Oftentimes, you can go through the games suggested for you to play by Steam and you won’t find anything worth playing. Sometimes, you’ll find a couple of games you quite enjoy. But sometimes, on a lucky occasion, you’ll find an absolute gem of a game.
This was the beginning point for my relationship with a game called Armello. A game that’s been relatively well hidden, Armello was released on 1 September 2015, and was recently featured in the Steam sale, where I picked it up for a very reasonable £11.99. It was produced by Australian indie developers League of Geeks as their debut project. And, wow, what a debut it is.
The game, though it initially sounds like some sort of watered-down, furry version of Dungeons & Dragons, is actually an incredibly complex strategy game. You can either throw yourself head-first into the chaos, or you can do what I did, and go through the tutorial; where you learn each aspect of gameplay through the various characters within the game.
The tutorial can last up to two hours, however, once you get about three quarters of the way through, you’ll realise why. Initially the game starts off simple: you play as one of four animals, working your way towards checkpoints to complete quests, and ultimately aim to rule the kingdom once the King dies from rot. So far, so simple. However, as you make your way through playing as each character, it is revealed that this is only the bare skeleton of the game. In fact, Armello incorporates not only board games, but RPG elements, fantasy, card games, strategy games, turn‑based combat, and dungeon grinding.
There are about five different ways to win the game, depending on whether you want to play dirty by trying to gain more rot than the King, or if you want to do it the honourable way and earn a good reputation in the land.
Let’s start with the characters. To start with, there are eight different characters to choose from: four species of animal and their male and female versions. You can play as a wolf, a bear, a hare, or a rat. However, there are more characters to unlock as you proceed. As you would imagine, each species has its strengths and weaknesses. Wolves and rats are fighters – wolves specialise in sword combat, while rats are stealth masters. They are also “night animals”, which means they are granted bonuses when the game turns to night time. Bears and hares are “day animals”. The hares are the dungeon pros, whereas bears are mages and can most effectively use magic and spell cards in combat.
Each character has a starting point on the board, with three moves per turn. You are also given cards for items, spells or trickery. These cards can be used for all sorts of reasons, such as a distraction technique, adding more health, or slowing other players down. They can also be used in combat to give you stronger attacks, more defence, or to increase your chances of winning.
You will start off choosing one of three quests. Completing quests can determine how you’ll go about winning the game, so choose wisely, and once you’ve chosen: away you go! You’ll be given a marker showing you where you’re heading, and once you arrive you’ll be given the option of how you’re going to complete the quest. There will be the easy option, where you’ll win a couple of stat points, or you can go with the hard option and win a special prize. However, the card will have a percentage on determining how likely you are to succeed. Should you lose, your stats may decrease, or you could even gain rot. The cards are generally 40% to 60%, so choose at your own risk.
The main thing to know about Armello is that there are so many layers to it. I started off thinking I was just going to be wandering round doing quests until I find all the spirit stones, or gaining more prestige than the King, but I soon came to see that actually there is an incredible amount of little touches for you to discover. Though I’ve only been playing it for a week, I am constantly finding new things, new ways to win, and new strategies to use. It’s a fairly easy game to learn, but a very hard game to master.
It’s a game many different people of all ages can enjoy. Though I am still very much a novice myself, I imagine a lot of hours of gameplay will go into it in the future. However, I will say that it can be difficult to deal with how much the game leaves up to chance. The cards in your hand, what dice you roll in combat, what coin you flip in dungeons, where the King sends his guards, where banes decide to pop up… so much of it is left out of your hands that it can be very hard to not just give up.
Overall though, I’d highly recommend Armello to fans of Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, Starcraft, D&D, or anyone wanting to branch out from traditional board games. The graphics, though not the most exceptional in terms of quality, are beautiful; the combination of 3D effects with almost anime-esque cu scenes gives the game a unique and striking look. It’s interesting, the music has a calming effect, and it gives so much for a relatively unknown game, for not much money.