving), not two (moving and playing a card).

In addition to being used to enter new terrain tiles, most cards can also be used for a specific effect. Many cards don't allow movement at all; they just have an effect.

The winner is the first player to reach the castle at the centre.

The cards and tiles are very durable, made of a high quality plastic-like paper, each printed with an image from the film. However, the durable nature of the card makes it somewhat unattractive, as well as unpleasant to hold because of its rough texture. The character tokens aren't well constructed either; the bases did not fit securely to the tokens themselves, and we ended up having to lay the tokens flat instead of trying to stand them up.

More annoying than this, however, is the annoying nature of gameplay. Many of the card combinations made no sense (for example, why does the '65 Silver' card allow you to bypass terrain tiles occupied by an 'R.O.U.S.' card?), and some were just confusing (the 'Ravine Floor' terrain can only be entered by a few very difficult methods, but the text on the card is misleading AND conflicts with the description in the rules).

In searching for the errata, I discovered that the game had originally been called Temple of the Monkey. It was the same sort of thing; terrain tiles must be navigated using cards to get to the temple at the centre. However, the game was ham-fistedly translated to a Princess Bride knock-off with no concern for logic or setting. The producers simply took the game, gave everything a different name, and called it a day. Just as one example, the 'Parachute' card was renamed the 'Dagger' card. So it makes sense how, in the original game, you could use the 'Parachute' to jump off the 'Cliff' to move two tiles ahead. But how does it make sense for the 'Dagger' card to allow you to move two tiles ahead from the 'Cliff Top?'

Anyway. If you're just looking for pretty pictures from a really good film, this game does deliver. If you want game play, however, you might want to look elsewhere. I know that I usually try to remain objective about a game, and describe it in general terms that let you decide for yourself whether to try it or not. In fact, my entire rating system is based on that principle. But this is one of those cases where the game is just objectively bad. The pieces are poorly constructed, the rules are broken, the rulebook is confusing, and the game itself just doesn't work.

So, because of this, I must heartily recommend giving The Princess Bride: Storming the Castle a pass. But keep playing games, and remember as always to

Game on!

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