Board games have had a surprising renaissance in recent years. No longer are they an item collecting dust in your Nan's closet, but a fun and viable pastime. This has led to some video game developers capitalizing on this increased interest, producing titles that emulate the style of a board game. One of the most interesting of these is Armello, developed by League of Geeks.
Armello is an entertaining title that features Shakespearian style power struggles and the use of cards and dice to move around a hexagonal board. Having been in development since 2011, it comes courtesy of a team with over 40 years of collective experience in the games industry. There's no surprise, then, that it is a product of high quality.
The premise of the game is simple and effective; a dark and powerful force called the Rot has corrupted the present King. You are one of four players that have been chosen to vie for the opportunity to rule in his stead. You can achieve this in a number of ways: by accomplishing a higher Rot level than the present king, by defeating him in battle, or by curing him with four magical stones that manifest across the board. Along the way you must compete against the other three competitors, either online or offline, in order to aid your advancement. This story is told through a gorgeous animation attached to the start of the game and a series of text boxes.
To play Armello, there are a list of rules that you must follow. Each character is designated a number of action points per turn that allow them to move around the board. They're also granted a number of cards, which influence their ability to attack, set traps, and perform magic. As you progress, you'll need to use the cards that you've drawn to temporarily kill other players and impede their progress where possible, and successful kills will contribute to your prestige.
Those with the highest prestige value on the dawning of a new day will be allowed to influence lawmaking in the land, affecting the board in a variety of ways. If all of this sounds confusing, don't worry; Armello has a magnificent prologue that explains the rules of the game through a combination of showing and telling. This release may be dense, but it's not impenetrable, and offers enough support to those who need it.
Once you've familiarized yourself with the rules, you can play as you wish, experimenting with the different characters like Thane the Winter Wolf, Amber the Far Seeker, Sana the Forest Sister, and Mercurio the Grinning Blade. The characters are all anthropomorphic animals, which arguably draw inspiration from the Redwall series of fantasy books by Brian Jacques.
These characters possess different skills that can be utilized to win the game. For example, Thane and the other wolves are stronger during the night; Sana and the members of the bear clan can get additional health by visiting druid ruins; Amber and the accompanying rabbits have a greater chance of finding treasure in caves; Mercurio and the rat race can recruit spies all around the kingdom. This has a huge impact on the game, giving each match its own distinctive events, depending on who's currently in control of the board.
Despite being a bit abstruse at times, Armello is excellent at maintaining your interest and offers plenty of guidance to improve your playing technique. Overall, this is a remarkable digital board game that combines an engaging lore with likeable scenarios and fascinating mechanics.