When a review from Kotaku says the game is “Game of Thrones, only with animals” of course it will pick my interest. After all, a digital board game is expected to be strategically challenging and comparing it to the beloved book series by George R.R. Martin can only mean success. Armello by Australian independent studio League of Geeks was first released in 2015 for Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux and PlayStation 4. A year later, Xbox One users got their version, while iOS and Nintendo Switch got a release this year.
The game has a really good background for a storyline involving treason, bloodshed, and corruption. Magical Rot corrupted the kingdom of Armello and its king, so four heroes embark on a journey to take the crown. Characters in the game are anthropomorphic animals which are charming and adds a lot of value to the graphical aspects, especially during battles.
The gameplay is all about turn-based board-game mechanics and you will use dice and cards to determine your next move. However, although each player affects the storyline with their actions, it’s not as glamorous as it sounds. It can actually be devious if you plan everything right and with forming alliances with other players.
However, players have numerous ways to win. One of them is a Prestige victory which entails killing Banes, heroes, finishing quests or giving a chance to the cards. Of course, if someone offs the king, you lose the prestige victory prospects, so you also have that to worry about.
Now, you killing the king is a different story. He is weak since his health has been deteriorating because of the Rot, but the perils around him are still pretty strong. To overcome them you will have to match four symbols, and that is tricky. Luck and favorable card selection will affect that tremendously, but even you reach the king you might still fail to eliminate him. And that means that some other player can now do it instead so it’s really kind of stressful to that point.
On the other hand, Spirit Stones victory needs you to get near the king and cure him of corruption. There may not be dice battle, but you will have to collect all the Spirit Stones which are scattered randomly on the map. Your opponents will figure out what you are doing so pay attention to that as well, but you can kill a Bane with a Spirit Stone and thus avoid going into battle.
And then, you have the Rot victory which is the hardest one since not only you have to kill the king but also absorb a large amount of Rot. If this happens, Banes won’t attack you but other players will know exactly what you are planning to do.
But beside these strategies, the game allows a certain freedom for players to choose their gameplay. Whether they want to fight each other or just go about their business, it all depends on the people you are playing with. But Armello is not a casual game and you will need to spend time on planning and studying its mechanisms.
Graphically, the game is impeccable. The character design and map art look really great and are pleasing to the eye right from the start. Characters are attractive anthropomorphic animals each special for their skills and abilities, which offer a different playstyle.
But since the player interaction is lacking, the game is one big annoyance on a lot of occasions since you can’t make deals with others and that turns the gameplay into chaos. A few phrases for communication are there to depict different personalities of your heroes and are not useful at all. This is really bad when you play a strategy game since that genre is all about alliances with others to get what you want. And for Armello to truly even slightly resemble Game of Thrones, this is something it must have and allow its players to use.
Therefore, the game quickly becomes boring and after a while, you lose interest. I mean, in this digital era creating something that’s lacking the general necessity for a successful multiplayer mode is appalling. Or that kind of gameplay is just not my cup of tea since I like my strategies with more twists and deceit on the side.