A known affiliate of the Dark Lord, Stephen takes only a passing interest in the affairs of mortals. A life of extreme slothfulness has fostered in him an obsession with gaming - one which he will spread to the world in a dark tide of game reviews and news blurbs.
Day breaks over the land of Armello. Birds awaken and take flight over lush forests and rolling hills. But all is not well. In the heart of the kingdom, behind the walls of a great stone fortress, the King lay ill; the disease, known only as the Rot, claiming both his strength and his mind. As his body wastes away, the once-proud lion issues insane decrees while his armored hounds roam the countryside.
As the mad King’s minions ravage the land, the noble clans living in the nearby wilds plot to depose him – each with eyes set on the throne of Armello. Rat, Wolf, Rabbit, and Bear send their most cunning and resourceful heroes into the wilderness to do battle in their name, each striving to win that final prize in the name of their kin. You play one of these heroes, casting spells, setting traps, and staging attacks against your fellow players, striving to be first to sit the hallowed chair.
Developer League of Geeks’ debut title, Armello was in development for three years before being launched as a Kickstarter campaign in April 2014. In one month, the team raised $305,000, well over their goal, and did not disappoint; a steady stream of updates and bonus content was promptly rewarded fans for their contributions.
Armello is a hex-based, tabletop-style game reminiscent of games such as Settlers of Catan and Sid Meier’s Civilization series, with an RPG twist. Characters are augmented both by equipping special rings and amulets before gameplay and through stat changes via questing throughout the game as you react to the ever-changing board and the movements of your foes.
There are numerous pathways to glory: players can choose to save the king by claiming stones of power, supplant him by working their way into his favor and waiting until his life is forfeit, challenging him to an honorable fight, or embracing the power of the Rot and usurping the corrupted throne for yourself. The myriad different ways to play through Armello make for a very replayable game with nigh-endless methods to achieve victory, with only more variety to come in future additions.
As a lifelong fan of the tabletop genre, I was extremely excited to play Armello when it launched to early access. Upon starting the game, what first caught my eye was the beautiful, stylized artwork. The menu is reminiscent of a medieval tapestry, as we see the king and his subjects surrounded by the Rot that would soon claim the his mind and body.
I created my character, and started a playthrough against the A.I. After selecting Amber (all hail the mighty Rabbit Clan) and choosing a starting quest, I was taken to an overhead view of Armello at dusk.
The map looks fantastic: the last rays of the sun cast looming shadows over trees and mountains, hinting at the approaching nightfall. I look over my spell/item/trickery cards and again, the artwork sticks out to me. Little animations adorn each card, some cute, some creepy, others elegantly appealing.
One of my personal favorites, “Vile Official”, features a hideously fat pig in lord’s clothes being fed a turkey leg by his wee pug servant, chewing and slobbering voraciously. It’s these little elements that show me the impressive amount of care being put into this game.
After putting a considerable amount of game time into Armello, I’ve come to see it as a title that is extremely accessible to both tabletop fans and otherwise. The mechanics and gameplay are simple enough to jump in and understand fairly easily, but they also offer the depth for more experienced and avid players to really delve into this game.
And on the topic of players: as enjoyable as my solo playthrough was, Armello is truly as its best when played with friends. When played among humans, the game takes on a whole additional level of politics. Bargains are struck, heals are given in exchange for kills, and pacts are made to destroy overly ambitious players.
This is a game that will take you and your companions from camaraderie to betrayal numerous times in the course of a night; truly an experience worth having. Besides, if getting loaded on Hot Rot Wine and charging out of the forest wielding dual Trusty Shields to slaughter a good friend isn’t a worthwhile experience, then I’m not sure what is.
Overall Armello has both impressed me and satisfied a deep need for Redwall-esque slaughter that I wasn’t even aware that I possessed. After hours crawling through swamps, dungeons and woods, fending off rabid attacks by bludgeon-wielding furry fiends, and standing victorious over the ramparts of my new fortress, I am eager for what League of Geeks brings to the forest in future updates.
If their work ethic and content thus far is anything to go by, I think we’re in for a wild time.