We all remember playing the game of “War” when we were kids. The game, still played frequently today, involves a regular deck of playing cards (two players splitting the deck equally) and turning over one card at a time, with the high card claiming victory and taking both cards. The game can literally go on forever, but there is always a satisfying smile if you are the final victor, having claimed all of the cards. Well, “Castle Combat” has expanded on that basic theme with an easy to play, yet much more clever variation of that basic game.
We got a hold of the two-player starter set of “Castle Combat.” The game materials include cards and dice, all nicely packaged in a clear plastic case. Players are immediately introduced to the world of Sagaheim, and there is even a detailed map to enhance the experience. Unfortunately peace no longer exists in this legendary land; instead it is filled with non-stop wars. It is a constant battle between powerful armies, and in this set, the designers have created two different armies of 16 cards each, one with bad guys and one with good guys. Although the cards in each of the armies do vary from card to card, they are of equal value, so that the battle is a fair one right from the start.
The short playing rules are nicely presented on two specially made playing cards. There are also two “battle mat cards,” that show the field of battle and proper locations for warrior cards before and after a battle. Each of the warrior cards is marked along the bottom indicating either a common, rare or legendary warrior, and the type of card, knight, jester, dragon, beast, wizard or princess among others. Lastly, the card indicates whether the warrior is a good guy or a bad guy.
Both players shuffle the cards in their 16 card army (good or bad) and then draw 3 of the cards to form a hand. Next, each player turns over one card from their hand at the same time and places the card in the field of battle located directly in front of both players. Certain cards also have special abilities that can sometimes help win a battle, and those abilities are noted on the front portion of the card. Now players each roll one die (two are included) and add the value of the die roll to the Power number on the left top corner of their card. Players then compare totals, with the highest value winning. The winning card is placed in that player’s designated winner’s pile, and the losing card is sent to the dungeon, and is basically out of the game. If there is a tie, each card is safe and placed back in the respective winner’s pile. When the original 16 cards have been played, each player reshuffles the cards in their winner’s pile, and the game continues until one player has no more cards to play.
Now, that may have sounded like a lot of fun, but there is much more to a game of “Castle Combat.” Remember those special abilities mentioned earlier, here are some examples of some additional combat rules. One of the common good guy cards is a Blue Knight. His power is at a 3 and he gets to add +1 to the battle total (die + power +1) if fighting a dragon. A common bad guy card is the Baby Dragon. His power is at a 2 but he gets to add a +2 to his battle total (die +power +2) when fighting a beast. Additionally, there are cards that require 2 out of 3 rounds to determine a winner, but Epic Battles may be the most fun of all. If an Epic Battle is called because of a special ability, players must place their next 3 cards in the field of battle all at the same time. The player calling for the Epic Battle then chooses the matchups desired, and the battles are one on one. Also, be aware of rivals and feuds that exist between certain warriors. If a card indicates a rivalry, they must battle each other during Epic Battles and the battles are always 2 out of 3 rounds to determine a winner.
Anyway, I think you get the idea of how to play and also how to consider the special abilities during game play. In the starter set, the range of power ratings go from 2 up to 5, with several rare and legendary cards in both armies. Once you play “Castle Combat” a few times, you will likely desire new and additional card sets. Yes, they are available and this allows players to build their own army of cards. There are specific rules designed to keep things fair, so that one player cannot load up an army with powerful legendary warriors and become unbeatable. For example, an army cannot mix good guys and bad guys, and they generally should be of the same card color (the power number on a card shows the color). Additionally, players can have no more than 5 legendary and 5 rare cards in their army.
We were able to examine at least two hundred additional cards, and play several games with armies of our own design. We did find a legendary card, Crazy Eight, with a power rating of 8, but his special ability required that he never rolled a die during battles; instead his total was always an 8. We also found a legendary card, Novaw, with a power rating of 0, but his special ability allowed him to roll 3 dice and choose the best 2 when computing his total for battle. We quickly learned that the power numbers on the cards were helpful, but the special abilities were of utmost importance when choosing an army.
The Toys Bulletin staff had a great time with “Castle Combat,” as we played in excess of 30 games during our testing, with a typical game generally lasting 20-30 minutes or so. “Castle Combat” was just flat out fun. We also want to mention that the warrior names and drawings on the cards are extremely well done, and the designers have even included alternate rules for players as young as 5 years old. To read more about “Castle Combat” or to purchase the starter game ($9.95) and booster sets ($3.00), go to the “Castle Combat website.”