Review – Chaostle from Chivalry Games
Designer – Mark Jacobs
Art – Britt Martin, Sue Dawe
note – Thanks to Chivalry Games for providing a copy of this game for review
2-8 players 10+
Hoo boy! Ameritrash games can just be so cool. Dice and miniatures have a certain tactical and visual appeal for some of us who have never grown up. In fact these games can get our attention before we’ve even played the game. Whilst trawling through the various reports and podcasts talking about this year’s Origins convention, I came across an awesome looking game called Chaostle. It sure looked the business. A real 3D castle on the board with miniatures on different levels. Hmmm… Note to self – must check this out.
So what do you get with Chaostle? Is you can see from the photos, quite a bit. This is a large game that comes in a large box (expect expensive shipping). The quality of the components is very nice indeed. The miniatures are nicely done as are the castle walls. They are set up on the large game board and actually are set within small holes to prevent them being knocked about. – nice touch. The other components are thick card stock character cards, 2 Events cards, with pegs for character tracking health, weapon upgrades, etc. All pretty nice and tidy. The rule book and player aids are very nicely done. The rules even include some background to develop the theme and setting for the game. I have to say, this is one of the nicest productions that I have seen in quite a while. A lot of thought went into the production and presentation of the game and Chivalry Games receives top marks for this.
The object of the game is to be the first player to reach the center of the castle (sanctuary) with a pre-determined number of fighters to win. Its a good idea to start with one as Chaostle can take a bit of time to play.
Well, looks can be deceiving if you aren’t careful so how does it play? Well, Chaostle is quite a simple game to play at the core rules level. More advanced rules take you a bit deeper but I will stick with the core rules as this is where most players will be playing, at least for starters. Don’t let this scare you but essentially, this is a – dare I say it? Yes, its a roll and move game! There I said it, shock/horror! You rolls your die, you moves your characters. You roll a D6 and each number gives you a different result from bringing new characters on board to double rolls to the risky “5” result which brings in random events – both Good and Bad. We know how so many game hobbyists run for the hills at the mere mention of a roll and move game but Chaostle has more to it than that so don’t be too quick to judge. At the outer movement track, you need to move your characters around the board in an effort to get to the center of the castle. Very reminiscent of Sorry! or Parcheesi. However, you can take the more risky and clever inside tracks at two different levels along the castle walls. This calls for more exact die rolls and be more of a challenge but it does mean your characters can get around faster.
A key movement rule is that when each character passes the next opponent’s starting stairway leading to the Inner square in the center, that character will be able to re-spawn there and continue traveling when they lose their life (and they will…).
Then there is the combat. You will be hustling your characters around but also looking to prevent the other players from doing the same by attacking either face to face or using distance weapons. Each character has a set of 6 weapons that you roll for at each combat. Each delivers a different amount of damage to the other character. Also, they all vary in the distance you can use them. Again, easy as a die roll to apply hits against the other character although armor will decrease the damage.
So the game is a balance between the movement or race to be the first around the castle and out and out fighting other characters to stop them and give yours the edge.
On a movement roll of 5, called the FATE roll, the character makes a move and then takes a FATE roll, and then referring to the Card of Happiness or the Card of Doom (quite hilarious really…). Then you roll again to determine exactly what effect takes place. Some of the Doom Card events can be pretty harsh and the randomness of their appearance may frustrate some players but that’s the chaotic nature of Chaostle! I do think that the traps can be a bit too unfair and perhaps a small adjustment along the lines of if you take its in a trap for 2 turns, you then automatically escape on the third might help. Some of the Happiness Card events will bring nice benefits such as weapon upgrades. There is a good variety of events so the game replayability is good.
When you get to the center of the castle, you then face the Boss level where you battle the Castle itself. This prolongs the game as you will be rolling attacks to hack at the Castle’s health points and whilst you do this, the other players may arrive and start hacking away during their turn and get into the center first by killing off the Castle’s remaining health.
Now there are a couple of ways to look at this. One way is to play it straight and accept that the game will go on for longer. I am concerned that Chaostle may over-stay its welcome if you are looking for a light game. The other view may be to play this more as a race game with good combat and a mix or random events which have enough impact things and leave out the combat with the castle which I think may push the game even further towards reliance on dumb luck. Without this boss aspect, there is a bit more strategy in terms of movement and picking your battles. I would rather treat the Castle Boss as an optional extra to add more to the game along with the advanced special abilities which again, are included but do add more time to the game.
Did it work for me?
I like Chaostle. It is a rather simple game but good fun with the right players. I would say that this is NOT for you if you prefer lots of strategy and dislike randomness and dice. If you like randomness and dice, without too much thinkyness, Chaostle works a treat. With admirable production quality, it is a joy to play and look at if you have friends who enjoy the occasional silly chaotic game and are game for a laugh. The mechanics are a clever take on the traditional Sorry! style and they work really well. However, there is a danger that it can go on too long if the Castle Boss aspect is included. And the special abilities will add more time as well. With 2 players it would feel ok about including these but it would push the game to 2 hours or a bit longer which may be a bit much for this kind of game. I just don’t expect light games will take a couple of hours. Without the Castle Boss aspect it took us an hour and 15 minutes which worked really well. with more familiarity we will add the special abilities. The system is such that you can be flexible and keep things to a reasonable time.
Chaostle is definitely fun for the right players and good value for its excellent production. It will be interesting to see if expansion packs come along with new characters.
Boardgames in Blighty rating 7 out of 10
For more information go to – http://www.chivalrygames.com/