Castle Panic: Engines of War (expansion review)

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  • Designer: Justin De Witt
  • Publisher: Fireside Games
  • Players: 1-6
  • Ages: 12+
  • Playing Time: 60 minutes
  • Review by Mark Jackson on a review copy provided by Fireside Games (4 plays with Engines of War, 5 plays with The Dark Titan, 13 plays with The Wizard’s Tower, 11 plays with the base game alone)
Previously on Castle Panic: No one consulted with marketing when they named the place Castle Panic. (Why not Castle Fun Fun Fun… or perhaps Castle Duckula? Castle Panic sounds, well, over-anxious and does not test well with potential tourists.) The inhabitants recruited a wizard to stem the tide of angry monsters… which only attracted the attention of The Dark Titan himself, Agranok.
Things are about to get trickier – as the monsters have found some engines of war (hence the name) and started to put together camps to coordinate the attack on Castle Doomed-From-The-Start. Luckily, the inhabits have hired an engineer and gathered resources to build a keep and create massive weapons of their own. It’s a fantasy arms race!

It’s (Still) a Sickness

It’s a well-documented fact that the Jackson family continues to love cooperative games – from the dexterity silliness of HABA’s Castle Knights to the theme-rich card play of Sentinels of the Multiverse, it’s a pretty decent chance that a cooperative game hits the table here on a regular basis. (When I wrote about The Dark Titan expansion, we had 29 different cooperative games/game systems in our collection – we have 35 of them now. Yes, it’s possibly a sickness.)
I liked the base game of Castle Panic – but I really thought that the Wizard’s Tower expansion kicked the game into high gear. (For more details on this, you can read my glowing review published here on the Opinionated Gamers back in the day.) I also enjoyed The Dark Titan… but I didn’t think it was it was an essential expansion. (And, yes, you can read that review, also from this fine website.)
So, what about Castle Panic: Engines of War? The classic game expansion questions loom before us:
  • What’s in the box?
  • Is it any good?
  • Does it “jump the shark”?
  • Do I really need to own this?
And, because the game now has three expansions, the inevitable “which one should I buy first?” question.

What’s In the Box?

engine-componentThe box is the same size as The Dark Titan – which means “not big” – but once again Fireside Games has managed to pack in a selection of new monster & event “triangles”, as well as a new deck of resource cards and the pieces you use to represent The Engineer and his mechanical creations. (I’ll once again take a moment here to note that the monster/event tiles are not strictly triangles – drawing one of these in geometry class would not get you a passing grade – but “triangle” is the closest geometric figure I can come up with.)
There’s also a rulebook, which does a nice job of explaining how to use the expansion with the base set or with whatever combination of expansions your heart desires. (Like the previous expansions, you’re going to be removing some of the tiles and cards in order not to imbalance the game.)
And it all fits nicely in the base box along with the first expansion. (I hide the “abandoned” pieces under the box insert, just in case I ever decide to put them back in the game. I know, I know… I could end up on an episode of Hoarders.)

Is it any good?

Short Answer: Yes.
Long Answer: Yes – it adds a new issue of resource management to the game that offers some difficult decisions. Do we work to quickly build a catapult, sacrificing a turn or two to acquire the necessary resources? Or should it be a ballista? (Safety tip – if the monster HQ tile shows up, you’ll want a ballista.)
We’ve tried it with 2, 3, 4 and 6 players – and with various combinations of expansions and base game. We’ve liked it best with our favorite expansion, the Wizard’s Tower.

Does it “jump the shark”?

engine-twoI don’t think so… my only concern is that playing with all three expansions makes the game slightly rule-heavy and was not quite as much fun for us. (Note: I appreciate that Fireside Games clearly set this up to be a “season to taste” game – with suggestions on tile mixes and the permission to create your own mix.)
The engines of war add new problems to solve – and the cost of using the Engineer mean you have to decide what you’re willing to sacrifice in order to create new weapons… and aren’t those trade-offs the heart of any good cooperative game!

What order should I buy these expansions?

That’s relatively easy for me to answer:
  1. The Wizard’s Tower
  2. Engines of War
  3. The Dark Titan

Do I really need to own this?

Fireside Games Answer: Of course you do!
Opinionated Gamers Answer: If you enjoy Castle Panic, this is a well-designed, good-looking expansion to the base game with or without the Wizard’s Tower or The Dark Titan. I don’t think it’s essential (counter-example: Core Worlds: Galactic Orders is an essential expansion) – but I’m very glad it’s part of my set. As well, Engines of War is inexpensive enough that I would buy a copy if Fireside Games hadn’t kindly provided one. (This time of year, it would make a nifty stocking stuffer for a family who already owns Castle Panic.)
As is typical of most expansion reviews, a caveat is in order: if you didn’t like Castle Panic to start with, Castle Panic: Engines of War is unlikely to convince you to change your mind. On the other hand, fans of the game will find new challenges and interesting twists that don’t overwhelm the solid engine of the base game.
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About Mark "Fluff Daddy" Jackson

follower of Jesus, husband, father, pastor, boardgamer, writer, Legomaniac, Disneyphile, voted most likely to have the same Christmas wish list at age 44 as he did at age 14
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